Virginia Bass Fishing Spots

Catching Citation Smallmouth Bass on the New River

Breaking Down the New River with Morgan Butler

The New River is home to some amazing smallmouth bass fishing. Some of its water is hard to get to by bigger boats but if you fish out of a kayak or canoe you can go after the giants that swim in its current. Morgan Butler has an impressive record of catching citation bass on the New River. We talk to him about how he breaks down the New River.

How long have you been kayak fishing the New River?

I started kayak fishing the river in 2016. I have been fishing the river from jon boats since 2006. I love fishing the river from a kayak best because of the mobility and freedom you get. It really changes the game and let’s you fish more spots or spend more time in spots that you would miss on any other platform.

What sections do you fish of the New River?

I fish the upper New anywhere from Mouth of Wilson to Allisonia. These are great waters for smallmouth because of the current and the drops in the river which create shoals for the fish to hangout and forage in. Any area with shoals and rock bottoms are going to hold a lot of fish.

Are these sections only for float trips? Or are there single access points that people can paddle and successfully fish and paddle up stream?

The VDGIF has done a great job of making access points for people that want to spend time out on the river. Any boat ramp can be used as a single access point or drop off/pick up for a float trip. Sometimes I will paddle upstream for close to a mile if I’m fishing alone and want to hit a certain spot. You can find a list of boat ramps and trip ideas at

Morgan's New Bonafide Kayak for New River fishing
Morgan’s New Bonafide Kayak

Love your new Bonafide. What is your review of it for bass fishing on the New River?

Thanks! I love my Bonafide. I chose the top gun grey ss127. In my opinion this boat is perfect for my style of fishing. The seat is comfortable, the storage tray below the seat is the perfect place to store all the lures I plan on using.

I really like the speed of the boat and it floats on barely any water which helps me get to those hard to reach spots and allows me to float down and paddle back up. It is also the most stable boat I have ever been on. The only drawback for me is that the boat can be hard hard to turn in current but it is still very manageable with some practice. In the kayak world you have to choose what is important to your style of fishing and what features suit you.

What river gauges do you look at for river level? What level of water is too high to fish for you?

I use waterwatch.usgs website. I look at the gauge that is named “near Galax” because it is the one I am most familiar with. 3000 CFS is my limit. Anything faster than that would make for difficult paddling. 2200 or less is what I would recommend for people not familiar with the area or new to paddling. I also use RiverApp for my iPhone to check levels.

What do you consider a good 5 fish day on the river in terms of inches?

If I’m fishing for inches, depending on several factors, I would consider anything over 80 a good day. I think my best day in a tournament was around 84”.

My best day ever was last year when a friend and myself caught 2 citations back to back within 50 yards of each other and several more fish over 18. We had around 90” each that day. The conditions were optimal because it was around a high of 80, blue bird skies, and a pre frontal low pressure system was rolling in.

What is your #1 confidence bait on the New River?

My number one confidence bait would have to be a white spinnerbait. This is a year round staple and can almost always be seen hanging from one of my rods. It works well from mid spring all the way up until late fall especially when the water is up or colored.

I like to present this lure cross stream or throw it diagonally upstream and bring it down. I always cast to any current breaks or visible structure.

What are some of your other favorite baits throughout the year on the New River?

I really like the Z-man chatterbait, anything top water in the summer and fall, Senkos, and small jigs and TRD tubes in the winter. Micro jigs like the one by Patterson’s custom jigs are quickly becoming a favorite as well.

I think the most important factor in being successful with each of these lures is figuring out what type of forage the fish are keyed in on and what most resembles that. Making accurate casts to where fish are sitting is important no matter the lure.

Big New River Smallmouth Bass

From your experience, what are 5 pieces of overall advice that you have for kayak smallmouth bass fishing the New River? 

  1. Be prepared. There have been so many times when I have went out that I have forgotten something and wished that I had it. I like to make sure I have the following; tackle, at least 3 rods for different applications, PFD, river shoes preferably old tennis shoes, net, pliers, anchor, paddle, sunscreen, and a knife.
  2. Don’t be scared to throw big lures or switch it up. I see so many people that won’t throw anything except a popper or a brown lizard. Smallmouth are an aggressive fish and are often caught on musky lures. Don’t be scared to go big.
  3. Fsh anything that sticks out. This could be anything from a rock, current break, low hanging tree, or an eddy by the bank.
  4. Fish the fronts. If the weather is changing soon like a storm is coming in or a cold front the fish usually tend to get more active and the bite improves.
  5. Slow down. If the bite gets tough I like to slow down. A lot of time throwing the anchor and working a promising spot slowly will yield some New River gold. 

Thank you Morgan. Will be following all of your New River fishing on Instagram @mbutler_fishing.

Read more interviews about New River Bass Fishing.