I knew it was going to be wicked out there with forecasted winds of 20-35 mph with gusts to 40 on the tidal Potomac.  It was COLD in the am due to the winds and the Gill and Simms Ranger gear came out with long johns and double thick snow socks.  I couldn't run anywhere and most of my areas this time of year were on dry bottom.  Air temperature was 40 at launch and got up around 55.  My buddy Clay and I arrived at 7:30am.  After pulling up with the new (pre-owned) Ranger I just picked up from North Carolina, I saw the water level super low due to the combined falling tide with a wind pushing all the water out of the river. 

Let’s talk bass boats real quick..... as many of you know I have written a huge article on buying a used bass boat which can be found by searching “Under 10k Bass Boat Buyers Guide”.   Be sure to click the article with a BayBass.com link as it has more information then a few other sites which I allowed to copy the material .  I will be writing an updated one with more models that are now falling into that sub $10K category, including my new one below, 4 series Rangers, and more.  I have purchased five Ranger Boats for under $10,000 and I have not lost a dime on a single one of them.  A clean and solid running Ranger is like a clean condition Glock or Bushmaster, they don’t lose much value. 

This R98 from 1998 is a cherry and all original mechanically and cosmetically with some electronics and steering upgrades.  My wife and I missed the old Burgundy Beauty we sold before moving  out to New Mexico for a year, and upon returning in August, we searched for an older 3, 4, or R Series boat from the 90’s.  We were searching daily using Boat Trader, Craigslist, Facebook, Bass Boat Central, and Scream and Fly.  We’d been eyeing this rig for awhile but I didn’t call on it right away because I wanted the rig to have a fuel injected Mercury Xri.  I did my research on the Johnson Fast Strike and found that this model year motor was flawless and pretty much bulletproof.  The only Johnson Fast Strikes / Evinrude Inruders that had problems were the 1991/1992 models which were souped up and basically 25 hp more than what they stated. Johnson did this to compete with Mercury and the ‘91 & ‘92 Johnson/Evinrudes were smoking the Mercurys of the same horsepower rating. 

Johnson had actually gone outside of the specs with the 10% allowance of horse power compared to rating and Mercury was pissed and Johnson was forced to have their customers bring the motors into the dealers to be de-tuned.  As you can imagine very few customers brought their factory souped up motors back to the dealers to be “un-souped up”.  In 1993 Johnson re-did the block  due to water leaking into the cylinders, and the motor was brought back to “normal”.  Kevin at Quality Marine is my go-to Johnson mechanic and  I wouldn’t let anyone else touch my motor around here.  I used Harbin Marine for my Mercs and pump/electrical stuff. 

After 3 weeks of the boat being for sale, my wife pushed me to make the call and we were soon down in North Carolina inspecting this boat.  In just 60 minutes we had handed over the cash and we were on the way home.  The boat came with a 36v trolling motor, two Lowrance units (one with mapping) Sea Star hydraulic steering, and a newly recovered bench seat in MINT condition.  All of the pumps and other electronics tested perfect as did the trailer.  

So far I’ve had her up to 60 mph with the 175 Fast Strike turning a 24p 3 blade at 5,000 RPM’s so I have another 500 to go and with some prop work and engine height play, I’ll get another 4 to 5 miles per hour.  I imagine I could also mess around with the reeds and the carburetor and get an extra 20 hp and 5-6mph but at this point I think I want to just leave this thing as it is and fish.  This is my second  “R series” Ranger and my 5th Ranger boat, and I can tell you that I am so impressed with this hull that I think it rides even smoother than my old 392.  At 19’ 8” with a 200hp max and 1550 dry weight, this boat knocks down the rollers and slices right through incredibly well. 

We were the only ones there, and the only anglers to have launched at the ramp all day.  The place was 5' lower than any mean low tide.  Take a look.

I went to my low water areas which are all "pull out" areas where the bass stack due to there proximity to the shallow hard cover, grass, and channel bends within the river.  Most of the grass in the river has been killed.  The last couple weeks we have had some torrential rains which swept debris and sediment and tons of current down from the Occoquan reservoir and this has wiped out the vast majority of the grass inside the river.   Towards the mouth of the river, the flat still has plenty of grass on it .  There was hardly any water in any of the marinas which the exception of an obvious one.  They were nearly dry with 1-2’ on most pilings. 

My buddy and I banged crankbaits around rock and wood in 5-10' and we got bit quickly once we fine tuned the pattern.  I eventually went to a midsize crankbait fished on 8lb P-Line Original with a older Ryobi crankbait reel (similar to the old and awesome Lew's BB1NG) and a 6'8" St. Croix Avid  We could get a rattletrap bite but it had to be a deep bite so I went down in diameter and went to spinning tackle with a newly purchased 6'7 medium action “13 Fishing” Defy spooled with 6lb CXX which I picked up for $50 thanks to a gift card from my kind mother in law, and a 6'8" St. Croix Avid X with 15lb P-Line Braid both on Daiwa high speed 6:1.1 spinning reels.  The new rod handled great and landed a few chunks as well.  I would normally never use 6lb CXX with a lipless crank, but this line had every ounce of my confidence as we were away from grass and there was sparce wood cover.  There was a reaction bite down in 7-9 on the lipless and the only way to get that bait to them was to throw it on a super thin diameter line. No, I couldn’t get them to eat the deep diving jerk bait very well due to the water clarity. 

The two of us ended with around 45 with 33 keepers and best five were around 16lb which isn't bad but nothing to call a "big fish" day.  Our best ones are pictured here.  Mike, who I adopted into the rig later in the day got another 15 on top of our 45.  

The 36V Minkota helped alot as we fought the wind continuously.  Soft plastics were dooable in the marinas but we tried it and the bite was not on, even in the deeper slips and prop wash holes with are generally the ticket with low water.  Most of our fish were caught on an XR50 in Blue Shiner and a 300 series Bandit both fished on light line.  A 1oz Cincy Fisher spinnerbait also caught a few chunks fished on 15lb CXX, a Daiwa Tatula 200HD, and a 7' MHX Heavy HM series Tom's Custom.  We also ran into some crappie and they were chewing a smaller deep diving crankbait in parrot color.

Clay caught a rod on an XR50 Citrus Shad and we laughed. 

Half way through the trip, I ran into a guy in a kayak named Mike who was fishing the same marina for a short period with us.  He asked how we were doing and after a short convo it turned out he was a follower of the this site and he wasn't aware that I was back in town with another used Ranger named “Blue Magic”.  I towed his Kayak around and invited him in for a few hours and we caught them very well at the end of the day.  Mike turned out to be a really nice guy and a good stick also.  He got 15 keepers  crankin’ my Parrot Bandit on 12lb P-Line FC. 

I'll be focusing in on the Occoquan River, northern Potomac River, Upper Bay, Lake Frederick, Lake Germantown, and Burke Lake this fall and I'll be out two days a week till it ices over.  Be careful this fall and winter and catch them well.  Blade bait season is fast approaching as the water temps are plumeting quickly and were only 60.  I fish Cincy Fisher only and the 1/2oz Nickle is my go-to year round as well as their new Fat Head blade baits.  Bryan May, the owner of Cincy Fisher,  has over 50 BayBass follower bulk order customers from our area and the orders are already pouring in.   I just got off the phone with Bryan and he mailed out 300 today alone.  The bite will continue to be awesome this fall and winter until it ices over.  Expect to find the schools of fish to get larger in numbers as they begin to group up and go on a feeding frenzy.  

The fish seen in the above photos were  kept in the live well for a short period of time (up to just 2hrs) on this day, so that they can be included in a group picture and then released.  I keep my livewells running nearly constantly and every fish was released alive to be caught again.  Check back often for more quality reports and information from the Maryland and Virginia area.   Here is that bass boat buyers guide.  I’ll have an updated one out soon.  The magic price is $7-10k.  http://www.baybass.com/node/200

Tight Lines,

BayBass Bryan Novotny  / upperbaybassin@gmail.com