Chill out with New River smallmouth bass

New River Smallmouth

Summer fishing rules on the forks of the New River in northwestern North Carolina.

For summer smallmouth bass, North Carolina sports many superb streams. These include the French Broad, Nolichucky, Little Tennessee, and, of course, the New, which is generally revered as the state’s best. Ben Lucas of Crumpler, N.C., is a guide for Rock on Charters. He said two of his favorite destinations this month will be on the South and North Forks of the New.

Lucas (540-520-9629) said that on the South Fork, one of his preferred floats is 6 miles from the SR 1159 bridge to the NC 88 bridge in Alleghany County.

Paddle on through the first half-mile

“The first half-mile is not worth fishing. But after that, the rest of the trip is almost non-stop, high-quality smallmouth habitat,” Lucas said. “Basically, the float is a series of ledges, rock shoals and deep-water, rocky pools below rapids and riffles. You’ll see a few homes here and there, but you’ll feel like you’re on a wilderness float.

“The South Fork doesn’t have the number of big smallmouth that the New River does. No river in the state does, I believe. But you should catch plenty of smallmouths, with a good number in the 14- to 16-inch range.”

Guide Ben Lucas shows off what he calls an average smallmouth bass from the South Fork of the New River.

Lucas said that the South Fork does not receive nearly as much fishing pressure as the main stem of the New, and that the North Fork receives even less pressure than its sister tributary, which co-mingle near Crumpler. He said his top North Fork junket is the farthest downstream on the river, from the NC 16 bridge 8 miles to the confluence of the two forks.

“The number of smallmouths on the North Fork rivals the fishing on the South Fork,” Lucas said. “And the better fish fall in that same 14- to 16-inch range, too. The habitat is very similar to the (SR) 1159 bridge float, except there is one Class II rapid. I would also say the North Fork float has a little more push water above rapids.”

These lures are effective

Effective lures are the same on both forks. When the water is low and clear — as is often the case by mid-summer — Lucas favors buzzbaits and topwaters such as Tiny Torpedoes, Pop-Rs and Whopper Ploppers. If the bronzebacks are deeper and there’s more color to the water, Lucas opts for Texas-rigged finesse baits, such as straight-tailed worms and 4-inch jerkbaits, rigged on 1/0 wide-gap hooks and 1/8- or 1/16-ounce tungsten weights.

Boat rental and shuttles are available at Zaloo’s Canoes (800-535-4027).

Click here for information on fishing South Carolina’s Broad River for smallmouth bass.