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.
Favorite Baitcasting Reel: Abu Garcia Revo MGX
Abu Garcia Revo MGX, 33.5%
Bass-chaser Jamie Chmielewski is convinced the Revos are the best out there. 'œI have had several Abu Garcia Revo reels over the last few years, so I got one of these about a year ago and found out very quickly it was the best reel I had ever had my hands on. Easily the best casting reel for all weights of baits!'
Shimano Chronarch CI4+, 22.2%
Quantum Tour MG, 13.7%
Favorite Castable Umbrella Rig: Berkley Schooling Rig
Berkley Schooling Rig, 36.9%
Bass Pro Shops Deadly 5 Flashy Times, 33.8%
Road Runner Buffet, 13.8%
Favorite Fluorocarbon Line: Berkley Trilene 100 FluoroXL
Berkley Trilene 100 FluoroXL, 63.9%
Seaguar InvisX, 19.4%
Bass Pro Shops XPS Signature Series, 13.2%
Favorite Mono/Copolymer Line: Berkley Trilene XT XL
Berkley Trilene XT XL, 77.4%
G. Jacobs reported that he was using Trilene line and a Shimano rod and reel with a Strike King lure when he caught this largemouth.
Bass Pro Shops XPS Signature Series, 13.2%
Seaguar Senshi, 9.4%
Favorite Sunglasses: Berkley Zephyr
Berkley Zephyr, 41.3%
Costa CatCay, 28.7%
Wiley X WX Gravity, 22.7%
Favorite Soft Plastic Swimbait: YUM Money Minnow
YUM Money Minnow, 32.9%
Bass Pro Shops Sassy Sally, 14.2%
Savage Gear Real Trout, 13.2%
Favorite Rain Gear: Cabela's Guidewear Bass Angler
Cabela's Guidewear Bass Angler, 53.9%
Shimano Dryfender Insulated, 20.4%
Frabill F Series, 17.2%
Favorite Jig: Bass Pro Shops Enticer Pro Series Football
Bass Pro Shops Enticer Pro Series Football, 45.1%
Terminator Weedless Football, 32.2%
Jackall Spade Jig TG, 12.9%
Favorite Baitcasting Rod: G Loomis GL2
G Loomis GL2, 30.6%
'œBest feeling rod I've ever held,' wrote Dave Lapotka, also known as Fishboy1. 'œIt's light and just a tremendous rod.'
Abu Garcia Veracity, 27.9%
Cabela's Tournament ZX, 18.4%
According to Allison, who swears by the ZX, she caught a large smallmouth right before she caught this one, but no one was around to see it or take a photo of it!
Favorite Spinning Rod: G. Loomis GL2
First Place: G. Loomis GL2, 26.7%
Reader Gary N. Watkins says he reaches for his G. Loomis rods over all others. 'œI like all G. Loomis rods. The craftsmanship is the best.' Kevin Field voted for the GL2 because of its impressive weight-to-power ratio.
Abu Garcia Veritas, 23.7%
Bass Pro Shops Johnny Morris CarbonLite, 20.3%
Favorite Wirebait: Bass Pro Shops Lazer Eye
Bass Pro Shops Lazer Eye, 37.1%
Strike King Tour Grade Night, 30.9%
Sebile ProShad, 17.2%
Favorite Fish Finder: Lowrance Elite-5 DSI
Lowrance Elite-5 DSI, 42.6%
Humminbird 598ci HD SI Combo, 39.4%
Garmin Echomap70s, 12.3%
Favorite Small Outboard: Mercury 9HP ProKicker
Mercury 9HP ProKicker, 59.6%
'œOne of the best kicker motors available,' wrote Debbie Harbin. 'œPrice is right also.'
Yamaha F70A, 31.5%
Suzuki DF20A, 5.7%
Favorite Shallow Water Anchoring System: Minn Kota Talon 12
Minn Kota Talon 12, 60.2%
Power-Pole Micro Anchor, 39.8%
Favorite Small Bass Boat: Ranger Z118C
Ranger Z118C, 49.2%
Alumacraft Dominator 185 LE, 29.0%
G3 Eagle Talon 17 DLX, 12.3%
Favorite Large Bass Boat: Ranger Z521C
Ranger Z521C, 54.5%
Like most of the voters who commented on their choices, James Davis speaks from experience. 'œAs a Ranger owner, I think that this is the ultimate bass rig.'
Triton 21HP, 27.8%
Favorite Hard Plastic Swimbait: Rapala BX Jointed Minnow
Rapala BX Jointed Minnow, 72.1%
Bass Pro Shops XPS Z9R, 14.2%
Savage Gear Glide Swimmer, 8.0%
Favorite Crankbait: Rapala Scatter Rap Crank
Rapala Scatter Rap Crank, 59.3%
Bass Pro Shops XPS Square Bill, 15.7%
Storm Arashi Series, 10.4%
Favorite Craw/Creature Bait: Savage Gear 3D
Savage Gear 3D, 30.1%
Havoc Papa Pit Boss, 19.8%
ZMan Turbo CrawZ, 19.5%
Favorite Spinning Reel: Shimano Stradic CI4+
First Place: Shimano Stradic CI4+, 27.6%
'œSmooth, strong and never has a problem. Great drag,' said Logan W. Seth Mahler also voted for the Stradic. 'œSmooth retrieve good cast.'
Quantum Energy, 22.2%
Pflueger Patriarch, 14.6%
Favorite Braided Line: SpiderWire Glow-Vis
SpiderWire Glow-Vis, 50.5%
PowerPro Zero Impact, 24.9%
Sufix 832 Advance Lead Core, 18.1%
Favorite Hook: Bass Pro Shops XPS Magna Superlock
Bass Pro Shops XPS Magna Superlock, 49.0%
Kyle Cortiana was one of many who likes the price and quality. 'œI use these hooks on all of my Texas Rigged baits and you can get a pack of 25 for $8!! They are sharp, strong, and you won't cry if you have it off to keep from getting on top of the fish.'
Mustad Grip-Pin Swim, 25.7%
VMC Drop Dead Weighted Hook, 13.9%
Favorite Topwater: Bass Pro Shops XPS Slim Dog
Bass Pro Shops XPS Slim Dog, 30.1%
Booyah Poppin' Pad Crasher, 20.6%
Evolve Nervous Walker Ghost, 15.7%
Favorite Large Outboard: Yamaha V MAX SHO 150
Yamaha V MAX SHO 150, 39.0%
'œQuiet, great hole shot, and fuel efficient,' according to Louie M.
Evinrude 150 HO, 35.8%
Honda BF250, 23.5%
Favorite Artificial Worm: YUM Mighty Worm
YUM Mighty Worm, 35.5%
Havoc Federale, 13.3%
ZMan FattyZ, 7.9%
Favorite Soft Jerkbait: Zoom Super Fluke
Zoom Super Fluke, 67.2%
Bass Pro Shops Shadee Shad, 24.1%
Havoc The Jerk, 8.8%
"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.
OHIO RIVER LARGEMOUTHS & SMALLMOUTHS
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.
POTOMAC RIVER SMALLMOUTHS
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.
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