Old Wine in New Bottles

The next stop up for the Elite Series is my home water, the Potomac River. When I first started fishing the Nation’s River in 1995, it was already a regular stop on the Bassmaster circuit and had built up a series of storylines.

Every serious fishing fan knew that Jay Yelas camped out for a sizable period during every event on the pilings of Fox’s Ferry just upriver from the Wilson Bridge. They’d all heard the innuendo about how Guido Hibdon had managed to catch so many fish out of tiny Kane’s Creek. And certainly been told the story of how Jim Bitter found his magic rockpile and then broke off one firetiger Bomber Model A after another as he willed his way to victory.

For grouchy old trivia hounds like me, all of that seems like it should be a universally understood part of the B.A.S.S. origin story, but that’s not necessarily the case. In discussing the Potomac with a number of younger pros before the river went off limits, I learned that not only do many of them not know the location of Bitter’s Rocks (now marked on many maps as such), but they don’t even have a sense of who Jim Bitter is. Guido Hibdon has socks older that some of the up-and-coming anglers and while Jay Yelas is still around (at FLW), lots of younger pros assume he’s always been in a Ranger and can’t picture him in the black/red/white Skeeter jersey and slacks that seemed glued to his body for so many years.

At first this made me sad. The sport’s history is being lost, and many of the younger fans and athletes don’t know and don’t care about what came before then. There’s a bright side, though – each tournament venue, no matter how many times it’s been fished, is a dynamic ecosystem that must be reassessed and rediscovered on all subsequent visits. The big grass bed by the Wilson Bridge that drew a decent number of boats at every early B.A.S.S. event has been gone for a number of years. Maybe it’s coming back, maybe it’ll never come back. I haven’t caught anything but catfish or stripers from Bitter’s Rocks in years. I still love to recount the stories of old B.A.S.S. events on the Potomac – Denny Brauer flipping a tube (of all things!) in Little Hunting Creek, Dan Morehead introducing many of us to the Mann’s 1-Minus in the back of Broad Creek, Larry Lazoen earning his lone B.A.S.S. win by flinging a 1/8 ounce Cavitron Buzzbait so beat up that he said the fish were eating it just so it wouldn’t reproduce. At the same time, the silver lining of the fact that many of the younger pros aren’t aware of those same tales is that it gives them a fresh slate upon which to write their own history.