Water levels and temperatures have fluctuated greatly on the Broad River for the past few weeks, but the smallmouth bass are still biting, and adventurous anglers are having success reeling in good numbers of bronzebacks and some big ones, too.
Guide Mike McSwain said the latest warming trend we've had – even though it's been broken up by cold days – has really made fishing on the Broad enjoyable and fruitful for smallmouth anglers, even if they need to go the extra mile this time of year.
While neither the air or water temperature seem to matter much to smallmouth bass, what makes fishing difficult, he said, is the rain, heavy current and some anglers' unwillingness to brave the elements long enough to find the fish.
A sure-fire way to snag smallmouth, according to McSwain, is to anchor down in the middle of the river around shoals, tie an inline spinner like a Mepps Aglia or Black Fury onto 6-pound test line and cast it upriver at a 45-degree angle, then reel in fast enough to keep the lure's blades spinning.
"Casting at that angle lets the lure move downriver with the current, and reeling it the whole time keeps it from going downriver to the point that it will be difficult to retrieve. It looks more natural swimming downriver and across, and the smallmouth love to hang out around these shoals and pick up baitfish swimming or being swept by," McSwain said.
The best spots to fish change daily with the water levels. McSwain looks for areas with enough exposed boulders to cause slack water to meet running water. The slack water is on the downstream side of the boulders, with moving water on both sides. Reeling those spinners past the downstream side of them puts the lure in fast water, then slack, then fast, etc., which means smallmouth get chances to crush it no matter which part of the water they are hanging out in.
McSwain said soft-plastic lures like Zoom Speed Craws also work well in these areas, and he said when it comes to fishing soft plastics, it's impossible to fish it too fast. These fish are aggressive feeders, and if they want your lure, they will track it down and inhale it.
McSwain expects the strong bite to continue through the spring, and he said the Alston boat ramp above Peak is a good spot to find the fish with canoes, kayaks or small john boats. He said paddling upriver to the dam is always a good bet, but that anglers are having plenty of success downriver in the first big area of shoals as well. The put-in at Harbison State Forest also gives anglers plenty of opportunities for smallmouth as soon as they reach the main river. Both of these spots though, according to McSwain, command some initiative from anglers, as they require carrying boats and gear about a hundred yards, then lowering them by hand down steep banks.
"It's not for the fair-weather fishermen, but the payoff is more than worth it," McSwain said.