French Broad smallmouth fishing producing good numbers

Small crankbaits fished on ultralight tackle, Woolly Boogers producing plenty of fish

Craig Holt

August 01 at 7:34 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Fishermen on the French Broad River have been catching plenty of smallmouth bass this summer, including a few like this trophy.
Chris Manderson
Fishermen on the French Broad River have been catching plenty of smallmouth bass this summer, including a few like this trophy.

Where can anglers find all-day action in a comfortable setting in North Carolina, pass through wonderful scenery and make frequent stops to enjoy a cooling dip? Try the French Broad River as it flows from Asheville toward the Tennessee border.

“The fishing has been good overall, with the exception of days after we’ve had a lot of rain and the river gets muddy,” said guide Chris Manderson of The Whitewater Sportsman in Asheville (828- 216-1336). 

Manderson said a typical half-day excursion usually results in “25 to 30 smallies in the boat, not counting the small ones we throw back.” A full-day float trip may see anglers land “40 to 50 smallies, but we’ve had a couple of 100-fish days.”

However, water-level fluctuations because of rain are the deciding factors between average and outstanding fishing this summer. And the mountains have been deluged by almost daily rains.

“We haven’t been catching the quality of fish we did last year,” Manderson said. “Good fishing appears, in my opinion, to follow years of less or more rain. If we don’t have a lot of rain one summer, the next year we’ll catch more quality fish, and I’m talking about 19- to 21-inch smallmouths. If we have a lot of rain one year, the next year we’ll still catch good numbers of fish, just not the quality.” 

Still, bronzebacks caught during float trips have been decent this year, with the best bass from 18 to 19 inches.

Half-day trips have been the ticket lately, because the best bite has typically been before 10:30 a.m. Manderson will cover 3 to 5 miles on such a trip. 

Ultralight spinning or spincast equipment is the norm, including 4-pound test line and shallow-diving plugs such as Rapalas or Rebels. Fly fishermen have been having the best results with Woolly Boogers and popping bugs fished in clear water.

 “You basically fish for smallmouths in the river like you would for trout,” Manderson said. “Smallmouths like rocks so you cast at current break lines, behind rocks, at the beginning of rapids and at rocky shoals. Forget pools; there aren’t any smallmouths in pools right now because there aren’t any pools. The water’s too high.”






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