Whether you’re headed to jamboree next summer, or on any trip to the Summit Bechtel Reserve, you owe it to yourself to try a little fishing. And that’s not just a load of hype.
Having guided for over a decade, I’ve come to realize that a key to customers having a good fishing trip is managing expectations. Much better to be honest and upfront about a tough bite than over-promising and under-delivering.
So when I arrived at the Summit Bechtel Reserve this week to do a fishing article for Boys’ Life on camp ponds and the New River, I was a bit skeptical about seemingly ludicrous claims. Stories of 7-pound bass being caught on camp ponds, and New River trips routinely producing over 50 smallmouth a day and sometimes over 100 fish.
I started at SBR with Charlie Sitzberger, aquatics manager and fish camp manager. Charlie told me that the Goodrich East lake was stocked with a variety of fish, and looking down from the walkway proved that. Big catfish, jumbo sunfish and giant grass carp were roaming the shallows. In addition, the lake was recently stocked with 7- to 9-pound striped bass, with the dam being their preferred hangout. But I was after largemouth bass, and the midday sun and calm conditions made the bite slow.
Charlie urged me to make the short walk to Goodrich West, where 6- and 7-pound bass have been caught. Allegedly. Whereas the east lake is more stained and quickly drops off, Goodrich West is clearer and stays shallow, with lots of aquatic weeds. We caught some bass right away on wacky rigged plastic worms. And then it happened. A little tap, a slight bit of tension on my line, a lot of tension, a mouth the size of Texas emerging from the depths, my lure flying back at me, no tension on my line, a ton of tension in my mind, slumped shoulders.
Touché, Charlie, point made: There are 6s and better in the lakes.
After a dozen or so more largemouth at camp, I rode to a raft launch on the New River with Larry Nibert, a legendary guide for more than 20 years. The whole winding road down the side of the bluff he spun yarns of nonstop catching. It’s said all fishermen are liars, but apparently that does not apply to West Virginians. Long story short, we caught dozens and dozens of high-flying smallmouth bass in stunning scenery. As whitewater rafters and kayakers scurried downstream, Larry had me pick apart small pockets of still water next to the current, and fish were eating in seemingly every one.
For once, the fishing lived up to the hype. And hopefully, the big one doesn’t get away for you.
More fishing photos from the Summit Bechtel Reserve