February in the Shenandoah Valley saw low, clear water levels with unseasonably warm weather throughout the month. Numbers of fishwere nothing to brag about but the fish caught are usually good ones.
Hunter Griffin went out with his Dad, Lyall Griffin and managed a 21-inch 4.5 pound Shenandoah River smallmouth early in February. The bronzeback was caught in 38-degree water on a jig and trailer. They put in at the Route 7 Bridge and went up river just below the rapids at Watermelon Park. The boat was positioned towards the middle of the river and they were throwing towards the bank.
Traffic on the river will begin to pick up in the month of March if the water levels rise to spring levels. Weather can be tricky in March with a smorgasbord of conditions from cold to warm, rain, wind, and even snow. Plan and dress accordingly as it can change on a dime.
Consider throwing jigs, tubes, Ned rigs, and jerkbaits in the first week or two starting deep and working in to shallow. As the water temperature begins to creep up in the middle to late March, break out the reaction style baits.
Crankbaits in natural or dark colors of green pumpkin or brown with hints of orange or red have been known to catch big spring bass. Experiment with depth but generally cranks running 5-7 foot range will cover most of the river.
There’s no doubt the ZMan Jackhammer flat out catches fish but I’m committed to throwing the ole reliable spinnerbait more this year. Windy days have been great conditions for the spinnerbait bite. Consider throwing the CT Custom Spinnerbait sold online or at Jake’s. Davy Hite threw one of these hand-made jewels in the tank at Richmond. The first cast he brought it across the top of the water column with little interest from the green fish. In the middle of the second cast he talked about at times you need to let the spinnerbait sink to work the bottom half of the water column and on about the 3rd or 4th crank one of the largies crushed it and the fight ensued! I can vouch for these as I had a few 3 and 4 pounders on them last year. Try the copper willow blades, add a trailer, and chuck and wind.
Rubber jigs or your favorite creature bait dragged along the bottom is a great way to pick up healthy spring bass. Add a craw trailer and maintain bottom contact to kick up dirt and dust to attract a hungry smallmouth. Pay attention to current lines and always throw to submerged boulders, rocks, trees, and ledges. Make casts well off the bank before moving in close enough to reach the bank.
Also remember smallmouth are known to travel often so don’t be afraid to move around in an area and recycle water that may not have been successful on the first pass. I’m a firm believer in feeding windows so you could also be on fish that aren’t ready to eat.
March will bring in the spring season and transitional time periods can be unpredictable, so don’t get discouraged if you’re not getting bit.
Jake’s Bait & Tackle is looking to partner with Fishing the DMV and the Northern Virginia Kayak Bass Anglers for an event at the shop the last Saturday in March. If you’re not on the water check the social media sites and website as more information will be posted. Information covered will include safety, fishing out of a kayak, rigging a kayak and more. There will also be many kayaks displayed to give the beginner or experienced alike ideas on how to outfit your rig! Can’t make it in person? Check it out on the Fishing the DMV Podcast or Youtube