Don Enderle of Tri-Lakes Guide Service has led boatloads of clients to great catches of striped bass in his 25 years on Lake Gaston, but even he was surprised when a scoop with his landing net produced a citation smallmouth bass on March 26. 

“It’s the first one I’ve ever heard of being caught here,” said Enderle  (252-813-8501). “This is a smallie that even the guys up north would be proud of.” 

Credit for the commendable catch goes to Micah Berry, who hooked the 3-pound, 6-ounce fish while slow-trolling a live threadfin shad in a mid-lake creek.

Most North Carolina anglers experienced in smallmouth fishing are wetting hooks in western rivers and reservoirs, but why does is it seem out of the ordinary for Gaston to support a smallmouth fishery? After all, cold-water species like walleye have thrived here through a Virginia stocking program. 

“I have several good walleye spots; we catch a lot of them from six to eight pounds,” said Enderle, who has discovered more smallmouth encounters since his interaction. “After I started telling people about it, I found two more fishermen who’ve caught one in the same creek in the 2-pound class. A lot more of them could be there.”

Enderle attributes this catch to his style of fishing. He slow trolls shad for stripers, utilizing eight to 12 rods to systematically cover the water column. 

“Everything in the lake eats shad. If there’s such a thing as reincarnation, you don’t want to come back as a herring or a shad, because you will be eaten. Most of these shad are in the creeks right now, so that’s where you’ll find the predators,” he said.

Theories on how a smallmouth bass could find itself in Lake Gaston range from angler introduction to its natural means of transportation, swimming. According to Enderle, a good class of smallmouth inhabit the Staunton River in Virginia, which is a tributary of Kerr Lake. A fish passing through the Kerr Lake dam would become a resident of Gaston. 

To Enderle, however these fish arrived is irrelevant. He’s going back with bass tackle and try to catch some more.