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Man, That is One Beautiful Broad!

    The Broad River begins way up in western North Carolina and tumbles its way all the way down to the capital city of Columbia, SC, where it joins with the Saluda to form the Congaree. Along its route to Columbia, it is dammed up several times, although never into a big impoundment. These small dams are there more to produce power than to make recreational lake opportunities. At times I despise dams on rivers, but the truth is that if they were not there much of the Broad would be completely silted in and we may not have the great fishery we do today.

Here you can see the entire Broad River Basin. Several of the Broad's tributaries are also worth fishing, most notably the Green River, Enoree, Tyger and Pacolet.

    This fishery consists of two species of black bass, the largemouth and smallmouth. The smallmouths have not always been there either. In the 80's the South Carolina DNR stocked them into Kings Creek, a Broad River tributary, and they actually swam out of the creek and began thriving in the main river. This is a bit unusual because smallmouth are known for preferring water that is on the cooler side. The Broad River in the summer reaches temperatures in the high 80ís. Once the DNR realized that they were there to stay they began supplemental stockings in various parts of the river. Today, the DNR would not stock a non-native fish into a river system, but since there is nothing they can do about it, they are happy with the nice smallmouth fishery the Broad has become. As a river fisherman who loves smallmouth, but hates to drive way up north to catch them, this is a dream come true.

    However, access to the Broad can be difficult and the numerous shoals make it a challenging river for motor boats. This is a good thing if you are a kayak or canoe fisherman like me. Even though it is a major river, these fish see little pressure once downstream of the launch points. There is nothing I like better than fishing where there are big fish that receive little pressure.

    I finally found a place to put in and paddle upstream to some shoals. Usually the smallmouth will be caught in or near the swift and rocky water, and that is what I was hoping to catch. I threw my tube bait into a likely looking pool and immediately my line started moving rapidly downstream. I could hardly keep up with whatever was on the end of my line it was so fast. The next thing you know it was gone! I wasn't too happy about losing what I believed to be a pretty big fish, but oh well. I threw back into the pool and had the same thing happen to me again. Finally I caught my fish out of that pool and it turned out to be a nice 2+ smallmouth, just what I was hoping it would be! This confirmed to me that I was in the right spot to catch these fish.

    I caught a couple more as I worked my way upstream to a big pool that sat below a nice set of rapids. This pool appeared to have some big dark boulders in it so I just knew there had to be some fish here. Since the area was so big I decided to throw a search bait to call up some fish from the depths. I slung my Zara Spook Jr. about as far as I could and started "walking the dog" back to me. Sure enough it got slammed by a fish, but this time it was a largemouth. Once I was done fishing the pool I paddled through it and realized that what I thought were boulders turned out to be big patches of hydrilla - a well known largemouth hangout. Hydrilla is not too common in rivers in the southeast (except FL) so this was an odd sight. I began to find many more areas where I could clearly see hydrilla patches. Every time I threw that Spook over a patch I got hammered by a largemouth. It turned out to be a very productive pattern.

Hydrilla patch

   

This largemouth was spooked out of the his hydrilla home by the spook!

At one point I noticed some rare spider lilies and I just had to snap a picture before I floated by.

    The river where I was is very scenic and for the most part can be fished while wading, which is always nice. The Broad river is exactly what its name portrays it to be - broad. This usually means that it is also relatively shallow. There were certainly deep holes that were over 10ft deep, but most of the river was indeed wide, shallow and a joy to fish.

I was really hoping to get into some more smallmouths, so I stayed away from the slower water where the hydrilla was and targeted some better looking smallmouth water in the shoals. This fish fell for a fluke like several others on this trip.

    Finally I got to an area that looked to be prime big smallmouth water. I noticed a lonesome boulder with about 5 feet of moving water around it. I just knew there was going to be a smallie hiding by that rock. I threw the spook jr. to where it would walk-the-dog tantalizingly close to the boulder. Sure enough a big smallie shot straight up in the air and annihilated the bait. The bad part was that neither of the Gamakatsu treble hooks found the fish's mouth. So, knowing that she is there and hungry I immediately threw the fluke back into the crime scene. A couple twitches and I could see her swarming around it like a shark. Finally she flared her gills and inhaled the bait! For a split second I had her and then "poof" she was off. Man, was I at a loss for words. I really doubted my chances of getting this fish to bite again, but I threw the fluke back in to see if she would. Thankfully, she graciously accepted my third offer and I was able to get a better hook set into her. She weighed 3lbs and 2oz. The fish was very short and stout for a 3lber. It was about 17 1/2 inches long and put up one heckuva fight as expected!

    If you ever get a chance to hit the Broad anywhere from North Carolina down to Columbia, SC, I would do so because it is one special river. The fact that you can have a shot at a 4lb+ smallmouth and a largemouth between 6 and 10lbs in the same float is rare indeed. Not to mention the birds, including bald eagles, herring and ospreys that you will see along the way. On this day I was able to see two coyotes and numerous river otters and of course those rare spider lilies. The Broad is home to the state-endangered ginger plant as well. In 1991 SC designated the stretch from 99 Islands dam downstream 15 miles as wild and scenic. The area is also home to many historical landmarks such as Smith's Ford and ancient indian fish traps.

    Even if the fishing isn't at its best, I think you are starting to get the picture that you will leave the Broad with that "can't wait to get back" feeling.

 

 

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