Finding Gold in the Toilet Water

I’m certainly not going to take away any credit from Justin Lucas. He found the best spot on the river last week and figured out the best way to catch the fish. But for a late game Herculean charge by Jason Christie to pull within four and a half pounds, he would’ve won by double digits. It was the second of what many informed observers expect to be many Elite Series titles in his career.

But as every local knows, Lucas did not find a “new” spot. To be perfectly clear, never did he state or imply that he found something new. He just figured out that what he’d located was worth camping out on to the exclusion of nearly everything else. No one else put that together, despite the fact that the Blue Plains area has been a check-cashing spot for at least three decades. It is a wastewater treatment plant that goes by many colorful names among the locals, many of them involving the color brown, but this week it was all about green bass and green bucks.

It’s not the first time that it was a factor in B.A.S.S. competition. There may be other examples that I’m forgetting, but the ones that are clearest in my mind occurred in 1998 and 2002, and they both involved the same angler.

Denny Brauer eventually won the 1998 tournament, but the early leader was 40 year old Indiana pro Ken McIntosh, who made no bones about it: “I’m fishing Washington’s finest – the outlet at the Blue Plains Sewage Treatment Plant,” he told the Washington Post, whose outdoors coverage that day led with the headline “From Sewage, Leader Emerges.” McIntosh, like Lucas, had his weight early, but rather than guarding the spot (there were no Power Poles on bass boats back then, “he raced back 20 miles to the weigh-in at Smallwood State Park four hours early and enjoyed a leisurely lunch, secure with a five-fish limit weighing 17 pounds 6 ounces.” Lucas, to his everlasting credit, had the patience to wait until the last day to enjoy a ramp-side meal during tournament hours.

As Brauer pitched his way to the win, McIntosh finessed himself to within 3 pounds of what would have been his first B.A.S.S. victory, beating out both Davy Hite and Rick Morris for second place by an ounce.

His career on the senior circuit was decent, if not remarkable. He earned checks in just about a third of the 58 events he fished, coming in the top 20 nearly 20 percent of the time. For someone who lived far away from the nearest tidally influenced water, he seemed to take a shine to it, as his top two finishes came on the Potomac. He once again finished 2nd there in 2002, although on that occasion he used a Yamamoto Hula Grub instead of a centipede. The grub was cinnamon brown with watermelon dye and he fished it on 3/8 and 1/2 ounce jigs.

While in ’98 he’d fished the deep hole at Blue Plains, in 2002, he fished the dock structure 50 yards away, the same one that Lucas mined for his recent win.

“The first two fish he caught, once competition began, made it more fun,” wrote Bassmaster’s Louie Stout. “He landed a 5-7 and 3-pounder in the first 20 minutes and took the opening round lead with 15 pounds even.” David Hall of Pennyslvania won the tournament by nearly 3 pounds, fishing Arkindale Flats south of the take of point (Blue Plains is north) with a Terminator spinnerbait..

For some reason, McIntosh stopped competing in B.A.S.S. events the next year. He’d taken several hiatuses before that – including 18 months prior to the 2002 Northern Open on the Potomac. His final Bassmaster event was the 2003 Open Championship on Toledo Bend. Today he works as a deer hunting outfitter in Indiana through a business called Midwest Woodlots.

Blue Plains produced then and it produces now, and unless something catastrophic happens or everyone in DC flushes at once, it’ll continue to produce in the future. I’m half tempted to drive up there this weekend, not to fish it myself, but rather to see how many boats are playing “take a number” on this old/new spot.