Michael Hines of Gibsonville and fishing partner Roger Mabe of Climax didn't catch enough bass to hang around for the weigh-in at the April 5 Tobacco Bass Invitational on Kerr Lake, but they definitely had the day’s most-interesting catch: a 3.58-pound smallmouth bass.
Anglers have caught smallies from Buggs Island in the past, but mostly during the winter and early spring, particularly colder springs. Smallmouth don’t like to live anywhere the water temperature spends much time above 70 degrees, which the lake regularly surpasses during warm summers.
Hines, who landed the fish with a deep-diving Rapala crankbait, said he and Mabe had caught several undersized largemouths in the buck brush and willow bushes near the back of Little Nutbush Creek and decided to cross the lake and fish deeper points off red-clay banks.
“We were headed down toward Satterwhite Point on the left side,” he said. “We'd caught a couple of (chain pickerel) and the small fish. We'd pre-fished that area on Friday and caught some good fish, so we thought they'd be there Saturday – but they weren't.
“We'd lost two decent largemouths. Roger was fishing with a Speed Shad and I lost one with a spinnerbait. We were getting short strikes and not getting good hook sets. Roger had one halfway to the boat and it got off.”
Their boat was sitting in eight feet of water on a spawning flat when Hines threw his crankbait at the bank and got a savage strike.
“I thought it was a really big one,” said Hines, who thought he had a 6- or 7-pound largemouth on his line. “I was telling Roger 'Get the net; I got a good one.’”
Then, he saw the bronze color and dark vertical streaks on its sides.
“I'd never caught a smallmouth before,” he said. “It was my first one.”
After weighing it, Hines released the smallmouth back into the lake.
Smallmouths actually have two routes to enter the lake, the Dan River that meanders back and forth across the Virginia and North Carolina border as it flows east, and the StauntonRiver, which feeds into the lake from Smith Mountain Lake to the northwest; bronzebacks swim in the upper reaches of both streams.