EAGLE ROCK, Va. (WFXR) — Where is the best place in Virginia to catch a trophy-sized smallmouth bass?

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) says you can improve your odds if you fish any of the top five waters in a list the agency has compiled.

The DWR is out with its list of the top five trophy smallmouth waters in the commonwealth. All five are located in southwest or central Virginia. The DWR report is based on the number of citation-sized smallmouth bass from individual bodies of water.

A citation smallmouth must be at least 20 inches long or weigh at least five pounds.

Leading the list is the James River. More citation smallmouth bass were caught there in the last year than from any other body of water.

“That’s no surprise,” said veteran James River guide and the owner of Appalachian Bronzeback Adventures Rob England. “The amount of forage here is just tremendous.”

England points out that superior crawfish, minnow, and insect forage bases provide ample food for smallmouth to grow.

While overall smallmouth numbers are down in the James, the population of big fish remains strong, and that provides trophy opportunities for anglers.

Here is the complete list:

  • 1.) James River
  • 2.) New River
  • 3.) Roanoke River
  • 4.) Smith Mountain Lake
  • 5.) Staunton River
A trophy smallmouth bass take on the James River

Bass fishing is a huge tourist draw to Virginia and provides an impact to the commonwealth’s economy of hundreds of millions of dollars. Trophy fish are huge factor in bodies of water anglers choose to fish.