Another year, another great tour-level tournament on the Potomac, once again won by an out-of-stater. In fact, this year’s winner Justin Lucas is a two-timing out-of-stater, having migrated from California to Alabama. Despite the fact that he professes to love the Potomac, it’s a near certainty that he never considered moving here. That’s fine – there have been no superstar anglers who honed their trade on the Potomac, so why should he break the streak?
Yes, Hall of Famer Roland Martin was raised in Laurel, Maryland, but his childhood occurred before the Potomac was a premier, or even a decent fishery. Besides, he made a name for himself guiding on Santee Cooper and Okeechobee.
There have been plenty of Virginia pros, including 2000 Bassmaster Classic winner Woo Daves, and more recently John Crews and Jacob Powroznik, but none of them lived on the Potomac or called it their primary learning ground. JT Kenney came from Maryland, but Frostburg is several hours away. FLW pro Brian Schmitt is a Potomac local, but he’s yet to have consistent success on anything but tidal rivers. Kurt Dove, who has fished on both tours for a decade or so, might be the closest thing we have to a home-grown veteran, and even he absconded to Del Rio, Texas at the first opportunity.
At first I was inclined to think that the Potomac’s failure to produce a stable of upper-echelon pros was due to the fact that it is primarily a shallow water fishery. Yes, there are deep water holes that produce at various times, but it’s not a ledge fishery like Kentucky Lake or a place to sidescan for hours like Erie. There’s plenty of grass, but not deep grass like on Rayburn or Toledo Bend. Or perhaps it’s because the fishery isn’t quite as productive as trophy fish factories like Lake Fork or the California Delta, both of which have produced multiple contenders for AOY titles.
If that’s the case, why has the Ohio River region, a shallow fishery that’s no one’s idea of a stocked pond, produced a number of quality pros? It has to be something else.
It seems to me that part of the reason that the Potomac area hasn’t become a refuge for pros from elsewhere is a matter of geography. Unlike Guntersville, which is located centrally between the north, Florida, and Texas, the Potomac is a long drive from anywhere. Another part of the reason is financial. The cost of living here is so much higher than near most other bass fisheries that it makes no sense for someone on a shoestring budget to come here. The third part might be the traffic – sometimes it feels like you need leave for 5 o’clock Wednesday nighters at 2 o’clock….on Tuesday. The congestion is not conducive to hauling a boat around.
The most important part, it seems, is the cultural one. With no history of producing past bassing superstars, there’s no role model down the street for parents to point to as something to aspire towards. In Jasper, Texas, there might be three bass pros within a long cast of your house. In Arlington, Virginia, or Bethesda, Maryland, you’re more likely to hit a lobbyist, a congressman or a defense contractor. With so many people here functioning in a burgeoning economy, one that is more resistant to recession than in most other parts of the country, it’s not just a matter of limited opportunities to become a bass pro, but also the fact that a bass pro is viewed as something that “other people” in “other places” do. I’m not saying you can’t become a top flight pro hawger if you’re born and raised here, but the odds are against you. I’m still not one hundred percent sure why.
With the change in administrations, the DC area is sure to get thousands of new residents next year. I can just about guarantee you that none of them will be a past or future Bassmaster Classic winner.