Smallmouth fishing in WNC
By this month, air and water temperatures in western NC have become fairly stable, and that makes the smallmouth bass fishing pretty consistent.
Matt Evans with The Catawba Angler in Old Fort, NC said anglers will primarily catch Nolichucky River bronzebacks with three techniques this month.
One of those happens to be the most exciting way of fishing for most every angler that’s ever picked up a rod and reel.
“The topwater bite should continue to get better with the water temperature warming up,” said Evans.
This is especially true during early morning and late evening. But the topwater bite can last all day when the sky is overcast. And even during some bright, sunny days, anglers can catch smallmouth this way non-stop.
It’s often a matter of accurate casting, though. Evans recalls a June day last year when these fish hit surface lures all day long.
“We were on a two-boat float trip down the lower end of the Nolichucky and had a fantastic day. The fish were smacking topwater baits. But the key was to cast them a foot off the bank,” he said. “If you weren’t within a foot of the bank, you weren’t catching fish.”
Catching smallmouth that way really ups the fun factor for anglers, said Evans (828-460-2390).
“It is exciting when the fish blow these baits up right at the bank,” he said. “It is exciting fishing because it’s all visual.”
The second consistent method this month is what Evans calls the crawdad pattern. This involves using jigs on the bottom.
“It’s a more finesse style of fishing,” he said.
One of the biggest keys to hooking smallies with this pattern is the speed of your retrieve. It needs to be slow.
“In order to fish the bottom of the river well, you’ve got to be willing to fish slowly. That’s the key when fishing crawfish patterns,” he said.
Evans said a lot of these bites come in deeper water where the current is running fast.
The other pattern that is predictable this month involves fishing with a fly rod. One key to this is having enough (but not too much) rainfall to keep the river fishable, but still clear.
Fly-fishing anglers will improve their chances of success by understanding what types of baitfish, aquatic insects and crayfish are in the section of river they’re fishing. And while we’ve all heard the importance of “matching the hatch,” Evans said it’s even more important to “match the movement.”
“You have to match the movement of the forage you are mimicking,” he said. “A crayfish pattern isn’t supposed to be fished fast. And a fleeing minnow isn’t supposed to be fished slow. So I’m big on informing my clients how fast you need to retrieve certain flies.”
Small streamers are often the fly of choice here.
“We throw a lot of smaller, black streamers to mimic the stoneflies and hellgramites in the river,” he said.