The next month will be the best of the year to catch smallmouth and largemouth bass on Fontana Lake in the extreme southwestern corner of North Carolina.

Colton McClung at Fontana Lake Marina said that the water temperature still hasn't reached optimum levels for the best bass fishing, and that things are only now starting to shake out.

"The lake level rose about 10 feet in a week because of all the rain," said McClung (828-498-2129)."And the rain affected fishing, not for the best." 

The influx of water scattered fish across the 17-mile-long, 10,230-acre TVA lake created in the 1940s by damming of the Little Tennessee River.


"We've had a weird spring because it was cold for so long," McClung said. "The  water temperature still hasn't reached 70 degrees, the best temperature here for fishing. Then it rained and rained and rained, and the lake (level) came up really fast."


"It should warm up fast," McClung said. "It's 80 degrees outside now and humid. That's why I think the water temperature will go up fast."


Some smallmouth anglers have been using Carolina and drop-shot rigs to lower shiners and nightcrawlers down the sides of steep ledges or bouncing them down shallow shoreline structure, such as clay banks and rocky points.


"The artificial-lure guys are throwing topwater lures, crankbaits, jerkbaits, soft-plastic lures and floating worms, especially early in the morning," McClung said. "But people are having trouble getting fish to (reach) the size limit."


The size minimum for smallmouth is 12 inches and largemouth is 14 inches, while two shorter fish are allowed in the daily creel limit of five fish.


Largemouth bass anglers are using "about the same" baits and lures - "live shiners, jerkbaits and crankbaits," McClung said.


Some are waiting until dark to motor near the dam and fish with lights for walleye and trout. The lights attract baitfish, and gamefish often follow them to the surface.


"(Anglers) tie up to the dam and fish," he said.

Trout have been weighing from two to four pounds, while walleye have been running from 1 ½ to two pounds.


"(Anglers) mostly drop nightcrawlers down 50 to 60 feet, but the lights often draw fish to within 10 to 20 feet of the surface, and they catch them then, too," said McClung, who figures fishermen will have a month-long window of opportunity before the water temperature gets too hot in July.


"You should fish Fontana now to have some luck," McClung said.