Just when the best bass fishermen in the country thought they had the Potomac River figured out, Tim Horton, a first-year touring pro from Spruce Pine, Ala., won the recent Kmart Bassmaster Top 150 tournament at Smallwood State Park in Charles County.
Last week Horton was able to adapt to gusty winds, silty water and contrary tides and caught a total of 77 pounds, 8 ounces of bass, beating his nearest competitor by almost 16 pounds.
"I was hoping that within five years I could win [a major tournament]," said Horton, 27, who won $74,000 and a $26,000 bass boat and trailer.
Horton, fishing his first tournament on the Potomac, said he found a 20-yard by 75-yard rocky shoal on the last day of practice, and was attracted to it by concentrations of feeding cormorants and gulls.
Horton said the rocky shoal appeared to be so promising that "I couldn't sleep the night before the tournament began."
At the end of Day 1, Horton trailed Kevin Wirth of Crestwood, Ky., by 4 ounces and was nearly 5 pounds ahead of third place.
On Day 2, the wind came up at 25 miles an hour from the northeast, and Horton had to contest with choppy conditions and unusually low tides at the small shoal.
Still, he managed to catch 15 pounds, 3 ounces and move into first place, while Wirth dropped to eighth.
Former Classic champion David Fritts of Lexington, N.C., meanwhile, jumped from 14th to second on the strength of the biggest limit of the day (18-1).
But Horton still had a lead of nearly 5 pounds, and on Day 3 the rock pile figured heavily in his second 20-plus pound stringer of the tournament and a lead of more than 8 pounds over Kevin Van Dam of Kalamazoo, Mich., who moved past Fritts into second place.
For Day 4, the field was trimmed to the top 10, and Horton slipped a bit but coasted, weighing in a mere 19 pounds, 13 ounces.
Northern Pike record
Shawn Jacobson of Phoenix, Md., caught a 46-inch, 24-pound, 12-ounce northern pike at Deep Creek Lake on Saturday to set a state record.
Jacobson was drifting a live shiner when he caught the big pike.
The previous mark of 23 pounds, 5 ounces, was set by James Gwynn in Mill Run during March 1992.
If you missed the big power boat show in Annapolis last weekend, you will get a second chance this weekend at the Mid Atlantic Boat Show, which opens today at the state fairgrounds in Timonium.
The show opens at 3 p.m. today, noon tomorrow and 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Admission is $7, with children under 10 admitted free.
For more information, call 410-238-0484.
Upper Chesapeake Bay: The fastest rockfish action continues to be chumming at Love Point, Swan Point Bar and Belvedere Shoal, but many of the fish being caught are from the 1996 year class and measure 14 to 17.5 inches, with increasing numbers of 18- to 21-inch fish mixed in. Trollers working 10- to 30-foot depths at mouths of the Patapsco and Chester rivers are catching fewer fish, but the Department of Natural Resources reports "surprising numbers" of rockfish to 34 inches. Bluefish still moving through the region, and sea trout are scattered on edges at the mouths of the Patapsco and Chester as well as the rock piles at the Bay Bridge. North of Pooles Island, rockfish angling has been slow, although Red Point, Rocky Point and Conowingo Dam are producing occasional keepers. Largemouth bass have been a good bet around piers and pilings and in grass beds in the tributaries.
Middle Chesapeake Bay: Best bets for larger rockfish are trolling the western edge of the shipping channel from Deale to Parker's Creek and live-lining spot at the Gas Docks. Chumming remains effective, but attracts smaller fish. Anglers who fish the shallows of the Severn, South and Choptank rivers and Eastern Bay are reporting rockfish to 30 inches. Bluefish are moving through the area in good numbers and sea trout are scattered along the edges of the shipping channel, apparently almost ready to school. White perch are again a good bet over hard bottom from Thomas Point Light to Tolly Point.
Lower Chesapeake Bay: Rockfish and bluefish are still thick at the Middle Grounds, with the best striper action from Buoy 72A south along the eastern edge. Sea trout also are schooled up at the Middle Grounds, and spotted sea trout action has been good in the shallows of the Honga River and around Smith and Bloodsworth islands.
Ocean City: Tautog to 6 pounds are numerous at the inlet jetties and piers and even the U.S. 50 bridge. Snapper bluefish are abundant in the back bays, at the inlet and in the surf. Larger blues should move south inshore soon. Rockfish and sea trout action has been good at night at the inlet and from the U.S. 50 bridge. Offshore, sea trout and croaker at Great Gull, Little Gull and Fenwick shoals. Overnight trips to Washington Canyon are still a decent bet for yellowfin tuna.