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The Potomac River. Simple Guide & Tips

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    The Potomac River is still chilly with temperatures stable in the lower to mid 40’s. However, this doesn’t take in to account the multiple water discharges where water temperatures this time of year rarely fall below the ’50s. Those of you familiar with the Potomac know that it doesn’t take much of a warm front in early spring to really start heating things up all over the river. The Potomac is a beast and it can test your mental toughness more than any other fishery I'm familiar with. However, it is also my favorite fishery, toe-to-toe with Lake Marion in S.C., because it offers some of the most intense brief periods of action I’ve ever experienced. This being said after 10 years of heavy bass fishing (I’m only 22).


    I used to hate the Potomac with a passion. I fished Junior State Qualifiers out of Aquia creek from when I first started tournament fishing. I stunk it up just about every time. I tried to fish the river my way, instead of listening to the river and ultimately the fish that call the Potomac home.

    So, this is where I’d like to give my first pointer to anybody trying to figure the Potomac out for the first time. You have to understand the TIDE. As with any tidal fishery, the fish relate to the tides more than almost anything in the river. Of course, bait, vegetation, and structure all have a weighted say in the position of fish, but on the Potomac, there is no shortage of forage in just about every creek, pocket, ditch, marina…etc.


A few general pointers for Potomac tide IMO


1. The best tide is outgoing tide for just about every creek.

2. Feeding windows are tight and determined by the tide

3. Read tidal charts, understand when your best opportunities are

4. Don’t get discouraged. If Bob says they’re biting one creek up, your creek is probably about to start popping off once the tidal conditions become simultaneous with the creek Bob’s in.

5. Expect lull’s especially during slack tide        

6. Use Low tide to your advantage to spot areas that you couldn’t see during high tide

7. Also use the low tide to pick apart obvious cover methodically, as fish will often hold tighter to cover in low tide.

8. High Tide can be tricky. But I almost always just cover as much water as possible during high tide    


    Tides can be funny, and these are in no way full-proof pointers, instead, they are guidelines I use every time I fish the Potomac. Tides can be fun, just as much as they suck. A buddy and I one time caught close to 60 fish in two, one hour periods, during a tournament in June 2017 because we used the tides to our advantage. When it's on its on.   


    The next big one is Grass. Love it or hate it, the Potomac has grass everywhere, some areas are just grassy(er) than others. I won't get too scientific, instead, just go over some baits and approaches to fishing the grassy spots of the Potomac.


1. Lipless/ Rat-L-Trap - One of the best Potomac pre-spawn baits. Any color will work as long as it RED. Just rip it through the grass. (IMO)

2. Chatter Bait - Better on grass edges and early grass that isn’t very dense yet

3.Swim Jig

4. Weightless Fluke

5. Any type of weedless swim-bait can produce well (what our 60 fish were caught on)

6. Some type of craw to pitch through pockets of grass.

7. TopWater! I'm a frog addict and they’ll hit topwater in the back of creeks when the waters in the 50’s on the Potomac.



  Sometimes, as much as you think you know the Potomac you just don’t. Eventually, you’ll have one these days on the river. You’ve tried just about everything and followed the tidal charts. You got yourself in a good position to take advantage of feeding river fish, yet it doesn’t pan out. That’s when I run like crazy around the river… just kidding…not really. JUNK-FISHING! Honestly, sometimes you gotta just go junk fish. Sometimes you have to run around and fish the rocks at Leeslyvania state park. (sorry if I gave away anybody's favorite spot). But in all seriousness, the Potomac is littered with various man-made structures and marinas that you can junk fish your way to a limit. My biggest bass out of the Potomac was an 8lber caught junk fishing in early April North of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. We junk fished our way into my most unforgettable day of fishing because what we thought we knew didn’t pan out.


1. Marinas are everywhere on the Potomac and they hold plenty of fish. Lots of Snakeheads as well, if you’re into that kind of thing.

2. The areas around the Woodrow Wilson have a high concentration of man-made structures.

3. Some of these areas, above the Woodrow Wilson, are community holes, but even the unsuspecting areas in this section of river hold beast.

4. Bridges. There are tons of bridges and you can use outgoing and incoming tides to your advantage with bridges by positioning your boat the right way.

5. Docks. There isn’t a ton but there are stretches of docks that produce fish in all conditions.                        



    In addition to all the other pointers, one of the most important tips I can give is to use your mapping charts wisely to navigate safely, find depressions, and abnormalities in your favorite creek. The Potomac can look the same in every creek, so find the abnormalities and ditches the fish use as highways. Also, the Potomac can become inches of water deep just about anywhere at any given time. People get stuck on mud flats and sand bars all the time! Until the tide rises them from stuck, to floating, after a few hours.


    I hope this helped anybody who is looking to get out on the Potomac or at least made an interesting (or laughable) read for those Potomac lovers like me. This is just some information I wish I had when I first fished the beast of a river the Potomac seems like at first. Whatever you do, don’t let the Potomac discourage or scare you, it is simply just another puzzle in the bass fishing world that is highly rewarding when you figure it out…or think you’ve figured it out.

Mix it up on the Potomac once you get comfortable, the tried and true lures work, but sometimes, the Potomac can be an awesome big swim bait fishery (hint hint). I hope whoever reads this gets a chance to tear the river up this year. I am currently in my Junior year at VT after transferring this fall, so I'll only be able to get up there a few times during prime-time. I can't complain too much because I’m on the fishing team here and it opened up the door for me to experience plenty of new bodies of water and bodies of water I only sparingly fished beforehand.


Good Luck, and let me know any Potomac juice you’re willing to share below.   

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1.  Tides. Plan to fish on an outgoing tide for as long as you can.

2.  Grass. Lots of it and know how to fish your drop shot, punch rig, spinnerbait, Chatterbait, Rat-L-Trap, weedless plastics, and Tokyo Rig above, along, through and under all grass.

3. Look for submerged wood in creeks.

4. Always keep an eye on the weather, especially the wind. The Potomac can become like the Atlantic Ocean in a New York minute making it very dangerous.

5. Do something different. Go to the back into Aquia Creek past the marina. Go back as far as you can in Mattawoman. Fish Arkendale Flats. Get close to the "off limits" area and see if you get shot at. :D

6. Creeks. Hit the creeks.

7. Snakeheads. Release them or kill them. Depends if you are in Virginia or Maryland. They are very bloody and can bleed all over your boat.


Just adding to an excellent post above.

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The Potomac is a very complicated fishery but a good read nonetheless.  I've had banner days fishing the grass....or fishing barren mud banks, fishing the tides both incoming and outgoing, fishing creeks or the main river, flipping docks or wide open water.  One thing to ALWAYS remember on the Potomac is that she can turn dangerous at the drop of a hat.  Always keep your eye on the weather.  

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Nice primer, @ThypeBassin.  Thanks for taking the time!


I've been fishing it for a number of years...and I've read Penrod's Tidal Potomac fishing book a couple times...and I still learn something every time out. 

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@Choporoz Couldn't agree more, the river is a learning experience. Ill also learn something one day contrary to what it taught me the time before. It must be worth it though, cause I keep going back.😂

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