In 1997 I did well as a co-angler in a couple of FLW Tour events. This was before the era of the “professional” or “full-time” non-boater, so I was able to qualify for their year-end championship on Lake Ferguson in Mississippi.
When my friend Bill and I traveled to the Lake Minnetonka event in June, he’d set up a day of pre-fishing with Denny Brauer. As the tagalong, I managed to weasel in a practice day with his son Chad. To give you an indication of how long ago this was, Champlain had not yet hosted a major tour event, so part of the horse-trading that Bill did to get in Denny’s boat was to offer up the Champlain map that he’d obtained while fishing Red Man tournaments. Another indicator was that Brauer had not yet won a Classic title. In fact, Bill reported that when he got into Denny’s truck, there was a map of Logan Martin, site of the ’97 Classic, sitting on the dash. Bill commented on it and Denny kind of waved it off, apparently tired of being one of the “two or three best anglers never to win a Classic.”
At that same Minnetonka event, I drew out with a Tennessee pro named Reggie Kilzer on Day One. He’d located several groups of fish in Minnetonka’s abundant grass beds. I ended up catching my fish that day on a War Eagle spinnerbait, but Reggie was flipping a tube, a presentation I’d never seen before. He commented that this was a technique that he’d learned from some Arkansas anglers and it was still kind of on the hush-hush.
All of these threads came together the next summer, when Brauer won the Classic at North Carolina’s High Rock Lake, primarily by flipping a heavy-duty tube. Actually, it started earlier than that, because he’d won both the Georgia Top 100 and the North Carolina Top 100 earlier that spring, making three wins in four events. He came to the Potomac as the hottest angler on the planet and he kept the momentum going by beating his nearest competitor by nearly three pounds. He accomplished it primarily in Little Hunting Creek, a small tributary that requires a scenic passage under a stone bridge, and then opens up to become a little bit of everything that defines the Potomac fishery – vegetation, an old barge, American history and residential cover, with the gravy of condensed tidal movement.
I never would’ve thought that Little Hunting could produce a win in a four day tournament, and I still have trouble believing that it could be repeated. While it goes back a fair distance, it’s narrow and couldn’t support more than a few boats. Nevertheless, a sizeable percentage of the B.A.S.S. events on the Potomac have been won on “spots” rather than “patterns” – places like Fox’s Ferry, Bitter’s Rocks, Kane’s Creek, Timmy Horton’s rock pile in Belmont Bay as well as Little Hunting. I expect that this week’s derby will be won in the grass, but it would be kind of cool for someone to find something small and isolated and seine it for everything it’s worth en route to victory.