Smallmouth bass fishing in the New River has been tough this year for a variety of reasons, but now it’s apparently back on track.
“First we had rain, then it got really hot and we had no rain, but I feel like the problem mostly was water temperature,” said guide Marty Shaffner of Tri-State Angler Service. “Smallmouth fishing has been tough all summer, but the last few weeks have been pretty good.”
One of Shaffner’s clients caught a 20-inch bronzeback from the New River last weekend. Carl Thomason used a fly-rod and was casting a terrestrial-pattern fly when the big fish hit.
“Fishing had been tough until last week,” said Shaffner (336-957-4630). “We’d been having 22- to 25-fish days, but for two guys fishing an entire day, that’s really not a lot.
“Now, we’re having 33- to 34-fish days, and that’s a decent number of smallmouths.”
The New River is one of three rivers in the world that flows south to north. Its path meanders into Virginia and West Virginia, where it becomes a raging stream before joining the Ohio River that flows west into the Mississippi River.
“The water temperature is the thing, I think, that’s triggered the bite,” Shaffner said. “With all the recent rain, the water temperature’s just been too cool.”
The river water has only recently climbed above 70 degrees, optimal for smallmouth.
“I can put my hand in the river or step into it, and I can tell if the water’s too cool for good fishing,” Shaffner said. “It’s really not something I check with a thermometer; I don’t carry one. I just know it when I feel it.”
The New River often reaches the high 70s in summer, which is too warm for trout, but smallmouth don’t mind it. When it gets too hot, the bass just hunker down in deeper or shady spots and are hard to find.
“When I start seeing fish out swimming around, looking for something to eat, that’s good,” he said. “I’ve been seein’ that the last two weeks.”
Most of his trips involve canoes, kayaks or float tubes. Anglers typically may find a pool or riffle that looks “fishy” and stop, tie up to a rock, wade and cast tube jigs and Texas-rigged 4-inch lizards, along with small, shallow-running crankbaits. Then they may float up the river again, looking for another likely spot.
“The best fishing happens during rain storms,” Shaffner said. “It can be really good, but you gotta be willing to pay the price and get wet.”