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The stars shine brighter in Halifax County, VA

Fishing in Spring

Greetings from historical Halifax County, Virginia, and the waters that call it home. I am the son of both. I am native born with an unrestrained love for the waterways of my home. I have fished, hunted, or explored every mile of navigable water in and around Halifax County. My name is Jonah and in this blog, I will cover fishing, nature watching, and exploration on the waterways of Halifax County during the season of Spring.


Spring is, in my opinion, the most appropriately named of the four seasons. Afterall, with your own eyes you observe life springing back into motion after a long Winter slumber. Here in Halifax County, we are blessed with a variety of species to target during the Spring phases and an abundance of waters on which to test our skill and luck.

The beginning of Spring is my favorite time to target pre-spawn largemouth bass. From one of the many access points in Halifax County to Kerr Lake during the first weeks of Spring when area water temps are around the high 40-50° mark. During this time bass begin to move out of the depths and feed heavily preparing for the rigors of spawning. Transition areas from shallow to deeper water are key areas. With Spring comes the winds of March and while strong winds can make for uncomfortable fishing the wind can also be made an asset by targeting windward points and coves where the wind has pushed and corralled bait fish. While Kerr Lake is an obvious destination for pre-spawn largemouth there is also a hidden gem within the historic Town of Halifax–Banister Lake. This impoundment of the Banister River is small in relative size but do not let that fool you. The fishing pressure is light compared to its bigger sister lake and the fishing can be very rewarding with a large average size for mature largemouth. For both bodies of water, baits that mimic shad are highly recommended. Among my favorites are Rapala’s line of DT crankbaits in Helsinki Shad color and Z-man’s Diesel minnow in Smelt or Ghost Shad. Twelve-pound fluorocarbon is my go-to line weight of choice; I find it to be a good all-around size and the minimal stretch helps if the bite is light. Pair both presentations with a 7ft med-heavy, moderate action rod to cover ground and keep the big girls pinned.

While largemouth are a ubiquitous favorite among anglers, there are two species that reserve a special place in the hearts of local anglers: the white bass and the striped bass. These two species draw in anglers from around the state to Halifax County during the Spring months as they both partake in their annual spawning run up the tributary rivers of Kerr Lake. Both can be caught in tremendous numbers with simple presentations, landing over 100 of either species during a day of fishing is not unheard of.

Halifax County is considered by many to be the white bass capital of Virginia. During my decades-long pursuit of these fish I have met and traded stories with many anglers that have made pilgrimages measured in hours and lasting days to chase after these schooling and aggressive fish. Among those pilgrims are anglers striving toward Virginia’s Master Angler classification which is a program that recognizes anglers that have landed a required number of citation-sized fish species. With Halifax’s prominence for white bass, it is a natural destination choice when endeavoring to check this feisty species off your Master Angler list. Techniques are simple and straightforward which makes fishing excellent for anglers of all skill levels from Master to novice. I recommend medium to light rod and reel setup to maximize the fighting spirit of these notoriously aggressive eaters. Pair this setup with a 3″ curly tail grub in white and/or chartreuse on a ¼ ounce jig head and you’re all set. These fish fight well above their weight class and a battle with a sizable white bass aided by the river current is quite a thrill. White bass are also referred to as “sand bass” which is a nod to their preference for spawning on shallow sandbars; finding these spawning locations along the banks of the Dan and Staunton Rivers is the key to a successful day. These are a schooling fish so where there is one, there are more! Look for shallow sandbars and creeks mouth, retrieve with a slow roll that keeps your bait just off the bottom and be ready as these are aggressive fish and once the feeding frenzy is triggered there can be action on every single cast. I recommend planning your visit between the 2nd week of April and the 2nd week of May which is the peak bite for our beloved white bass. If you’ve followed these tips and your luck is right, you may even beat my single-day record of 152 white bass boated. If you do best me all that I ask in return is that you practice good stewardship of this resource with ethical conservation by following all regulations set forth by our Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources.For many local anglers the white bass run is a warmup for the striped bass spawn run that takes place every Spring on the Staunton and Dan Rivers. The striped bass or as most anglers call them “stripers” are holdovers from the days before the mighty John H. Kerr dam impounded the Dan and Staunton Rivers of the Roanoke River watershed. Before this time, ocean stripers made their spawning runs into our freshwater river systems and then returned to the open ocean. These fish became landlocked by the dam, but what separates our stripers from other landlocked stripers is here in Halifax County we have one of the world’s few naturally reproducing landlocked stripers. The miles and miles of free-flowing river give our stripers enough proper habit for them to naturally reproduce which I think adds an extra level of nuance to our local fishery. Stripers can be fished for with live or artificial baits with the former being the most popular. A proper setup would be a 7′ med-heavy rod with moderate action paired with a baitcasting reel. I recommend 10-14lb fluorocarbon, but your simple monofilament is also a great choice. Tie on a 3/8 ounce white bucktail from our own L.H. Mason Bucktails and you are ready for action. The proper technique is to retrieve with a slow roll while jigging the bait. Look for eddies created by wood or cuts along the banks and work them over with this technique. Like white bass, success is often owed to knowing where to fish. Like the old saying 90% of fish live in 10% of the water. Look for slower, deeper water and rocky bottoms. Once you’ve found one striper you can rest assured you will find more in the same location. A good day of striper fishing will land you 20 to 30 fish with more expert striper anglers reaching 60 to even 100 fish in a single outing.

With a diverse blend of species and an abundance of water and waterways on and in which to chase them, we anglers are truly blessed here in Halifax County. We welcome you to come share in our blessings of the great outdoors and I’ll see you at the ramp bright and early.

Jonah Powell is a fishing guide, river guide, outdoorsman, and lifelong resident of Halifax County, Virginia. For more information he can be found on Facebook at FISHHARDCharters.com, on YouTube at https://tinyurl.com/mr2evj4h or contacted via email at thejonahpowell@gmail.com.

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