Make Things Easy For New Anglers

For Potomac River fishing guide Capt. Steve Chaconas, the biggest challenge doesn't stem from the weather, water level or wind. It comes in the form of clients with minimal fishing skills. Chances are you'll have a novice or two on your boat this weekend. Here's how to get them into the fishing groove.

The tidal Potomac River is a unique fishery that can challenge the best of guides. Virginia's Capt. Steve Chaconas has been helping anglers hook up with exceptional bass here for 25 years.

"I've learned enough about the Potomac that I can cope with about any river and weather condition," Chaconas says. "What really makes my job tough are clients that don't know how to cast."

Many of his clients are upscale business people who might have been given a free fishing trip as a perk. Some of these folks know little or nothing about bass fishing. Yet, they expect Chaconas to magically put a leaping bass on the end of their line. After all, it can't be that hard, right?

When he's faced with clients who have limited skills, Chaconas loans them a 6-foot, 6-inch medium-action spinning rod. Besides being easy to cast, he says it poses less danger to others in the boat than a longer rod would.

The 20-pound Gamma Torque braided line on the reel has a diameter equivalent to 6-pound monofilament, casts well and, because it doesn't stretch, immensely improves a beginning angler's hooksetting capability.

Grass Cover, Uncomplicated Baits
Chaconas writes off docks, laydowns and other hard cover for the day, even though these types of areas produce loads of fish. If he didn't, he'd spend endless effort retrieving snagged lures.

After giving the anglers a basic casting lesson, he takes them to some of the Potomac's extensive hydrilla and milfoil beds where, "A cast in any direction has a chance of catching a bass," he says. The ideal situation is high tide, which puts a foot or more of water over the top of the grass.

Mann's Baby 1-Minus is one of the lures that save the day for the guide and his novice clients. It casts well and swims over the grass without snagging. All the angler has to do is reel.

Regardless of who he is guiding, Chaconas removes the two No. 6 trebles that come on the crankbait and replaces them with Mustad KVD Strong 2x Short Triple Grip trebles. The hook's short shank allows him to install a larger No. 4 on the belly without worry that it will snag the No. 6 tail hook. This improves the lure's hooking percentage and reduces lost fish.

When bass demand a slower presentation, he sets his novice clients up with a split shot rig. He first ties a 5-foot leader of 10-pound fluorocarbon to the main braid, then ties a 2/0 Mustad Mega-Bite hook to the terminal end. Finally, he pinches on a 3/16-ounce Bull Shot sinker.

"If the water is clear and warm, I place the weight about 30 inches above the hook," he says, "but if it's cold and stained, I'll cut that distance to 10-18 inches."

The hook is Texas rigged to Chaconas' "Secret Centipede," a two-tone soft plastic bait that he pours himself. It is 4.5 inches long and is green pumpkin on top and watermelon on the bottom.

Chaconas has his clients drag the weedless split shot rig over the bottom on shallow flats that have patchy grass.

"I tell them to move it 2 inches at a time," he says. "The bass often hook themselves as they swim off with the bait."

Contact: Capt. Steve Chaconas;, (703) 360-3472.

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