The South Fork of the Shenandoah River has been a long sought out smallmouth bass fishing destination. What I didn’t realize is that the largemouth bass fishing can also be very good. In this interview, Kevin Whitfield who is the Owner-Operator of Old Dominion Outfitter and Guide Service lets us know that the fishing on the Shenandoah’s South Fork is great for both species of bass. He also breaks down summer fishing for anyone heading to the Shenandoah River.
You get to work and play in such a beautiful area of the Mid-Atlantic, the Shenandoah Valley. What do you love most about fishing this area of the Country?
I’ve lived in the Shenandoah Valley my entire life. While I’ve traveled the country for business and on fishing adventures, I’ve never considered leaving where I was born and raised. The area itself is beautiful and I love the fact that we experience a true four seasons. This allows us to fish for different species of fish at different times of the year. We have excellent trout fisheries in our part of Virginia which allows us to trout fish during the fall, winter, and spring months. Then we switch and concentrate on the smallmouth and largemouth during the warmer summer months.
I would like to focus on the Shenandoah River. One of the things that struck me on your site is that you describe the Shenandoah as one of the premier smallmouth and largemouth bass rivers. I certainly have heard about Shenandoah’s legendary smallmouth fishing but not the largemouth. How is the largemouth fishing on the Shenandoah River?
The South fork of the Shenandoah, which is the section I fish, harbors a very good population of largemouth, good numbers of quality size largemouth are available to anglers. Largemouth bass of up to seven pounds have been collected by biologists from the South Fork in recent years. On an average float which lasts six to nine hours the catch ratio is around 80% smallmouth and 20% largemouth. That ratio can increase if you specifically target largemouth. Knowledge of the river and where the largemouth lay are very helpful when trying to target these fish.
3. How about the smallmouth bass fishing? What do you consider an average day in terms of quantity and quality for a summer day on the river?
The smallmouth fishing on the South Fork of the Shenandoah is outstanding. An average day during late June, July, and August can easily produce 50/60 plus fish. Average fish size is typically 12” to 20” with a dark green or bronze color.
Starting with conventional tackle, what are your favorite summertime baits for Shenandoah smallmouth?
Favorite summertime baits consists of mainly plastics such as silver, white, and olive flukes. Pumpkin and watermelon colored crayfish patterns. Plastic worms either on a wacky rig or Carolina rig. I also like black imitation hellgrammite and leach patterns.
What are key pieces of summertime structure that you focus on for smallmouth on the River? How do your strategies adjust based on time of day?
Anglers can find smallmouth throughout all habitat areas of the river. However during the summertime I focus on the following areas: directly below bedrock ledges, at the head of pools directly below riffles, runs with various pockets and eddies, and the tail end of pools.
Strategies will change depending on the sun/shade lines, sun, and cloud cover, cold fronts, etc. Early morning I’ll fish top water poppers, buzz baits, torpedoes, etc. Mid day after the morning top water bite is over we switch up and fish the flukes, crayfish, and plastic worms using a waited hook or line to get the bait down to the fish. During the evening hours we typically switch back to the top water lures as the fish dictate. When fly fishing the strategy is pretty much the same.
Being a clear shallow river, what line do you use?
Actually, I prefer a brownish/ greenish braided line. As far as I can tell I’ve never had a big problem with fish being spooked. Braided line has very little to no stretch so it allows you to feel the bite better. Also, braid has better abrasion resistance which is helpful given all the rocks, ledges, and structure we fish around.
With the fly rod, what do you consider the ideal fly rod setup for summertime smallmouth fishing?
What are your favorite surface and subsurface flies for summer Smallmouth?
Favorite surface flies for smallmouth are Deer hair poppers, subsurface favorites are CK Baitfish, white or tan, Clawdads, olive and bright green.
Do you use any outlandish flies for smallmouth?
I don’t use anything to outlandish, I’m inline with all the other local guides in our area who fish the South Fork.
If someone wants to spend a day on the Shenandoah with you, how do they arrange the trip?
To arrange a trip with my service folks can visit my Facebook page or website to get the appropriate contact information. They can either call me directly or email and I will respond back as soon as possible to answer questions and/or book the trip.
What can they expect from a day of guiding with you?
A typical day will begin around 7am, most trips last six to nine hours. The client will experience fishing from the boat as well as stopping to wade and fish riffles and pocket water located throughout the float. We will also stop to have a shore lunch.
I’m a full service guide which means I furnish all gear, rods, flies, and tackle. Also included is a shore lunch with beverages. The only item the client needs is a valid Virginia fresh water fishing license.
Sounds like a great trip to me. Thanks Kevin for teaching about both the smallmouth and largemouth bass fishing on the Shenadoah.