Pete Cissel says that an average day for a pair of anglers on his boat will yield 15 bass, generally running from 1/2 - 4 1/2 pounds. During the winter, action may be slower than this. Wait until March or April if you want the fastest fishing; May is the top month of all.

"When it's hot," says Cissel, "the Potomac can be as good as any bass river in the East. I've caught up to 40 bass in a day's fishing right here around town."

Many of his clients are beginning anglers, often husband-and-wife or father-and-son teams. Says Cissel, "I try to do three things: If they don't know how to fish for bass, I try to teach them; I try to put them onto the fish; and I try to cover a lot of different spots and show them some of the sight of Washington from the vantage of a bass boat." Phone 577-8274 for information on rates, reservation, or current fishing conditions.

For those who want to try the river on their own, boats can be launched at the ramp directly north of National Airport on the George Washington Parkway, at Fort Washington Marina south of the District off Indian Head Highway in Maryland, and at Pohick Bay Regional Park, reached by taking I-95 south and following the exit and signs toward Gunston Hall. (The latter who spots require a good-sized motor to get you back upstream to Washinton in a reasonable time.)

Rowboats can be rented at Fletcher's Boat House (244-0461), and johnboats can be wrestled into the river at various spots around town. Be very cautious negotiating the Potomac in any kind of boat; there are rocks sticking up close to the surface in unlikely places, and upstream currents can be quite swift.

Shore fishing can also be productive on the Potomac. Favorite spots include the Tidal Basin, Hains Point, Roosevelt Island, National Airport, the waterfowl sanctuary near the airport and the shoreline near Chain Bridge.

Best fishing occurs on moving tides, with a falling tide the top choice among most anglers. Top baits include purple, black and brown worms, charteuse crankbaits, smoke grubs and white spinnerbaits. The fish are perfectly edible, but most conservation-minded anglers like to return their bass alive so they can be caught again another day.