Sorry folks, I lost track of the day. Anyway, congratulations to Bob Uhrig for providing the correct answer to this week’s trivia game! Read below for the answer.
The most notable tournament of Jim Bitter’s career, at least to the general public, might be the one that got away – the 1989 Bassmaster Classic in which the winning fish, already in the boat, slipped out of his hands and back into Virginia’s James River. He never finished out his limit that final day and Hank Parker beat him by two ounces to take the crown. It was the first of Bitter’s seven Classic appearances and only once more did he crack the top ten.
Despite that apparent black cloud hanging over his legacy, Bitter had a more-than-solid career with B.A.S.S., notching five victories, including three over an eight month stretch in 1995. Those last three victories came on a diverse set of waterways – Sam Rayburn (February), Minnetonka (August) and the Hudson River (September).
His first victory had come in 1989, in a Megabucks event on the Harris Chain, near his Florida home, but his second came three years later on the Potomac River. He won the Potomac event by over 7 pounds. He was so confident in his fortunes that even though he didn’t lead after Day One, he told the weigh-in crowd that day that he’d win the tournament.
As stated above, it wasn’t his first victory, nor was it his last. Here’s why this tournament in particular put him on the map.
Bitter caught most of his nearly 70 pounds of fish from a mid-river rockpile using a carton of Bomber 7A crankbaits, a Potomac River staple. When he’d get hung up he’d break the lure off rather than disturbing his prime cover.
The spot is described as follows on the website DCBass.com: “Sitting some 250 yards or more from the Hallowing Point shoreline is a submerged rock pile. The rock pile has a horseshoe shaped trench around the south east side of it that is 10 feet deep and about 10 feet wide. The top of the rocks are awash at low tide. On occasion, local residents and tournament anglers will put a marker on this navigation hazard. The markers don’t stay in place long. Anglers who don’t want this spot to be easily found, remove them. These rocks are super bass habitat.”
The December 1992 issue of Bassmaster went into even more detail: “The hump provided the best – if not the only – cover on the huge flat. The top was a foot beneath the surface during low tide and 3 feet during high tide. The 20 foot-long structure was covered with boulders, and a 10-foot-deep horseshoe-shaped ‘moat’ cradled one side. It had a small, 7-foot deep basin off to one side that narrowed into a shallow trench, which meandered across the flat.”
It’s unclear how many local anglers or fellow pros knew of this rockpile before Bitter. It’s similarly unclear how many lower units the spot has claimed over the years – certainly it’s been more than a few. What is clear, however, is that as a result of the effects of Tropical Storm Danielle, the river’s grass beds were in less-than-optimal shape, which made Bitter’s move to hard cover particularly prescient. “I’ve never seen so many aggressive big fish in one little area in all of my years of fishing,” he told Bassmaster.
The rockpile produced for three days. In fact, he typically needed only an hour or so to get the majority of his weight each day. On Day Four, however, he had to scramble and a bit of fear crept into his psyche. “I’ve always argued that what happened on the James river didn’t bother me, but it has” Bassmaster quoted him as saying. “I was afraid something might go wrong that last day. I imagined all the bad things and was concerned I might stumble in some way that would keep me from winning.”
He didn’t stumble, though, and over 20 years later it’s a memorable win. In fact, now it’s official — the GMCO Map, the leading chart of the Potomac, refers to the spot as “Bitter Rocks,” as do just about all of the locals.
Certainly there have been other tournament wins that produced either official or unofficial place names. One that comes to mind is the “Bobo Hole” (named for Dalton Bobo). What are some others?