WOODBRIDGE, Va. – There was no doubt about who was on the best fish in Friday’s first half of final-round action of EverStart Series Northeast Division competition at the Potomac River. Pro Michael Hall and co-angler Derek Moyer headed out in boat No. 5 this morning and proceeded to put a stomping on almost everyone else in their respective fields.
Last to weigh-in Friday afternoon, Hall – the pro out of Annandale, Va., who also led Wednesday – hoisted a limit weighing 16 pounds, 2 ounces to the scale and grabbed the Pro Division lead by a pound. But boat No. 5 really made its statement when Hall’s co-angler, Moyer – who hails from Alexandria, Va. – followed him up with an 11-pound, 5-ounce limit of his own to take the lead from the back of the boat.
“I have to say that having a great partner was a huge benefit today,” Hall said. “I’ve got to give Derek credit. At one point, I started moving around a little quicker, pushing the trolling motor a little faster. He noticed that and told me to slow down. That made all the difference because you have to fish these fish really slowly.”
Hall said that, before this event, he had a plan to work the migratory patterns of the Potomac’s tidal-water bass. So far, that strategy has worked to a tee. He’s fishing one area of the river, following the fish around as they move in and out of different types of cover with the tides.
“The Potomac is a very fickle river,” he said. “You can find fish one day, then go back the next day and they’ll be gone. There’s a lot of grass out there, and it’s really easy to get lost in it. You’ve just got to pick your spots and go with it. It’s about understanding the movement of these fish and following their migratory routes as they move in from the main river. Sometimes they’re in the main channel, and sometimes they’re in the grass beds themselves.”
Hall said he caught around 13 keeper bass Friday, mostly on soft plastics, including a kicker largemouth he estimated to weigh between 5 ½ and 6 pounds. The key, he said, was keeping the bait presentation slow.
“Given that area, there’s a load of fish in there. But if you come blowing in there with your trolling motor on high, you’re not going to catch them,” he said. “I’ve got my trolling motor turned down so low, you can’t even hear it.”
He and other EverStart finalists did, however, hear a lot of wind and rain Friday, not to mention feel it. A constant gray drizzle, clouds, and heavier winds prevailed most of the day, and that threw a lot of competitors off their game plans.
Plus, a later low tide forced a handful of pros to start pressing. Many competitors have said the fish mainly bite here twice a day – on the outgoing tide in the morning and on the incoming tide later in the afternoon. Today’s low tide was around 3 p.m., which might have been a little too late for some finalists.
But Hall was having none of that.
“The first thing I told myself this morning was that you can’t let the weather and the tides psyche you out. So I cleared my mind of the tides and everything else,” the leader said. “I knew the fish would bite twice during the day. Even if you’re not catching anything, you’ve just got to wait for it. At the end of the day, I actually think the second bite was a little stronger than the first. I like this weather. When it’s cloudy and windy, I always feel the fish bite well on the Potomac.”
With a limit weighing 15 pounds, 12 ounces, Scott Dameron of Beckley, W.Va., is sitting a pound behind Hall and has the best shot to catch the local pro Saturday.
Dameron was the first to admit that luck played no small part in his tall catch Friday, much as it has all week long.
“I’ve just been truly blessed this week. I’ve caught my fifth fish every day with just a few minutes to go,” he said. “I’m not on a lot of fish, but I’m on some big fish.”
And he might not have even come close to a limit if not for his co-angler partner, Mickey Pettry of Manassas, Va., who clued him in on a secret bait today. Neither one of them, of course, would disclose what exactly that bait was.
“I wasn’t having much luck, and my co-angler was tearing them up,” Dameron said. “Now, I’m not the brightest person in the world, but after his third fish I decided it would be best if I changed up (to the same bait Pettry was using).”
After several near-misses on the EverStart circuit, past Wal-Mart FLW Tour champ J.T. Kenney of Frostburg, Md., remained in the hunt for his first win at this level by catching a limit weighing 12 pounds, 10 ounces. He’ll fish tomorrow in third place, but he said he missed a big opportunity today.
“I lost one today that was the biggest fish I’ve had on this river,” said Kenney, a Potomac River veteran. “It had to be 6 or 7 pounds. I thought I was going to puke when she got off.”
Kenney flipped thick grass mats with a heavy weight and a Sweet Beaver for most of his fish, but said he also caught one on a topwater.
Kenney has two runner-up finishes on the EverStart circuit already this year, including one at Santee Cooper lakes that he lost by a tiebreaker. The other was at Lake Okeechobee. He admitted that finally closing the deal here would be preferable to the alternative.
“It would be nice finally to win one this week, especially since it’s so close to home,” he said. “But I wouldn’t even have to worry about it if I’d have caught that big one.”
Also within spitting distance of the leader is pro Rick Morris of Lanexa, Va., who climbed to fourth place with a five-bass weight of 11 pounds, 4 ounces.
“I changed patterns totally today. I went with the wind and didn’t go conservative at all,” he said. “I was just running around with spinnerbaits and buzzbaits all day and I was able to catch a few good ones. We had a great day. There’s a 20-pound bag out there, and tomorrow I’m just going to go out there and go for it.”
Pro Chris Poole of Manassas, Va., rounded out the top five with a three-bass weight of 9 pounds, 6 ounces, but he said he felt like he left a little on the water Friday.
“This river’s really not fishing to its true strengths,” he said. “Normally, a 15-pound bag here just gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling inside, but it takes 17 to 20 pounds to really have a winning stringer. The big difference now is the hydrilla. You’ve either got to fish around the edges or try to flip through it to where the fish are underneath. That’s really hard to do.”
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros heading into Saturday’s action at the Potomac River:
6th: Bo Curry of Monrovia, Md., five bass, 9-1
7th: Todd Neale of Warrenton, Va., four bass, 8-6
8th: Peter Hearst of Arlington, Va., four bass, 7-14
9th: Mike Hicks of Mineral, Va., two bass, 5-15
10th: Tim Peek of Sharpsburg, Ga., three bass, 5-7 (opening-round leader)
Moyer’s limit put him almost 2 pounds ahead of second-place co-angler Pettry, which normally really wouldn’t be all that much of a lead here at the Potomac where 4- and 5-pound bass have been caught with regularity. But Moyer has the advantage of fishing with Hall again Saturday – this time in boat No. 1 – and if the two of them can repeat what they did Friday, they could be very tough to beat.
“It was incredible today. All I can say is I was really blessed,” Moyer said. “But it’s always going to be tough; you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow. You’ve just got to knuckle down and try to get the job done.”
Pettry caught the only other limit on the co-angler side and grabbed second place with a weight of 9 pounds, 14 ounces.
Asked if he would reveal his secret bait – even after the tournament was over – he pointed to his fellow anglers and said, “Absolutely not, because those guys fish here all the time.”
Mark Letosky of Warrenton, Va., grabbed the third spot for the co-anglers with a four-bass weight of 9 pounds, 12 ounces.
Co-angler Gary Guilliams of Troutville, Va., caught three bass weighing 7 pounds, 4 ounces and placed fourth.
Jonathan Ceaser of Midlothian, Va., rounded out the co-angler top five with a three-bass weight of 5 pounds, 6 ounces
Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers:
6th: Mike McDonald of Randleman, N.C., two bass, 5-2
7th: Doug Jenkins of St. Leonard, Md., two bass, 4-2 (days-one and –two leader)
8th: David Borodziuk of Audubon Park, N.J., zero bass
9th: Larry Church of Keysville, Va., zero bass
10th: Duane Glassco of Chester, Va., zero bass
Final round Saturday
Day four of Northeast Division competition at the Potomac River begins as the final-round field of 10 boats takes off from Leesylvania State Park in Woodbridge at 6:30 a.m. Eastern time Saturday. Friday’s weights carry over to Saturday, and each division’s winner will be determined by two-day combined weight.