Top Places for Bass Fishing in West Virginia

Top Places for Bass Fishing in West Virginia
Photo By Ron Sinfelf

West Virginia comes by its nickname the Mountain State honestly. The snow-covered highland hollows of the region can send torrents of icy water into our streams, rivers and lakes throughout January and February, as well as many times in March and April. But most years sometime in March and April, the fish start to become active. The following bodies of water are some of the places where the action is under those normal circumstances.

Here's what to expect for bass fishing in West Virginia.


As is true with the Gauley because of the wet spring and summer, Mountain State Outfitters plied the Greenbrier River in the southern part of the state much more often in 2013.

"The spring smallmouth fishing was great on the Greenbrier last year when water levels were not too high or murky," says Arnold. "In the spring of the year, rafters can run from where the East and West Forks of the Greenbrier come together at Durbin all the way to where the Greenbrier joins with the New in Hinton.

"In fact, there are over 200 miles of free flowing river from the Greenbrier's forks to Hawks Nest Lake on the New. Not many places in the country have such a long free flowing stretch. And how many rivers are as scenic as the Greenbrier with its heavily wooded banks and wildlife."

Arnold emphasizes that the spring is usually the best time to navigate the Greenbrier as the river can become too low to float, especially the upper reaches, by midsummer, although the past year was an exception.

For spring lures, Arnold stresses flashy spinnerbaits and vibrating,  wobbling crankbaits.

Lastly, for spring fishing in the Durbin to Watoga State Park area, the outfitter stresses that boaters should always be on the lookout for downed trees in this narrow section. A swift water segment where boaters can suddenly encounter logjams could lead to an overturned craft.


Dave Carpenter is manager of Angler's XStream in Parkersburg and offers a quick answer on where to go right now for largemouths and smallmouths.

"The spring can be a very good time to go bass fishing on the Ohio," he said. "Sometimes, the river settles down sometime in March, but there are years when the Ohio is too muddy to fish until late April. The water temperature also should be checked carefully as that has a great deal to do with fishing success. In 2013, high water was a problem for much of the spring."

Carpenter relates that the Hannibal Pool featured especially high quality smallmouth action last year as a number of 20-inch and better mossybacks were caught. The hot spring bait was a soft plastic lizard worked slowly through backwaters, especially during the pre-spawn and spawn. For fly fishermen, the ticket was crawfish and hellgrammite patterns.

Carpenter adds that tributaries can also be worthwhile places to visit, as they offer more stable water temperatures and clearer liquid. Like biologist Hansbarger, the fly shop manager encourages anglers to check out the USGS water level site before driving to the Ohio. If tributaries of the Ohio, especially the Kanawha and Little Kanawha in our state, are running high from spring runoff, fishing could be iffy at best.


Like many state waterways, the Potomac endured high, discolored water last spring, making the smallmouths and other game fish slow to turn on. Surely, one would hope that a repeat of that condition won't reoccur this year, as not only was fishing often impossible but also many anglers feared that a year class of bass was washed away.

If conditions do turn out to be better, the Potomac should proffer quality bronzeback action. Guide Tyler Frankenberry of River Riders in Harpers Ferry took me on my most recent trip down the Potomac and we scored while employing hard plastic jerkbaits such as the Rapala X-Rap and soft plastic jerkbaits.

This Eastern Panhandle boasts a number of quality floats. Among the favorites of Frankenberry and me are Taylors Landing to Snyders Landing (4 1/2 miles), Snyders Landing to Shepherdstown (4 miles) and Dam No. 3 to Brunswick (7.3 miles). Keep in mind that the last excursion ends in Virginia, so either West Virginia anglers have to purchase an Old Dominion license or stop fishing after the Shenandoah enters the Potomac. Don't expect the smallies to be in swift water early in the spring. Instead concentrate on shoreline eddies with lots of rock cover.

I'm sure I left out some superb lakes and rivers for spring fishing, but that's one of the many good things about West Virginia spring fishing — there are many places to choose from among.

Don't forget to share your best bass photos with us on Camera Corner for your chance to win free gear!

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