April is known as the month when it’s easiest to catch a trophy bass at most North Carolina lakes — but there’s one most anglers don’t know about: Lake Phelps.
Oddly enough, this 16,600-acre lake in Washington County, just a hop, skip and a jump from the Outer Banks, may rank in the top three as a bass destination. But it’s so isolated that most of the fishermen who target bass in its clear waters are locals.
“It’s really kind of a secret, as far as a bass-fishing lake,” said Joe Davenport, who works at Pettigrew State Park on the lake’s shoreline.
For 24 years, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has tried to help Lake Phelps become a trophy-bass destination. Today, the lake is managed with a 14- to 20-inch slot limit — the same as Shearon Harris Lake between Raleigh and Sanford, considered by most anglers as North Carolina’s top big-bass fishery.
“Two fellows from ... Raleigh or somewhere like that, (they) camp and fish here every year,” Davenport said. “They’ve come to the lake for 20 years, but they’re about the only regulars. Bass anglers are kind of close-mouthed, and these two guys are that way when it comes to talking about fishing.”
Davenport said the two anglers wade and use fly rods and popping bugs of different sizes. A 5-, 6- or 7-weight fly rod with floating line will work on the lake’s bass and pumpkinseed bream. For anglers using spinning or baitcasting tackle, floating worms, plastic worms or lizards cast in the cypress swamp or into the lake’s grass beds or Zara Spooks and Spook Puppies thrown near the grass will catch bass.
“The lake has acres and acres where people can wade and cast flies or other lures,” Davenport said.
Bass sizes average 4 pounds, he said, but it has plenty of 6- and 7-pounders. Largemouths weighing 11 ½ pounds have been taken from Lake Phelps.
“I caught a 7-pounder myself,” Davenport said, “and I’m sure bigger fish have come out of the lake.”
Pocosin Overlook features a boardwalk where people can fish or start wade fishing. It’s surrounded by a cypress forest.
“There’s a pier there, you can wade a half-mile around it, and the whole area is cypress trees,” Davenport said. “A lot of bass hang out in the cypress roots. People use plastic worms and regular fishing rods in there. Cypress Point also has a pier."