Uwharrie National Forest
The biggest fishing hole in the Uwharrie National Forest is Badin Lake. This 5,350-acre impoundment of the Yadkin River was built in 1917 by the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA) to generate hydroelectric power for the aluminum plant at Badin. The eastern shore borders the national forest and the lake is well stocked with catfish, bream, largemouth, white and striped bass. The Forest Service has one ramp at the Cove Boat Ramp area but is planning to build improved launching facilities at the Badin Lake campground. The state has two ramps on the lake. Marinas offer easy access for everything from jon-boats to pontoons. The lake is crowded with pleasure boats on spring and summer weekends. Well attended bass tournaments are usually held every weekend from March through October.
In early spring, fish are spawning and feeding well. Look for bluegill beds, circular depressions in the shallows. Catch them with crickets, worms or artificials. Fish along downed trees or stumps in the water for crappie and bass. Crappies will take minnows or jigs. For largemouth bass, you are going to have to work at it and try different lures. Look for largemouth around the rocky points.
Small spinners are always good for feeding bluegill. Fly rod experts can put a hurting on a bream bed. Most white bass anglers use a black and chartreuse jig rigged about three feet under a weighted bobber. This set-up takes crappie, too. White bass and crappie are caught by the score, especially in the spring.
Carolina rigged plastic worms and lizards in assorted colors are local favorites for largemouths in the spring. Fishing live crawfish or minnows just off the bottom with a cork is an old fashioned, but effective way to catch largemouth bass. An eight pounder is a big'un at Badin but 3-to-4-pound fish are abundant. Check the bragging pictures at the local tackle shops while asking about the latest patterns and lures.
The state stocks about 25,000 striper fingerlings every year and Badin is known as a dependable put-and-take striper lake. Anglers can limit out on 5-to-12-pound fish with a rare 20-pounder. Trolling live shad is the best way to catch stripers. Bottom fishing with chicken livers or cut-up shad will land catfish and stripers. A good rule is bigger bait for bigger fish. Striper specialists bounce white or yellow bucktail jigs off the tops of submerged hills. Soaking the hair with shad scent makes the lure even more effective. Look for excited seagulls working the water and you will likely find a school of frightened shad under attack by hungry stripers. Big, shiny top-water plugs are the way to go when that happens. Taking a striper on top water is probably the biggest thrill on Badin Lake, unless it's winching up a 60-pound-plus record catfish from the bottom.
When the turbines are running in the Tuckertown dam, shad and other fish are sucked in, chewed up and spit out downstream where hungry stripers and catfish gorge themselves on easy pickings. Anglers brave the turbulent waters and clean up while fishing cut-bait during these tailrace feeding frenzies. Thirty- and forty-pound catfish are caught regularly here. Anglers may have to share the airspace with the bald eagles that have discovered this fishy feast as the eagles are coming back to the Uwharries.
During the summer fish move to deeper water where it is cooler. The best times to fish are one hour before sunrise and one hour after sunset. Larger fish move deep because it's too hot for them in the shallows. That is when deep running crankbaits work best for largemouth bass or aggressive stripers. Because fish are cold-blooded they move to deep, warm areas in the fall and will not bite as aggressively when the temperature cools down. Many largemouth bass and stripers are caught during those warm winter days that all Southern anglers appreciate.
Anglers looking to beat the crowds can fish the Uwharrie River. This is more of an adventure and may not be for everyone. Larger boats can navigate the lower part of the river where it flows into the Pee Dee river. This is a popular spot for springtime stripers and white bass. But the upper reaches are narrow and rocky as the river carves a winding path through the rocky heart of the Uwharrie Mountains.
There are plenty of gamefish—white bass, largemouth bass, bream, smallmouth, catfish and pickerel. The best time to fish the river is in the spring. Watch the water level and be ready to go. After a wet spring the water will be muddy but when it starts to clear up, it is time. Some prefer the water slightly stained. They claim the fish don't spook so easily. A four-pound largemouth is considered a trophy on the river. Yes, those fat lake bass weigh more but swift water bass are lean, mean and scrappy on light tackle.
River fishing is different. Fish like to congregate behind the rocks where they get a break from the current and wait for food to drift by. Fish early in the morning and late in the afternoon. When the sun is high at mid-day the fish spook easily in the shallow water. On a good overcast day the fish may bite all day.
The river is loaded with crawfish and chartreuse crawfish lures on light spinning tackle will catch largemouth bass. Shallow running crankbaits and spinner baits will also score. Tiny Torpedoes and the smaller Rebel plugs are also recommended. Check with the local tackle shops and ask what lures and color combinations are working that season. White bass anglers look for the action to pick up in April depending on how high and how muddy the water is that year. This is the best time to camp beside the river and feast on freshly caught fish. Then drag yourself to a warm sleeping bag and fall asleep to the music of the rolling Uwharrie River. Wake up the next day and do it again.
A special treat is the smallmouth bass fishing. Fly fishermen wade the shallows to try their luck. Smallmouth were stocked in the Uwharrie River in the early 1970's. They have found stretches of the river with suitable habitat and people still catch them. Smallmouths need cooler water with high oxygen levels. Look downstream of the rapids or rimes, where water scours out a deep pool. That is where you will find the smallmouths. Fish them with ultra-light tackle. Experiment with Mepps spinners and rooster tail spinners in assorted colors. Popular colors are silver bodies with brown skirts. Small rebel lures and broken back minnows will entice a bite from a smallmouth. So will a live crawfish. Uwharrie smallmouth tend to be smaller. The most commonly caught size is around 12 to 14 inches. A two-pounder is a trophy smallmouth in the Uwharrie River.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication