F&S Hook Shots, Episode 5, Season 5: WV Whitewater Smallmouths
West Virginia’s New River might be best known for its ripping class 3, 4, and 5 rapids, but between all...
West Virginia’s New River might be best known for its ripping class 3, 4, and 5 rapids, but between all that whitewater there are loads of smallmouth bass. A self-proclaimed moving-water smallie addict, “Hook Shots” host Joe Cermele set out to see if he can catch fish, shoot video, and stay dry while plying the bumpy, bubbling New with local Fayetteville, WV, experts Chris Ellis and Larry “Redneck” Nibert. Not only did the boys hook bronze, but they got schooled in everything from “fish calling,” to farts, to the finest beer in the South.
The Deal: While certain sections of the New River are so aggressive that they’re set aside only for whitewater thrill-seekers, there are miles upon miles of more managable–though still tricky–water that are heaven for smallmouth freaks. The New boasts both numbers and size (as well as walleyes and muskies), but whether you catch a few trophies or enough smaller fish to make your arms ache depends on when you go for a float.
When To Go: The New River fishes well almost year-round with the exception of the coldest months. Veteran guide Larry Nibert catches some of his biggest fish–well over the 20-inch mark–in the early spring. Of course, he may only get five bites a day. In the late spring, summer, and early fall, you can expect to hook upwards of 50 bass per day in only a few miles of river, but during these times of year you might have to pick through some “dinks” to find a few toads. Truthfully, big fish or not, this game is summer fishing at its finest. Not too mention, you’d probably much rather take an unexpected swim in the heat than in the chill of the late fall or early spring.
What To Bring: Part of what makes floating the New so fun is that it’s both complicated and super-simple at the same time. While the water is technical and keeps you on your toes, all you really need to get bit is a simple curly-tail grub rigged on a jighead, a Fluke to twitch against the banks, a tube, or a small popper if the topwater action gets hot. There isn’t much point in breaking out the expensive crankbaits or skirted jigs, because the craggy rocks of the New just love to gobble up tackle. As for sticks, a 7-foot medium or medium-light spinning or baiticasting rod gets it done. Spool your reels with 6- to 10-pound mono, which breaks off on snags much easier than braid or superline.
How To Fish: Where you need to be casting a lure isn’t complex; if there’s a current break, back eddy, seam, or flat glassy run, there’s a bass in it. The hardest part about presentation is learning to think fast and look ahead. The raft is often zipping along quickly, so you may only have one shot to hit your target, and once you do, you need to look ahead to find the next. If you dawdle, a half dozen juicy spots could whiz right on by.
Where To Stay: If you’re looking for a little more of a posh lodge experience, it’s tough to beat Adventure Resort. From rooms to whole cabins, food to tackle, this place has everything you need for a super-comfy visit. If you’re more into the cheap motel deal, there’s always the local Quality Inn. We camped there during this shoot and it was clean, comfortable, and the price was right.
Guides: There are plenty of guides on the New River in the Fayetteville area, but there is only one Larry “Redneck” Nibert. His years of whitewater and fishing experience, and special “color,” shall we say, will make for a fishing trip like no other. Of course, if Larry is booked, his stable of guides are equally fun, and they’re all seasoned rowing and fish-catching machines. “Redneck” will hook you up either way.