Two facts should send anglers running to the New River in northwestern North Carolina with rod in hand and smallmouth bass in mind: lots of fish, and almost no fishing pressure. According to fisheries biologist Kin Hodges of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, excellent spawns the past three years have filled the river and its two main tributaries, the North and South Forks, with smallmouth bass. Very few fishermen have taken advantage of it. “The fishing has been outstanding,” Hodges says. “Almost everyone we surveyed last year said it was the best year they could remember. It’s more of a numbers thing, with average-sized river fish. It’s not unusual to catch 30 to 40 bass a day between 10 and 13 inches long. And the fishing pressure is extraordinarily low.” Productive lures include spinners and soft-plastic baits such as tube lures, four-inch worms and grubs. Both the North Fork and South Fork are easily wadable, but many fishermen choose canoes, paddling to get from one deep hole to another. Canoe access is available around the many bridges that cross the two forks in Ashe and Alleghany counties. The two rivers merge several miles upstream from the North Carolina¿¿¿Virginia state line; then the river winds back and forth between the two states until turning north into Virginia. Fishing licenses from either state are honored from the confluence of the North and South Forks to a point well inside Virginia. Contact: North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (919-726-3933).