CELEBRATION, Fla. When the Bassmaster Elite Series returns Aug. 9-12 to the Potomac River for the Capitol Clash presented by Advance Auto Parts in Laplata, Md., competitors can expect to find more bass-holding grass, clearer water and tricky tidal conditions as they compete for a $100,000 top prize.
Although each fishery visited on the Elite circuit presents unique challenges to the world's top bass pros, the tides will make the Potomac River an especially tough venue.
Kelly Jordon will look to defend his Capitol Clash title, which he earned in August 2006 with a total weight of 60 pounds, 9 ounces. The Mineola, Texas, pro said figuring out how the fish move with the tides is tough.
"I'm sure the tidal conditions will be different than last year," Jordon said. "They change every day. What we catch will be dictated by the tide we'll have. If the tide really moves during tournament hours, the fishing will be good. The greater the tide fluctuations, the better the fishing."
Jordon said that although he wasn't able to pre-fish the river (the official cutoff date was July 7), he has heard that the water is clearer and the grass is plentiful conditions that play to his strengths.
"Last year the fish were heavy in the grass and I caught most of my fish flipping to the mats," he said. "I will have more grass to flip to this year."
After the Capitol Clash, the 10th of 11 events of the season, the pros will have one more chance to earn points that count in the 2007 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year race and toward qualifying for the 2008 Bassmaster Classic in February on South Carolina's Lake Hartwell.
The season-long AOY race, its $125,000 top prize and the prestige of the AOY crown is on Elite pro Jared Lintner's mind.
Going into the Potomac event, Lintner was third in the AOY standings, behind Skeet Reese and Kevin VanDam, who are in first and second, respectively. Reese of Auburn, Calif., has 2,259 points; VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich., has 2,239; and Lintner of Arroyo Grande, Calif., has 2,037 he's not so far behind that he couldn't catch up.
"I have a positive attitude," Lintner said, "and anything can happen, but look at Skeet. He's very comfortable fishing tidal water, and Kevin VanDam catches them everywhere we go. But still, I might be able to get a little closer."
Even if he doesn't advance, Lintner would take home $30,000 if he maintains his third-place AOY standing, a piece of the $601,000 that is paid out to the top 50 finishers.
Lintner said he didn't pre-fish for the Potomac event. He's relying on his experience in last year's Capitol Clash, in which he finished 20th. Like many other pros, he'll do some research at home, then continue to put the puzzle together when he hits the water Aug. 6 for three official practice days.
"No matter where you go on the river, there are fish," Lintner said.
He's not a neophyte on tidal waters. He knows the California Delta, a tidal fishery close to his hometown.
"I know what the fish tend to do on tide swings, but at the same time (the Delta) is not at all like the Potomac," Lintner said. "There, the big tide is 3 to 4 feet, compared to 6 to 7 ½ feet in the Delta, so there's way more current. But it did help me last year knowing what the fish do on tides."
"Outgoing and low, I like better," he added, "because low water puts the fish out on targets, and you can pick them off easier."
Timmy Horton of Muscle Shoals, Ala., won a BASS event in 1999 on the Potomac. With that win and a July 15 Elite Series victory on Lake Champlain under his belt, he's ready for another Potomac competition.
"I really like the Potomac, and every time you've won on a fishery it gives you more confidence," Horton said. "I pre-fished, and the fishing was really good. It's clearer than it was last year, and there's more grass growing, and that will spread the field out a bit."
Horton, Lintner and Jordon said they'll go for an early topwater bite, then move on to flipping to grass. They aren't likely to be alone in their choice of patterns; popular wisdom has it that punching through the grass is the key to the river's bass.
Most Elite anglers probably will stick to the lower Potomac, also known as the Tidal Potomac, for all four days of the Capitol Clash. The bass are plentiful everywhere on the river, but it's 383 miles long, and anglers launch their boats each day at the lower end, in Charles County below Washington, D.C.
Regardless of where the competitors choose to run, they'll be fishing a waterway that's one of the nation's conservation success stories. Once choked with toxins and algae, the revived waterway today is among the country's top-rated black-bass fisheries.
The Capitol Clash's daily launches will be at 6 a.m. ET at Sweden Point Marina, 2750 Sweden Point Road, Marbury, Md. Weigh-ins each day will be at Smallwood State Park in Marbury beginning at 3 p.m. ET. Admission is open to the public and is free.
As with every Elite tournament, www.ESPNOutdoors.com will provide live, streaming video of the daily weigh-ins. Visitors to the site also can access analysis, photo galleries and blogs from Elite Series anglers. At 3 p.m. ET, Sunday, Aug. 12, fans can catch Hooked Up with ESPN2 Outdoors personalities Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders to preview the final weigh-in.
Fishing fans can catch all the drama of the Capitol Clash by tuning into The Bassmasters on ESPN2 at 9 a.m. ET Saturday, Aug. 18, on ESPN2.
Editor's note: Check in daily during the tournament for live video of the weigh-ins and a realtime leaderboard at 3 p.m. ET Thursday through Saturday. ESPNOutdoors.com will air Hooked Up, the live Internet show, on Saturday at 10 a.m. ET and Sunday at 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and noon ET. The full Hooked Up show begins at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, leading into the final live weigh-in and a realtime leaderboard at 3:45 p.m. ET.
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