Lake James smallmouth about to bust loose

Lake James smallmouth
Colt Bass said smallmouth bass are already biting strong on Lake James, and it will get even stronger as the weather continues to warm.

Smallmouth are biting, but it’s about to get better

Guide Colt Bass expects fishing for smallmouth bass on North Carolina’s Lake James to really break loose in about a week, as long as forecasts for warm weather this weekend are on target.

“We are just a little early right now, maybe a week-and-a-half early,” Bass said. “It’s been getting better. The numbers are gradually getting better, and we’re still catching some real slab smallmouth, good, good smallmouths.”

Bass (828-381-3426), who calls his technique “striper fishing for smallmouth” has been catching fish in deep water on live shad. He said fish were staging around the mouth of coves, ready to move in to spawn as soon as the water temperature reaches the right level.

“It’s supposed to get to 80 (degrees) for the next three or four days. And when the low temperatures at night are higher than the water temperature, that’s when it really warms up,” he said. “The fish will start to get back in the creeks in probably two weeks. They will probably spawn in mid-April. But they don’t all spawn at the same time. I catch fish two weeks after people said they have spawned, and they still have eggs.”

Try ledges in deep water

Bass fishes live baits on down lines in deep water. He’ll start every morning, often in the Canal Bridge area, with a couple of baits out on planer boards to take advantage of a morning bite. But that’s usually done by 8 o’clock. After that, he’s strictly fishing ledges.

“Canal Bridge is pretty good. But it’s hard to fish because of the boat traffic, all the boats crossing from the Burke County side to the Marion side. But you can fish it first thing in the morning, before all the boat traffic starts.

“I don’t like to fish 20 feet or above anymore,” he said. “These are deep fish. I’ll set up on ledges all day long.”

Bass said he looks for places where the bottom drops from 5 to as much as 50 or 60 feet in the space of 100 yards. He said those places are numerous on 6,500-acre Lake James, which impounds the Linville and Catawba Rivers at the foot of North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Aside from great fishing, the lake offers some magnificent mountain views.

“There are a lot of shallow-water buoys in Lake James,” he said. “Anywhere those shallow-water buoys are, go to the drops on one side and fish. I like to fish 30 feet deep over 80 feet of water. They stay on those ledges. They’re setting up, because they want to be able to chase that bait to the surface at night.

Dan Kibler
About Dan Kibler 822 Articles
Dan Kibler is managing editor of Carolina Sportsman Magazine. If every fish were a redfish and every big-game animal a wild turkey, he wouldn’t ever complain. His writing and photography skills have earned him numerous awards throughout his career.

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