WNC rivers heat up for bronzebacks
When the calendar turns to March, Mitch Carter of Southern Appalachian Anglers in Asheville gets to thinking about smallmouth bass fishing in the rivers that run throuhgout western NC.
While many anglers visit this area for the great trout fishing offered by the numerous streams, rivers and even lakes located here, Carter said those fish take a backseat in his mind this month.
“As the weather begins to warm up, the trout fishing definitely starts picking back up. Some of the backcountry fishing isn’t all the way on, but it’s getting kicked by up. But what I really like about March, with some of the warmer days coming back, it’s a great time to be out for trophy smallmouth in the rivers around Asheville,” he said.
Current is a big factor when river fishing, but the smallmouth deal with it by ducking behind breaks in the water flow. Carter said anglers can use that to their advantage.
“Smallmouth relate to structure, just like any bass anywhere. But one thing that we’ve learned about river smallmouth is they act a lot like trout. They like to sit where it’s easier to sit. They don’t like to expend energy when they don’t have to,” he said.
It may be tempting to fish where the current is strongest, but the key to consistently catching them here is to find those calmer areas.
Fly or spinning for smallmouth
“You’ll find them in back eddies, slower moving currents, and then when they start spawning, they’ll push up shallower. The Nolichucky is one of the rivers where smallmouth bass are highly concentrated,” he said.
In some ways, knowing where to cast in this river is easier than knowing where to cast in a lake. Those eddies, current breaks and slower moving water out of the main current are always good areas to target.
Carter said the fly fishing can be good this month. The most common outfits include a 7- or 8-weight rod, popping bugs and small streamers. Those imitating crawfish and baitfish are tough to beat.
But spinning tackle is also a good bet. Seven-foot rods, fairly light spinning reels and 6- to 8-pound test line tied to soft plastics like stickbaits, tubes, flukes, and grubs in green pumpkin, white, and pink colors are good choices.
Surface lures are also good this month. Heddon Tiny Torpedos, Rebel Pop-Rs and Spooks are effective. In muddy water, small spinnerbaits also do the trick.
Like most other fish on other types of water, smallmouth bass can be a little finicky during March, when Mother Nature fights the battle of turning winter into spring. But anglers can find some of the best smallmouth fishing of the year this month.
Southern Appalachian Anglers (828-691-1506) guides on numerous waterways throughout western NC, and for multiple species with fly or spinning gear. They offer wade fishing as well as fishing from drift boats and other watercraft.