MARBURY -- Jay Yelas of Jasper, Texas, started the Bassmaster BP Top 100 pro-am fishing tournament on Wednesday out of the money. But one hour of fishing yesterday afternoon turned out to be the key to winning the $46,000 first prize.
"I fished the same techniques and tactics every day of the tournament," said Yelas, who finished second here last year and was in eighth place entering the last day of the tournament. "I was concentrating on rocks and man-made structure with a crankbait and grass beds with a spinnerbait."
Yelas said he was fishing Fox Ferry Point near the Wilson Bridge in Washington and a large grass bed in the main Potomac River a mile above the bridge.
"It amazed me that I did as well as I did today [yesterday] on that grass bed," said Yelas, who had never won a BASS tournament, "because there were more than 50 boats there."
Yelas said the key to his success was fishing holes in the grass beds where the water was clear enough to see the bottom.
But by 2 p.m. yesterday, an hour before he was due at the weigh-in station at Smallwood State Park, he had only two fish in the livewell.
"I caught three fish in the last hour," Yelas said, "and the last one -- a 4 1/2 -pounder -- I got just about five minutes before I had to run in."
His winning total was 54 pounds, 11 ounces. Yesterday he weighed-in 19-3.
Several other pros had good shots at winning before Yelas weighed in.
Stacey King of Reeds Spring, Mo., was the leader after the third day and finished in a tie for fourth place.
"I have never done well in tournaments on tidal systems [like the Potomac]," King said. "But I feel good about my performance this time around."
King finished two places ahead of Denny Brauer of Camdenton, Mo., who began yesterday in second place.
"I was close, but I have been close before," said Brauer, who weighed in 11-10 for a total of 52-12 and still finished seventh. "But that is fishing.
"I needed the big bites, and I got one, but it [a rockfish] had stripes down the side, and while I was fishing that one, my partner caught a 4-pounder."
David Fritts of Lexington, N.C., entered this tournament on a roll, having won the recent BASS Masters Classic and the Virginia Invitational last week, and for a while it seemed he might win again.
Fritts worked the ebbing tide from Piscataway Creek south to the mouth of Mattawoman Creek with crankbaits, concentrating on points, grass bed edges or structure that created current breaks.
"I had the opportunities this week," Fritts said, "and it is not often that you have the chance to win three straight, but I think I let this one slip away a bit."
Fritts finished in third place, less than a pound behind Yelas and 5 ounces behind second-place finisher Gary Klein of Weatherford, Texas.
Klein moved from 12th place Wednesday to second on the strength of one fishing spot he found five years ago.
"I stayed on that one spot for four days because I thought I was on a good migration route," Klein said. "I was fishing a long bar off a main grass bed with about 2 feet of water and 1 1/2 feet at low tide with one of the best concentrations of bass in the river. I had the opportunity, but it got away from me."
William Kramer of Gaithersburg won the amateur side of the tournament with a total catch of 34-7.
"Sometimes it is easy to go out on this river and catch 40 or 50 fish," said Kramer, who guides on the Potomac and fished mostly Greenway Flats with a spinnerbait. "But in this tournament it was hard, really hard, to catch fish."
On the first day of the tournament, Randy Dearman of Onalaska, Texas, and Tom Biffle of Wagoner, Okla., tied for the lead with 15-6.
On Day 2, Dearman dropped to seventh place, but Biffle, on the strength of a 7-pound, 15-ounce largemouth, brought in the largest limit of the tournament, 19 pounds, 4 ounces, to take the lead.
But what seemed portentous for Biffle on Day 2 went bust on Day 3.
The third day of the pro-am brought a brisk, 20-knot breeze that muddied the Potomac and its tidal creeks. Biffle caught only two fish on the third day and fell to sixth place.
0$ Biffle finished in eighth place.