Ken Penrod's Mid-Atlantic Fishing Report

Get Ready for 2021

GEAR-up for 2021 Bassin.

Our, Ken Penrod’s Life Outdoors Unlimited, will begin our 2021 season by Mid-March as well as our Mid Atlantic Fishing Report. That popular report may be viewed on our website, or our Facebook page (LifeOutdoorsUnlimited). I am very agitated by Facebook so you may want to tune-in to our website.
For starters—we have eliminated our land-lines, all landlines, so you will want to reach me Cell @ 240-447-2206 or We all know that “telemarketers” are abusing our communication investment by invading our space—so they must have “bought” some congressional favor. If/when you call my cell, and your name isn’t in my contact list, I will not answer. Just leave a message and I’ll get back to you.

I, for certain, am extremely pleased to be rid of 2020. The year was fraught with uncertainty, lies and actual damage. Covid and Covid related fear, sickness, political unrest, fractured citizen relationships and lock-down-every facet of the economy suffered—but I hear from very reliable sources that fishing-related sales were “through the roof.” You can’t drive around a business area where you don’t see “Help Wanted” signs, and I know all my extensive business contacts are frantic” for workers. When a socialist government pays $1000 a week to stay home—guess who stays home?

Local states were hard hit as far as “fishing” goes because Governors over-reacted and deemed fishing as “dangerous,” especially Pennsylvania’s Governor, and to some extent—Maryland’s. PA Gov. Wolfe thought of “guiding” as a disease spreader. Did you see his Covid expert? MD said you can fish, alone, if you needed “fish” to eat-or with a charter service. PA shut us down, at the very last minute-and after having received TWO notifications that “guiding” was permitted. BUT they/he opened it for trout season (the money tree) where crowds traditionally stand shoulder to shoulder on popular streams.
We (LOU) were good-to-go in MD, as my USCG licensed guys are Charter Operations but we lost the entire month of APRIL on the Susquehanna-as well as motel obligations, HQ reservations and clients.Making that up was a bear. Just remember, as we move on—most of our smallmouth river were devastated by the 2018 summer floods, 2019 record heat and 2020 drought—so maybe, just maybe, keeping anglers off the water could have benefit. It’s not just our bass that took a butt-kicking, consider that the Chesapeake Bay’s striper population is in danger again (limit is ONE striper per day) and did you know—the Bay oyster population is only 1% of what it once was.

I “cheated” a little this year, by going to Florida with great buds and in spite of near-freezing weather—we kicked some bass. I try to book-a-guide every year—to help me improve the way I do things. It’s easy to get complacent if you don’t stay focused.

This year celebrates my (Ken Penrod’s Life Outdoors Unlimited) 40th year as a full-time licensed fresh/brackish-water guide & service. What started out to be a “hiatus” from the commercial construction industry didn’t take long to become my primary vocation? We took a hell of a pay cut-but not for long. My timing was right, my dedication undaunted and my business skills took precedence over ego. See, you just can’t make a living as a “guide.” You have to have business plan.

Think about it. Do a realistic accounting of expenses vs income. Your household bills and obligations don’t go away—and now you need a quality boat, first class tow vehicle, commercial insurance and lots of “stuff.”
The rest is another story, but the reality is “clients see right-through-you” if you are not extremely experienced on your waters; you are not prepared-or have not prepared them for the experience; your tackle is second rate—and your attitude sucks. See, you are their confidant, counselor, escape mechanism and COACH.

As an extremely dedicated person-person, the major fault I find in most clients is the tackle and lure selection they love—and bring. If you are “their guide,” that’s your fault—and your “job” to correct. TV shows, inexperienced salesmen at box stores, the local “pro” that fishes a few times a year and propaganda sales media. We have to remember just a few things.
(1) You can’t catch fish where they “aren’t.”
(2) Food is the ONLY motivation for fish.
(3) Fish do only THREE things: eat, rest and relocate.
(4) There is NO magic lure—just “magic” places (see 1 thru 3)
(5) Fish have their own calendar
(6) Casting accuracy is #1 or 2 on our “gotta-do-better” scale.
(7) You can’t improve much from your couch.

Let’s improve your odds for regional bass fishing at super destinations such as Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna and Juniata Rivers; Maryland Eastern Shore tidal Rivers; the Upper Chesapeake Bay and the Potomacs—both free flowing and tidal.

You will need to master-the-cast and you DO NOT need 500-$1000 combos because rods and reels do not catch fish—YOU do. Yep, it may massage your ego-make you feel top-drawer, but who are we kidding. There are LOTS of good rod and reel makers on the market. May I recommend ARDENT OUTDOORS. ( I use their products—and I can get sponsorship from just about any manufacturer. Very few anglers use their “stuff” as much/hard as I/ we do so do the math. AND, I can recommend you for discounts up to 40% if you send me an email requesting same. For smallmouth bass and Potomac finesse fishing—I like the Ardent Edge spinning rods and C-Force reels. For “tight-line” presentations I suggest The Edge bait caster rods and C-Force reels. You will need some “manly ‘gear for snakeheads or bass in heavy cover—but Ardent has that. Shop for yourself but remember-the bass don’t know if he’s combatting “expensive” or “frugal.” If it’s good enough for me—it’s good enough for everyone. Call me for advice.

FISHING LINE is a MAJOR misunderstanding within the “Newbee to Wannabe” sailors and that’s simply because of the big-time, big-media competition for sales. TV shows are also responsible for “line-faults” because they generally overdo the product.

I’m a mono fan, especially for finesse fishing with spinning rods, I also prefer it for crankbaitrs, spinnerbaits and plastics. I use “braid” in heavy cover only. I hate fluorocarbon except for “leaders.” Hands-down—the EXCEL brand of mono from Bass Pro Shops is my top shelf—and I have no sponsorship. Choose the “green” color and use 8# for smallmouth tubing and largemouth finessing. I do like Berkley Big Game for 12-20 pound mono presentations for tidal bass buzzbait, spinnerbait, crankbait, vibrating jig and swim baits.
If you have ever attended any of my seminars or read my books and articles you no doubt realize that I am a basic angler—a kind-of, if-it-works, don’t fix it pro. I’m never into “new” and more about “result.” I like the “let Mikey try it” type—but always “up” on the newest-with a watchful eye.

If there is just ONE artificial lure I’d hate to be without it would be a plastic tube and specifically the Campground Special tubes distributed by Johnny Cunningham of Riverfront Campground (717-877-2704.) These colors were developed by Ken and Johnny and branded the KP Series. Some of my favorite colors include KP-Badass; KP Rose; KP Candy; KP Purple Craw and KP Purple.
We favor the “Teaser” size (2.75”) for smallmouth bass but use both (teaser and 4-inch for tidal Potomac largemouth. You will want to pair these tubes with Johnny’s own lead-head jigs marketed as RAB Jig Heads, the 1/0 hook for Teasers and 3/0 for the 4-inch models. I use 1/8th ounce when possible but you should have some ¼ for stronger current or windy days.

Case Plastics is part of Fishing Complete Inc ( and where you will find most of my favored plastics of which the Case Magic Stik, Magic Swim, O’Wacky Tool, and Zipper Worms, ZIPPER Grubs are favorites –and “Day-savers. Some of our largest catches of both smallmouth and largemouth have come on the Case Stiks, especially when water temps reach 60. I like to rig them Wacky style or weightless on a 3/0 worm hook. My presentation preference: medium action spinning tackle and 8-pound test monofilament. Use my personal discount code (KenP20) for 20% off. No—it’s ok, do it. You will also want to order some Case Salty Shads, swim frogs, Pin Tail worms and hellgrammites. You MUST get some Case Baby Magic Swims (3.25”), Lil Magic Swims (3.75”) and Magic Swims (4.75”) I present these to just about everything from rockfish to smallmouth—with exceptional success. Johnny Cunningham has some Swim-jig heads I favor so get some from him (1/8, 3/16, ¼.)

You must also get some “Chin-Spins” or “Under-Spins.” Bass Pro or Tackle Warehouse is a good source.
I’m not going smallmouth fishing in the spring without hard jerk baits, particularly X-Rap in Ghost, Gold and Clown. I like Tackle Warehouse for most items I don’t have sponsors for.

Spinnerbaits, vibrating jigs, swim jigs and jigs are must-have too and I highly recommend Big Mouth Lure Company ( Until you see what a Susquehanna smallmouth will do to a 3/8th ounce spinnerbaits—you just haven’t lived. We actually developed colors and combos for smallmouth bass and tidal largemouth bass. The Penrod Special was especially designed for Potomac largemouth bass but the smallmouth love it. BMLC also handles other products so let me suggest the Missile D Bomb too.

If you intend to be a serious fisherman, you MUST wear polarized sunglasses and see to it that your friends and children do also. Fishing without polarized glasses is like playing shortstop without a glove. I recommend Costa.
OK, it’s time for “Coach” to dress you. Start with: “It’s always COLDER or HOTTER on the water.” On a late February day, President Bush and his entourage fished the tidal Potomac River with me. His Secret Service guys searched all our boats and the police presence was, well, extensive. President Bush stepped into my boat dressed in a light baseball jacket. He brought with him a “brown satchel,” lure box, two rods and a GIANT of a body guard. AM temperature was 42 degrees but with 25 MPH NW wind so “feels like 17!! I did the meet and greet but asked: “Mr. President, it’s going to be very cold today. Do you have any other clothing?” He smiled and replied: “Barbara walked the dog on the south lawn this morning and said it was nice-outside.” Needless to say, he wore a Lowrance jacket I brought for him—plus my Gortex.

You can’t beat SIMMS for summer wear and their foul weather gear for anglers is high-five. Protect your head, hands and feet for cold weather—your skin for hot weather. Gloves and Buffs are not sissy attire. See On a “cold” theme—if you are a fair-weather angler only, I just can’t help you much. We catch the “best-bass” of the year is very uncomfortable weather. I’ve said it a hundred times: “there is no need to be cold and wet anymore.”

Quality rain gear, from bibs to hood, is your first investment—right after the Costa sunglasses. Chemical hand/toe warmers by Hot Hands. My Coal. Patagonia is top shelf from underwear to layers.
Top water offerings have their time and place. A buzzbait is more versatile than we think. Try removing the skirt and installing a Case Magic Swim or buzzin-frog. You need some Whopper Ploppers. You need some Spro frogs.
Did you know—that fishing manufacturers and fishing-related stores had one of their best years EVER, during the Covid-plagued year of 2020? I questioned that! I’m told that “people that couldn’t work went fishing, shooting—or buying.” Try buying bullets. Look at the electronics displays at Bass Pro, Cabelas or Academy. Rods and reels are in short supply. I have been a dedicated Lowrance Electronics Products pro for almost 40-years, most of which was Pro Staff Supervisor in my district and 5-years as Regional Sales manager. Things at Lowrance have changed, including ownership, and sadly, Darrell Lowrance has passed. What hasn’t changed is their quality, their product line and their innovation. Lowrance has introduced a “trolling motor” called the “GHOST.” I have one on the way.
Thirty-five years of loyalty to Minn-Kota was just like being loyal to Coca Cola, Starbuck and Levis.
Covid and Covid-fear caused me to cancel our Summer Youth camp for 2020—and that’s a shame. Twenty-seven years we have trained young men (12-18) in the arts of shooting, fishing, conservation and Life. There isn’t/wasn’t a safer place to be than at our mountain cabin or on our boat.

We plan to resume Camp Sycamore for 2021 so consider this for well-behaved boys, between 12-18, that are totally into fishing, outdoors and shooting. There is NOTHING like this in America.
Wishing you a good season and trusting you take my advice. Call me for guided trips at 240-447-2206. No-one is better with the youngsters and ladies.Be sure to check-out our newly constructed website at
Good luck—and Coach says–call your mother. You only ever get one.