William Kemp Wins Potomac River Northern Rayovac

A while back, a friend gave William Kemp a simple tip about fishing the Potomac River: As long as there's water moving (either incoming or outgoing tide), the grass bite should be good. He applied that piece of advice last week when fishing the first Northern Rayovac Series of the season at the Potomac. He spent the majority of his tournament running back and forth between Aquia and Mattawoman creeks, flipping stretches of grass with a jig or a creature bait while paying close attention to the tide cycle. His 19-02 stringer on day 1 put him in the lead, but a 10-09 bag the following day dropped him to 5th entering the final day. A couple key bites late on day 3 helped him erase the 3-12 deficit he faced and he brought in 15-14 to close with 45-09 and win his first Rayovac Series event by 1-04 over Greg Wilder. Kemp bested a field of 143 boats and collected nearly $39,000 for the win, which he called the biggest of his fishing career. He was 2nd at the 2007 Bassmaster Weekend Series championship. "It hasn't 100-percent sunk in yet," he said. "It feels like I'm still dreaming." Kemp has fished a handful of tournaments at the Potomac in the past, but he says he's far from an expert on the tidal fishery. "I fish Albermarle Sound (North Carolina) and I've river-fished and grass-fished my whole life," he said. "I don't have to deal with the tides all that much back home, but they're still river and grass fish." Typically, he fishes the northern reaches of the Potomac or the Arkendale Flats, areas that "don't tend to get as much of a gathering of boats." "I just don't like fishing in crowds," he added. In practice, finding an abundance of clean water was a challenge as Kemp said there was a lot of mud and debris in the river. "We spent all week dodging stuff that was coming out with the tide," he said. Overall, he said the Potomac isn't producing as well as it did 4 or 5 years ago. "It's still a great fishery and I think we caught them better than people thought we would, but the grass is just not there," he said. "It's not as healthy and there is not as many grass beds as there used to be. Areas that used to have it don't have it right now. "Some of the areas where I found the best grass, there was very little of it. It was just small, scattered clumps. That hurt the heavy flipping or punching bite, even at low tide. It just wasn't conducive to that type of fishing." He said his practice was "pretty tough overall," and he came into the tournament with some areas in Aquia and Mattawoman that he felt like he could bounce around between. "I think it helped me because I didn't have a lot of places," he said. "I just couldn't run here or there. I knew I'd have to bear down and stay in those areas."


Kemp spent the first 2 hours of day 1 in Mattawoman Creek during low tide, but couldn't generate much action. He migrated down to Aquia Creek when the tide started to come in and totaled seven bites, including a 6-10 kicker, that helped him total a tournament-best 19-02. All but one of his fish were caught flipping grass. "I left there because I figured I was around 19 or 20 and there wasn't much else I could do to help myself," he said. "It took me 5 hours to get those seven bites. There was one area in the grass bed (at Mattawoman) that was really loaded with fish and all the boats were pounding that area." Instead of using heavy flipping gear, he opted for a 1/4-ounce weight on 15-pound fluorocarbon and he believes the more finesse presentation was the key to some of the day-1 bites he got around other boats. "Guys fishing wacky-rigs and Senkos probably were catching more than me, but I was bearing down with that 15-pound line," he added. "I had one 100-yard circle about 400 yards from where most of the fish were and I caught three good ones there. Once the boats thinned out, I slid over to where most of the fish were and in one pass I caught a 4 and a 3 1/4 to cull out my two smallest." The second day was a major struggle for Kemp, who opted to start in Aquia. He was without a bite until 9:30 a.m., but managed to scratch out two keepers before heading to an area he hadn't fished on day 1. "I caught one and lost one there and then I ran back to Aquia, but it was too crowded so I went to an isolated area of grass and caught another to get to four fish," he said. At that point, he admits, he was starting to get spun out mentally. "I didn't have a limit and I was starting to get a little freaked out," he added. "I ran back to Mattawoman because I felt like the tide was getting slack in Aquia." He finished his limit with a 12-incher to relieve some of the pressure, then culled a couple times to get to 10 1/2 pounds. "At that point, I was happy to have what I had," he said.

After relinquishing the lead following day 2, Kemp switched his game plan again for the final day. He didn't run to Aquia right away and instead opted to hit another area that produced about 30 fish on a Lobina Rico popper. The only problem was all but one of the fish were on the small side. "It was the best day of fishing I had the whole time I was there," he said. "Out of those 30, though, I caught one 4-pounder. The rest were 1 1/2- to 1 3/4-pounders." He finally went into Aquia and got about a dozen bites, but again nothing over 2 pounds. "I felt like I had to do something different," he said. "I stopped in Mattawoman and I had about four spots I wanted to fish and I figured I'd spend about 15 minutes at each spot. The water was coming up and I felt like I needed a couple 3-pounders to have a chance (to win). At that point, I didn't think I had a chance at all." At his first stop, he made two flips with a jig to a piece of wood and boated a 5-pounder. He added a 3-pounder not long after, again on the jig. He could've stuck around and tried for one more upgrade, but opted to head back to the ramp early. "I knew the 1st-place guy only had to catch 13 (pounds) because I'd given up so much of the lead," he said. "When I saw what Chris (Baumgardner) had, I knew I needed a good amount to beat him." When the scale registered 15-14, Kemp was pleasantly surprised because when he caught his 5-pounder, he didn't take the time to weigh it in the boat as the day was winding down. "I knew she was a big one, but I didn't know if it was a 5 or 5 1/2," he said. He said that was the fish that won the tournament for him.

Winning Pattern:

Kemp paid close attention to the tide cycle and how it affected when the fish seemed to bite best. "The biggest fish definitely bit on mid to high tide," he said. "On a lower tide, the numbers bite was better. I tried to do all of my moving between creeks whenever it would hit slack tide because the bite would die off during that time." Low tide wound up being later in the day each day of the tournament and Kemp is convinced that benefited him. "That last day it really helped because when I caught those couple fish late we still had 2 to 3 hours of falling tide left," he added.

Winning Gear:

Flipping gear: 7'10" heavy-action Skeet's Custom Rods casting rod, Lew's Speed Spool casting reel, 15-pound P-Line fluorocarbon line, 3/8-oz. Strike King Bitsy Flip jig (black/blue), NetBait Paca Chunk trailer (black/blue). He also flipped a Zoom Brush Hog (watermelon red in clear water with sunny skies; black/red when the water was dirtier in Mattawoman) His go-to topwater bait was a Lobina Rico (fry).

Main factor: "Sticking with it because I knew I wouldn't get a lot of bites. Some guys were getting 30 to 40 bites, so bearing down and sticking with it was definitely a key. The Good Lord blessed me with a great 3-day tournament."

Performance edge: "I can't say enough about my Triton and Mercury. They got me there and back. My Minn Kota trolling motor did well in the grass. Everything just worked well together. My Power-Poles helped me out because I'd catch one and drop them down and not blow across the area."

Potomac River Winning Pattern Bassfan 6/24/14 (Todd Ceisner)

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