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Springtime: a lot of rivers run through it

March 21st, 2014 3:32 pm by George Thwaites

Springtime: a lot of rivers run through it

We're past the midpoint of March and area anglers have been gravitating toward the lakes for a while. This is particularly true for those with the competitive drive to compete in bass tournaments.

On local warm water rivers, the fishing traffic has been a little slower. But as the weather warms, we can expect to see more canoes — and kayaks — passing through.

Andrew Walsworth of Wally's Sporting Goods on Wadlow Gap Road near Gate City said that hard tackle anglers in the North Fork of the Holston River have been casting assorted swimbaits for smallmouth.

Obviously, one with the profile of a hornyhead chub would be the bee's knees in that river. Otherwise live bait — chubs, shiners, etc. — are the way to go for thick spring bronzebacks.

Walsworth's store has already sold a half-dozen Jackson angling kayaks this year, most, if not all, of which will be used on local rivers this season.

He currently has the Coosa, Big Rig and Big Tuna (2-angler) models in stock.

They have all the bells and whistles to accommodate angling. So as kayaks go, these sit-on-top jobs can be as heavy or heavier than some small canoes.

Be that as it may, specialty kayaks are eclipsing canoes in river angling roles, he said.

"Canoes are a lot harder to maneuver. And these are very stable," said Walsworth, who noted that a locally-based group, Appalachian Kayak Anglers, is actually organizing kayak fishing tournaments in the region.

One Southwest Virginia river that doesn't get much mention is the Clinch. Former Appalachian League magnate and sports broadcaster Rick Spivey is a huge advocate for the underrated river fishery, which is a hotspot not only for smallmouth bass, but also musky and, on occasion, river walleye.

Lately, he's been getting into catfish.

"I've been catching the heck out of them on large minnows. I'm talking fish in the 2 or 3 pound range — good eating fish," Spivey said. "I weight the bait off the bottom with sinker about four feet up from the hook. A quarter or half-ounce sinker will do."

If you can't obtain any large shiners, a large nightcrawler is the next best thing.

Rod Colyer at Colgard Outdoor Sports in Norton reports that the Alabama rig bite has slowed down on Cherokee Lake because the fished have moved so shallow.

"You can catch them on the A-rig early and late. But the jerkbait bite has been the best bite right now," Colyer said. "Just twitching it down to 3 or 4 feet and working it."

In addition to suspending jerkbaits, there is some cranking to be had on Cherokee. Shad Raps (both the SR5 and SR7) and the Spro Little John are both eliciting solid strikes.

An interesting aside on the area competitive bass fishing scene. Long-lining — a deep water crankbait technique BASS pros used to great effect in the Elite Series Douglas Lake Challenge in 2012 — has been effectively outlawed on several regional bass fishing trails in 2014.

When long-lining, the angler free spools many, many yards of additional line while trolling away from the casting target.

The angler then manually power cranks the lure to depths not reachable by normal casting and retrieving.

The trouble is, long-lining can result in a fisherman employing the trolling motor to get a bait down during the unspooling process.

Whether intentional or unintentional, this is contrary to the spirit of tournament rules that prohibit trolling and downrigging.

If you have two anglers in the same boat who are competing against one another, they'll tend to police one another. In buddy tournament formats, mutual surveillance is much less reliable.

There were efforts to more closely regulate long lining in 2013, but it became such a headache some regional organizers decided to ban the technique and be done with it.

On the fly fishing beat, Todd Boyer at Mahoney's Sportsmans Paradise in Johnson City reports rumors of caddis hatches, but Blue Winged Olive mayflies remain the dominant hatch on the South Holston and Watauga tailwater rivers.

"Caddis ought to be showing up soon, but I haven't heard of any full-blown hatches where the fish were getting on them," Boyer said. "On high water you can throw some streamers. But otherwise, they're eating small stuff — midges, small nymphs and stuff like that."

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