“We have been waxing the hybrids on Boone Lake,” said Bartlett, who said he and his buddies have consistently hit their creel limits. The fish have been ranging from 3 to 7 pounds. The year classes are all mixed in together.
“One might be three and the next one might be seven. And all sizes in between,” Bartlett said.
He is fishing several areas on the lower end of Boone in the vicinity of the dam. His preference is for long, sloping gravel, sand or clay points with baitfish schooled up on them. If there’s no bait, though, don’t even bother.
“During the daytime you’ll see these giant schools of shad and they’re deep. That’s what you’re looking for. Because when it gets dark, they’ll be coming up,” Bartlett said.
The bite usually gets started around 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. But definitely by midnight things are pretty much rocking.
“The bait moves up and the wind helps to push it to the shoreline tight to the bank. That’s a natural setup for hybrids. They don’t even have to school around the minnows. They’re already trapped against the shore.”
The only thing that has spoiled Bartlett's fun has been the weather. A sudden electrical storm forced him off the fish the other night just when the bite really turned on.
"We keep a close eye on the weather radar on our smartphones," Bartlett said. "You just don't fool around with lightning."
Zara Spooks haven’t been working for this bite, he said, but larger Pop-Rs and similar topwater chugging baits have worked nicely. Popping those baits on the surface acts like a dinner bell.
Rat-L-Traps have also been good artificials to throw in these situations, he said. Alabama rigs are also coming into play for hybrid anglers. Bartlett has been using the five-wire rig.
While heavy generation has run some anglers off the tailwater rivers, Bartlett and buddies have been getting into some nice trout while fishing the cleaner water closer to the dams. The biggest one Bartlett has seen so far: a pal caught a 15-pound brown that was 28 inches long and 21 inches in circumference!
Minnow lures in various sizes and guises have been serving Bartlett’s purposes: Lucky Craft, Daiwa TD Minnow, Rapala Husky Jerk, all different kinds and colors ranging from 3 inches to 5 inches.
Rod Colyer at Colgard Outdoor Sports in Norton reports an indirect indicator that the river fishing may be picking up in Southwest Virginia.
“We’ve been selling a lot of the Berkeley (soft plastic) hellgrammites. That’s what that usually means,” said Colyer, who has gotten solid reports from Cherokee Lake.
On Cherokee, during the daytime some anglers are throwing Alabama rigs, but Colyer’s most consistent reports have come from single swimbaits (3/4-ounce heads) and the deep-diving Strike King 10XD crank bait. At night, the jigs and spinnerbaits are making it happen.
There is also a nice pig and jig bite on Douglas Reservoir.
“I have a friend who makes his own, probably a 3/8-ounce jig, with a Zoom salt chunk. Things like green pumpkin and Texas craw are good. Black and blue is also good,” he said.
Rex Pendergrass at Watson’s Marine in Bluff City reports that the bass fishing on Boone Lake has been pretty decent. On the most recent Gatton Trail event, it took a five-fish limit of 16.92 pounds to win with five bags turned in over 15 pounds. Not shabby.
Pendergrass noted that the topwater bite has been good, particularly the Pop-R. The Strike King 6XD crank bait has also accounted for decent fish, as have the larger DD-22s.
Pendergrass figures boat traffic will remain brisk on Boone this weekend, all next week and into next weekend. But the weekends will be where things invariably get most crowded on the water.
George Thwaites is a sports and outdoors writer for the Kingsport Times-News. Email photos of your bragging-sized fish to firstname.lastname@example.org.