As spring arrives in the Eastern Panhandle, smallmouth bass fishing conditions are rapidly improving on the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers.
Smallmouth bass are once again becoming active as they transition out of their winter cold water patterns and move toward traditional spawning areas. This yearly cycle is once again underway as temperatures slowly rise, and so do the odds of success for our local bass anglers.
In preparation for heading out to fish near the confluence of the rivers in Harpers Ferry I decided to stop at our local bass headquarters, White Fly Outfitters. I wanted to get an up-to-date report on local fishing conditions and resupply my tackle box for the early fishing season. I sat down with expert bass fisherman and owner of White Fly, Brian Kelly.
He was happy to share his knowledge of what is happening in the local fishing world and was full of helpful tips.
Our conversation first focused on the current water temperatures, which are currently running from 55-58 degrees. Fishing is improving by the day and it has been particularly good on the upper Shenandoah. Kelly reported good fishing last week on the Shenandoah with multiple smallmouth bass landed in the 15-, 17-, and 18-inch class, topping out with the largest catch being a 21-inch, 4.5-pounder.
He went on to say that the heavy rain has slowed the fishing down a little. The river levels are a little too high this week and a bit colder than ideal, but the forecast for the next couple of weeks is looking good. The water levels will return to the ideal 3.5 to 4-foot levels.
That will create good conditions for smallmouth bass to start heading into the pre-spawn cycle, and large bass will be cruising the shallows, providing a window of opportunity where the fish will be feeding heavily. It’s a good time to be out on the water.
Brian and I continued our conversation in the tackle shop. “So, what are the best baits to use during the April transition? What are the bass going to bite on?” I asked him.
Brian suggested using a few different approaches and pulled a few lures off the wall. A 3/8-ounce of War Eagle Buzz bait has been working well he said, and he’s had early season success with a using Strike King square bill crank baits. Showing the fish a few different things is a good way to go. Change things up and see what gets their attention.
I also picked up some Gamakatsu super line weighted spring lock hooks and matched them up with some soft plastic Little Dipper 3 1/2-inch trailers. A new spool of line and I’m ready to go.
The White Fly Outfitters tackle shop is fully stocked with a wide variety of gear, clothing, rods and reels for the bass fisherman and a great selection for the fly fisherman as well.
The trout fisherman will also find a wide selection of lures, fly rods and a custom fly-tying shop that will get you ready for the trout streams and lakes here in the Mountain State or wherever your fishing adventure takes you.
West Virginia has incredible natural resources and stocking programs for our rivers, lakes and streams that offer the angler hours of adventure and peace and quiet.
If you are just learning to fish, the Eastern Panhandle is a great place to learn. Take the time out of your busy schedule to enjoy it. Teach a kid to fish. It’s an outdoor hobby that will last a lifetime.
I remember getting home from a long day at work in the city, my youngest daughter would meet me at the front door chanting, “Take me fishing, take me fishing.” I’m glad I did.
Until next week, go out and enjoy the great outdoors!