I had a chance to talk kayak fishing on Summersville Lake in West Virginia. John Rapp is a member of FeelFree Kayaks, Manley Rods & ACE Adventure Gear Fishing Teams. He is a Top 20 Finisher for the 2016 Kayak Bass Fishing National Championship and 2016 Tournament winner of the two Day MSKA Championship event. He is also the Co-Founder and Managing Director of a new, Non-Profit Fishing Club in West Virginia known as the West Virginia Kayak Anglers. So you can see why I knew he would be a great person to discuss this West Virginia fishery with.
You have a Feelfree Lure Kayak. What makes it a great choice of kayak for fishing Summersville Lake?
The FeelFree Lure 11.5 is a great kayak for fishing any water. It works very well in West Virginia because normally I’m fishing skinny back waters or rivers with a little more current where I can appreciate having the stability this Kayak platform provides.When I do go out on the larger bodies of water in the State, I appreciate the Gravity seating where I am able to sit 10 inches high off the deck.
When I fish Summersville Lake, I employ my FeelFree Uni-bar on the front and use it to keep my tips up to watch for a strike. I may work a couple of fishing poles…dragging a senko or lizard across the bottom letting the wind or current push me.
Can you describe Summersville Lake from a fishing perspective for someone who has never been there?
Summersville Lake has Five access points that are good for Kayak Anglers. Three of these, Battle Run, Salmon Run and the Main Marina by McKees Creek are concrete Boat Ramps and you will share these with Bass Boats, Jet Ski’s and Pleasure Boats to put in the water.
The fourth location is a relatively new launching point made and managed by the city of Summersville that is Kayak and paddle craft only launching point at the Muddelty Creek entry to the lake. The fifth is at the mouth of the lake and off the beaten trail in a location called Persinger. It is in a more isolated area.
All of these launch points are NO WAKE ZONES and are the best locations to fish. Persinger area has more current as it is at the beginning of the lake were the Gauley River flows in beginning the lake. McKee’s Creek and Battle Run are areas that you could fish all day and not cover all the water as the area is too massive to cover paddling.
The others are manageable during a single day. The main part of the lake out of the no wake zone are traveled heavy by pleasure boaters pulling water skies and jet skiers and pontoons creating quite a wake making it a bit more difficult to fish.
On a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being extremely difficult, how difficult is kayak fishing Summersville?
Due to the ease of access I would rate the lake for that purpose an 8 of 10. But on a scale of 1 through 10 on catching fish, that is a different story as it requires an angler to be skilled at fishing at deeper depths. So for me, it is tough…a 5 of 10.
This is a big lake for a kayak angler. How should a newbie approach breaking down the lake to make it more manageable?
Break it down using Google earth as well as a Navionics program that can provide you contour lines and depths of the lake. Once you have researched using these methods, you can then gauge your paddle distances to locations on the lake you want to concentrate your time on based on your fishing preferences, fishing style and depth of water.
This is also a lake that gets heavy boat traffic. What safety precautions are you taking to deal with the boats that can be all over the lake?
Same as you would use any time you are on the water. Light, flag, whistle and always wear your PFD. Try to fish with a partner but if you are going out on your own let someone know when your heading out and when you come off the water…safety first.
What are your favorite strategies for catching the lake’s largemouth and smallmouth bass?
This body of water is mostly dominated by Smallmouth but there is a Largemouth population in the lake. I don’t employ a particular strategy. I fish for them both. I normally Texas rig a weightless Senko and work the banks. Or I Carolina rig a lizard and work the points.
Summersville Lake also has a nice population of Walleye that keep anglers on the water in the cooler times of the year.
The lake leaves a lot of people scratching their heads and wondering where the fish are. What are some of the critical aspects of fishing on Summersville Lake that others miss?
Wow…I would love to answer this question because then maybe I would be a bit more successful on this lake. The best advice that I can provide someone is to get with someone who has fished on the lake before and maybe even take a day and just go out on the lake on a bass boat where you could cover more water and observe all of structure and points.
But most of all, do your research. Yet always stick with what makes you comfortable and successful while fishing. Don’t go throw a jig if you are not comfortable doing it.
What electronics are you using on the Lure? How critical are electronics for fishing on Summersville?
I’m currently using my old Hummingbird 383C. My kayak and all my equipment were stolen out of the back of my truck along with my wife’s kayak while out of town to fish a Kayak Tournament back around the 1st of May. So I had just set up my new FeelFree Lure 11.5 with my old unit.
Electronics are important in locating the ledges and drop offs where depth is an issue in finding structure in 20 to 40 feet of water. For instance this past week when I was out on the lake and paddling out to the island at Battle Run, I was passing over the channel and located a school of fish in about 40 feet of water. Just behind them in about 20 feet of water on a ledge I located some structure. So I was able to strategize and throw some soft plastic out to the deeper water and let it work up the ledge into the structure where I had some success catching a few nice smallmouth.
Thank you John for sharing this information with us. I hate hearing about the stolen kayaks but glad you are still getting out fishing. I will be following John on Instagram @jkrappjr to see his Summersville Lake catches all season.