Besides the Delaware Federation holds many of its tournaments on the Maryland rivers were I learned to bass fish.
To help you learn more about these very productive bass rivers, I going to explain how I approach each river during the various seasons of the year.
I'll start with the Pocomoke River, which is the closest one to my home, but it is also my favorite river. Usually, I fish the river between Snow Hill and Pocomoke City. Occasionally, I fish above Snow Hill, but the necessity of arranging to get through the bridge at high tides limits my time fishing up river.
I will start with early spring in February and March before the spawn just because I have to start somewhere. There is good fishing year round on the Pocomoke.
For me, spring is deep water fishing time. Because of its coffee color you can not see very deep into Pocomoke waters. With eye sight you can't see more than a food if that deep. Thus from a boat shallow water can look deep. Thus you either need years of experience to learn the deep areas or utilize your depth finder to locate the deep water.
The Pocomoke is a winding river and you can almost always find deep water on the outside of the bends while the inside of bends are usually shallow flats without enough water to run a boat at low tide.
This time of year I will fish either spinner baits or crank baits in about ten feet of water near the edges of the channels. I use a crank bait that will quickly dive to about seven or eight feet deep and will vary my speeds. The spinner baits I will let sink about six seconds before beginning my retrieve. I usually retrieve at a moderate speed, but will vary the speed if several casts do not produce a strike.
It is not unusual to have warm spells with two or three days of temperatures in the high seventies this time of year. When this happens, sometimes the bass will move up into the shallow cover near the channels. This presents a good opportunity to use shallow running crank baits and to work spinner baits without letting it sink. Sometimes you have to work spinner baits almost as fast at it hits the water.
I don't bother the fish during the spawning season, but shortly after it is over I start looking for females in the 2 1/2 to 3 pound range hanging in the deep water near the spawning areas.
I'll also use crank baits and jigs for this post-spawn. bassing.
In the fall, I start looking for bass around wood such as cypress stumps or blow downs along the shores. There is plenty of this kind of cover. I'll work these areas with spinner baits or jig-n-pigs.
My favorite color spinner baits are white or chartreuse, but sometimes the bass will hit better on black. For jig-n-pig, I'll use brown, black and sometimes black and blue.
In the winter, I go back deep again. I'll use the same lures. That is spinner baits, jig-n-pigs and crank baits. The difference is I'll fish them as slow as I can.
I have found that the Pocomoke is most productive on the running tides and have had better luck on the incoming tides. Also, I have had some exceptional fishing in the shallow areas on high tide when the skies are cloudy.
The Nanticoke River is next on my list of favorite Eastern Shore rivers. Stretching from Seaford, Delaware, all the way down to just below Vienna, there is a lot of bass fishing water.
Spring fishing there has been kind of paradoxical for me. Most of the time I find the bass are either real deep or real shallow. My theory is that they move back and forth between the two with the weather and do little feeding in between. I believe I find them either staging to move up on the shallows or on the shallows.
When they are in deep water, I'll work them with crank baits like Rattletraps or jigs. When they are shallow the spinner bait has been best for me.
I've had my best bass fishing in the summer and fall on the Nanticoke. And the seasons kind of run together. There seems to be many patterns that can be successful on any given day.
Early in the morning I will work buzz baits on the shorelines in both seasons. After my heart stops throbbing from the buzz bait action, I will work wood with spinner baits, jigs and Rattletrap crank baits . Beside blow downs, bass will hang around docks, old wharves, and bulkheads on the Nanticoke.
In the fall, I will continue to use top water plugs after the buzz bait action has slowed. Then I will switch to plastic worms. I like worms with dark bodies and bright tails. I'll fish the same areas in the fall that I do in the summer.
In the winter, I have had my best fishing working crank baits along the edges of the channels.
My best fishing on the Nanticoke has been on the outgoing tide.
The Wicomico River seems to have endless patterns for me. It seems like I never know which one will be working until I get on the river. But my favorite places to fish for bass are the drop-offs and around the docks just about all year round.
In the spring, I will work these spots with pig-n-jig, crank baits, and plastic worms. In the summer , I will lean towards crank baits more. In the fall, I will continue with the crank baits, but will also use the jig-n-pig and plastic worms. In the winter, I will use a deeper diving crank bait and fish it as slow as I can.
The Transquaking River is one that I fish mostly in the spring to early fall. It is so shallow that cold fronts will turn it off. Because it is shallow, it is a good place to fish top water and buzz baits in particular. Of course, early morning is the best time for these lures.
After the morning sessions of fishing on the surface, I will alternate between spinner baits and plastic worms.
The Choptank River has been good for me, also. However, I have had my best success above the Tuckahoe.
Because of the lack of wood structure, I will fish mostly drops with spinner baits, plastic worms, jig-n-pig anytime of the year. In the fall, I will also use crank baits as an alternative. In the winter, I'll go to deep diving crank baits and fish them as slow as possible.
Tidal rivers, like those on the Eastern Shore tend to mystify bass fishermen who have never done this kind of fishing. While they feel comfortable on a new pond or reservoir, they look at a river and wonder where to begin. I'll round up this article with some general observations that should apply to all of the rivers covered.
The first rule is that most of the fish will be caught on a moving tide. You can catch fish on a slack tide, but if I'm fishing a tournament I know my best bet to get my limit is when the tide is moving. I prefer the incoming tide because experience tells me that's when I catch the most fish.
Some anglers, who fish mainly stumps and other wood along the shoreline, will do most of their catching on the last part of the incoming and the first part of the outgoing tides. That is because bass will only move into these areas when they are well covered with water. Some will have almost no water at low tide.
A general rule that works for me is to fish the up-tide side of the cover. Largemouth bass like to ambush their prey and this is probably one of the reasons. They will lie close to the cover protected somewhat from the flow and attack any bait moving with the tide.
A lot of first-time tidal bass fishermen look at a river and don't see a lot of the cover. Blow downs and stumps can be obvious as can some vegetation. But there is much more cover that does not meet the eye.
Here are some types of bass cover that exist in the bass rivers of the Eastern Shore. Drop-offs are the most overlooked, probably because they can't be associated with points and humps as they are in large impoundments. Drop-offs in rivers are form in two ways. Most are formed by the normal flow of the river and others are man-made channels dog mostly for barge traffic. The channels will show up as sharp drops on the depth finder.
Never pass up a boat dock, whether it is a marina or a private dock. Tidal bass like to hand close to the pilings of docks. They will also hang under docks and those that perfect the casting skills enough to get under the docks will be rewarded.
These rivers all have sunken boats of all sizes. There are some barges that have most of their superstructure out of the water, but some can only be located with depth finders. Those are prize finds because they are fished a lot less.
Don't pass up bulkheads or brick-brac dumped along the shore to combat bank erosions. These will hold fish at times.
Look for weedbeds near deep water. Often these weedbeds will end right at the edge of the channel and you can work them by running lures parallel to the weed edge. On occasion, bass will get into the shallows behind the weeds, but this is hit and miss. I think they get into those shallows area while chasing a school of bait fish. Whatever the reason, make a few casts behind the weed beds.
I'll use a jig -n-pig just about anytime of the year. The water usually dictates what color I'll use, but more often than not I'll use black/blue, black/blue pork. I try to fish this jig from tight cover to open water, depending on where the fish are on that day, I'll pop it off the bottom if the fish are active, if their not I'll just drag the jig on bottom, unless they are on a vertical slow bite, than I'll use a slow falling jig on any vertical structure that I now ( pilings, tree limbs) .
On an active bite I'll even swim the jig to the cover and then pop it next to it to get a reaction bite out of it. Jigs can be fished on just about every type of cover and structure there is, from docks to bulkheads, from laydowns to tree bases, from drop-offs to weedlines and in some cases on open water, as for depth, from shallow to deep.
I think a jig can be fished all year round with good results, but a good fisherman wouldn't just rely on just one lure, it can really handicap you in the long run. My favorite jigs are Stanley and Bulldog jigs and I usually fish them on 15-pound test line, either Berkley or Ande.
What kind of bass can you expect to catch in the Eastern Shore rivers?
Don't expect to catch a new state record. For some reason, bass in the ten pound range don't exist in these tidal waters. At least, no one has found any. The largest bass from a little water was a little over eight pounds and that was caught a long time ago.
But you can expect an average weight of bass that would be difficult to duplicate in the inland waters where individual bass have been known to exceed ten pounds. The three, four and five pound bass are common enough to keep you fishing these Eastern Shore rivers once you get the knack.