In recent years we’ve had great turnouts and some really big bass caught at the Charlotte, NC, Regional Tournament! This year, with a new earlier spring date, and with it being a “super regional” (bigger cash/prizes) we expect nothing less! In fact, if water conditions are right there is no reason this stop couldn’t set a new record on the Orion Coolers River Bassin Trail breaking last year’s 63.25 inches record that was caught at the 2014 Charlotte regional by Rocky Ly. This stop also saw some monster smallmouth being scored, most notably Drew Harrison’s football shaped 21.75 inch bronze back!
If you’re new to the 2015 trail be sure to check out the Charlotte event page, the entire 2015 schedule, the rules and/or the 2015 informational video for more details on how you can get involved in such a fun tournament series that will be paying out over $190,000 in cash/prizes!
First thing is first, the fishable boundary map. You’ll notice it is an odd shape and favoring mainly South Carolina’s York County waters. Well, this is intentional because the good folks at York County are partnering with the River Bassin Trail to show their support of fishing in the wild waters we love! To show our appreciation, we’re not only going to hold the results show at Ebenezer Park on Lake Wiley, but also mostly include water in and bordering their county, with a few exceptions here and there just to make sure we have enough water in bounds for a regional. It is encouraged for anglers to stay at the Ebenezer Park campground (book early before it fills up) or in the area York County hotels in towns such as Fort Mill, Rock Hill or the Richland exit of I-77 – all have great access to most rivers you may want to fish. Another thing that we’re hoping to do this year is not have much (if any) overlapping water between tour stops so narrowing the fishable area helps ensure the Columbia or Travelers Rest’s tournaments should not overlap much. This stop is still sponsored by the Great Outdoor Provision Company, which has 8 locations across North Carolina and Virginia. For any last minute tournament items or kayaks visit their Charlotte shop at 4341 Park Road, Park Road Shopping Center, Charlotte, NC 28209.
The map mainly features the two major rivers on either side of York County – The Broad River to the west and the Catawba River to the east. Both of these rivers have many tributaries – creeks and rivers – that hold nice bass so “where” this event will be won is anyone’s guess and may come down to the river levels that time of year. Be sure to scout the entire map well because there are more rivers/creeks in bounds than people realize once they really give the map a thorough look. Ok, let’s preview it!
Broad River – To the far west and north west of the boundary you’ll notice the Broad River. Not to be confused with the “French Broad” to the north, this Broad River is also a pleasant kayak fishery for anglers due to the vast number of rocky outcrops, small rapids and shoal complexes. The Broad is also unique in the fact that it is one of the only rivers in South Carolina where smallmouth bass are found. However, they aren’t “naturally” supposed to be there. Back in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s the state “game & fish” or “department of natural resources” agencies were all about trying to make our fisheries better by stocking fish that would seem to swim right at home in various waters. However, it wasn’t until the 90s that we realized what a big mistake that was. At that point, the damage had been done because the smallmouth were originally stocked in Kings Creek, a tributary of the Broad River just to the southeast of Gaffney, SC. Kings Creek is a cooler creek that flows southwest off of Kings Mountain; the DNR folks figured it would be good habitat for smallmouth, which are native to cooler waters up north. Well, to everyone’s surprise the smallmouth weren’t as much interested in living in Kings Creek as they were the super warm water of the Broad River. The lesson learned was that smallmouth don’t really care about or need cold water to survive, what they care about is oxygen (which does have a higher concentration in colder water) and food! The larger food source was indeed in the Broad River and the oxygen was also plentiful there due to the above mentioned rapids/shoals. They had what they needed to survive and thrive and they’ve now spread throughout the entire Broad River system and even down into the Congaree River downstream of Columbia, SC.
Even though smallmouth don’t get as big as largemouth, many anglers do like targeting them because they are known to be the more aggressive feeders, usually making them easier to catch. Largemouth are also found in the warm and fertile Broad River system and some very nice sized bucket mouths have been landed by kayak anglers who can entice them to bite.
The Broad River has several dams along the way, most are just really “running the river” but a couple do produce some “slacker” water above them that create sort of “mini lakes” with a cove or two. Because regional stops do not have a designated lake area in bounds and are featuring more rivers these very small sections will be in bounds so that there are some “safer” places for anglers to go in case of higher water or flooding. It’s not much, but at least it helps us assure that the “show must go on!” Also, I won’t get into detail about every tributary of the Broad but there are some creeks that have enough water to be kayak fished and if the main river is high and muddy those smaller waters could be the key to getting bit! The end of the Broad River boundary is in the remote Sumter National Forrest at the HWY 72 bridge; no fishing downstream of that point.
Notable Broad River Tributaries: Below are some tribs to the Broad that I’ll briefly touch on
Second Broad & First Broad Rivers: To the far north west you do have a small section of the Second Broad River flowing into the Broad River. Then, just a ways further downstream you’ll notice the First Broad River, which has a bit more water in bounds. Both are a bit cooler than the main Broad and not very big. If you have more than one or maybe two people (max) on a flow this size then you are definitely going to be stealing bites from one another. The remoteness of the river/s makes them pleasant to fish and the scenery is ideal for a day on the water. Will it be ideal on April 18th is the real question!
Pacolet River: The Pacolet is the western most river within bounds; it drains much of the Spartanburg, SC area eventually making its way into the Broad just northeast of Union, SC. Like many rivers flowing through the upstate of SC it is mostly remote with the occasional scenic shoal/rapid complex and every so often an old mill dam holding some water back to make a deeper section of river. In terms of the “in bounds” portion of the Broad River System the Pacolet is the largest tributary of these notable flows. The fishing in the Pacolet and all the tribs can be productive and out produce the main river given the right circumstances…what those circumstances are is up for you to figure out!
Kings Creek: We’ve already talked about Kings Creek above so no need to spend a lot of time here. The main thing about Kings Creek is that it does drain off of some higher elevation so the water is cooler and it gets through the creek and into the Broad River fairly quickly. Due to its size it is just a one or two man fishery on tournament day if you end up there.
Catawba River: The other main river system, besides the Broad, is the Catawba River which flows downstream from well above Charlotte, and gives the area a source for recreation and power from the series of lakes created by numerous dams. In between these lakes there are some very short sections of river in bounds for river bassers to take advantage of, but the main free flowing Catawba begins in York County in between Rock Hill and Fort Mill, SC. From there the river flows free until it reaches the end of its boundary, for this event, around Fishing Creek Lake.
In the upper Catawba sections, anglers will catch a mixture of spotted bass and largemouth bass, with the occasional (introduced) smallmouth in certain areas. Trust me, they’re there. Spotted bass, like smallmouth, can be a little more aggressive and happen to be a pretty skinny and lengthy fish normally, which is nice in length tournaments where largemouth clearly get the longest on average. Given the amount of distance and warming that occurs between the upper section and the lower section below Lake Wiley, I can easily see the fish being in completely different stages of the spawn during this event. Given the right set of circumstances the upper section could be the more prudent decision, but then again given a totally different weather/temperature scenario the lower stretch could be more productive. However, if we get a lot of rain they both may be nearly unfishable so you better find your small water or some flatter/calmer water backup plan because the spring in the Carolinas can be unpredictable!
Throughout the Catawba system there are several smaller rivers and creeks that are worth a look as a primary or secondary location for tournament day. It’s not always about where you can catch the biggest bass in these events, its about where you can catch the largest 3 bass. Sometimes people overlook smaller water when, normally, it is the more sure thing for getting three decent bass on the board. Some of the notable smaller flows are listed below, but there are more than this as well…to find them you’re just going to have to scour the map yourself!
Notable Catawba River Tributaries:
Lower Little River: Probably the smallest of the “notable” tribs. A very small flow that is really more like a creek than a river, with the exception of a few areas that are backed up by some old mill dams. No doubt a one or two man fishery so if any other folks are there it may make feel a little cramped. It is also a long trip to get all the way up there, so you better do some serious scouting and pre-fishing to take this gamble that will cost precious fishing time. Then again, how many times in bass boat tournaments have you seen the “long run” pay off – quite a few, so you never know!
South Fork Catawba River: Definitely the largest of the Catawba River tribs with most of the entire river in bounds. This fishery is known to stay fairly muddy so unless you’re familiar with murkier water tactics you may want to opt for a different location. Now, those who are still reading this, who apparently do have murky water techniques in their skill set, should also know that it’s easier to fool a bass in murky water than it is in clearer situations. The stain isn’t always a pain; for the right angler it can be a nice 3-fish gain! Only time and weather/water conditions can tell. If you’re looking for clearer water, as with any stream, try the headwaters because they always clear up fastest and first. You’ll also notice you have two branches of the river to fish in its headwaters – the Henry Fork and the Jacob Fork. However, they are very small up there so you better do some scouting and find some fish before committing to super skinny “one man” water such as those forks.
Sugar Creek: The good news is that Sugar Creek has bass in it and this is a bass tournament. The bad news, Sugar Creek drains the metropolis of Charlotte, NC, and even though I consider my hometown to be one of the cleanest in the US, it still sends other trash and eye sores downstream throughout Sugar Creek. If you can get past the lack of scenery then you’ll actually notice the creek can be fun to fish and very productive given the right water conditions. It won’t be for everyone, but it’s an option thats certainly on the table.
There are at least 5 more fishable creeks on the Catawba system that I’ll leave to the imagination and scouting for those that care to know where they are and what potential they may or may not hold. Don’t you just hate how I write these articles, where it sounds like the winning stringer could come from any of these waters? Hehe. Well, even though these are generic and highlighting the positives of the fisheries, the truth is that any river on any day really could be the right place to be in order to win. Hopefully you’ll have one day this River Bassin season where you’ll make that right call and end up holding the trophy!!
Also note that a film crew for Hooked on Wild Waters with Drew Gregory (which starts in April) will be on hand at this event to film anglers on Friday, Saturday and the River Bassin Results show. So, bring your A-game and wear your coolest fishing gear!