Schaefer proves to be BASS master, too, by outcasting Virginia for event


WASHINGTON -- Guide Bob Denyer and I were casting into the Potomac near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, but much of the thinking centered on other Maryland waters and at another time of the year. The 21st annual BASS Masters Classic is coming to Baltimore in August, and that's the talk whenever and wherever bass chasers meet.

"Maybe Gov. [William Donald] Schaefer is losing some battles in Annapolis, but he sure beat Gov. [Douglass] Wilder [of Virginia] in a battle of wits," said one of the fishermen in bass outfitter Ken Penrod's boat as they pulled alongside for a chat. He had a point.

The Potomac in the D.C. area is the biggest piscatorial comeback story since Lake Erie 30 years ago -- thus it was almost certain to be chosen as the site for this year's world championship of bass'n. Word in bass circles is that Wilder figured Virginia could get the publicity while Maryland paid the bill.

TC Ah, but he didn't reckon with Schaefer, who likes to dabble in fishing himself.

After holding the classic on the James River the past three years, the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society was hunting for a new site -- and the $250,000 it wanted to make the visit that focused all North American bass'n attention on host waters. Wilder figured Schaefer would take the bait, which would save the Old Dominion a quarter of a million bucks.

And, where else would the world series of bass fishing be held, but on the Potomac -- and Virginia, also on the banks of the Potomac -- would get a free ride.

But Schaefer cast a surprise. He reeled in the classic, but will bring all the associated festivities to his old hometown, with the actual fishing in tributaries of the upper Chesapeake complex, leaving Wilder with an empty creel.

But Penrod figures Forrest Wood will be the big loser. "When those pros hit the shoals of those upper bay tributaries at 60 miles an hour -- especially the Susquehanna -- they'll tear out more bottoms and lower units than Forrest can make," Penrod said of the boss at Ranger Boats, the official classic craft supplied by Wood.

But Penrod sides with Schaefer. "DNR has a study that indicates upper bay tidal rivers can match the Potomac in turning out fish," he said. "Those pros will find them, Baltimore will get all the credit -- who needs the Potomac? -- and Wilder will lose again."

Curious talk for a fellow who has built one of the biggest bass guiding outfits in the nation, Outdoor Life Unlimited, primarily on the Potomac. But he's not worrying about his favorite river losing favor among bass chasers. Even on this day when waters were stained by recent rains, we caught fish.

Denyer is a low-key, knowledgeable guide, a journeyman. He retired a couple of years ago after 21 years on a D.C. police drug squad, and hasn't returned to the city since -- except by bassboat to fish. He lives on Matawoman Creek, which is just off the Potomac and considered one of the best fishing holes of the Potomac complex. He knows every lily pod there.

This time of year, Denyer -- who is on the Outdoor Life Unlimited staff -- fishes soft plastics such as Gitzits, grubs and Pig 'n Jigs. No waters are too shallow to attract his casts.

We had to do a lot of running to keep out of the brisk wind and find clear waters, but when we did he plucked a fish from here and there. I'm stubborn, don't particularly like grubbing the bottom, and stayed with spinnerbaits and Rattletraps, which didn't do nearly as well.

When fishing a day on the Potomac hereabouts, one wonders who works. It was a weekday -- and a chilly and rain-threatening one to boot -- yet in one large cove there were 14 bassboats working the shoreline; in another there were 10.

We moseyed down to Piscataway Creek opposite Fort Washington Marina, and I couldn't count all the boats. Who works? Certainly not Baltimoreans Chuck Eichner and Harry Sheppard.

Both were fishing, and Eichner had a 6 1/2 -pound largemouth, which he was about to release. It took a Pig 'n Jig like the one used by Denyer, who can be reached at 1-301-735-9399.

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