Forty years ago if you asked 10 anglers where Bob’s Fishing Hole was I’d wager you a can of Vienna sausages they’d all know.
In 1979 skin-tight pants were in fashion, the top song was “My Sharona” by The Knack and the bass fishing in the Currituck Sound and Northwest River was still grooving, known as some of the best in the country.
Fast forward to 2017, after many years of nearly non-existent bass fishing in the same fishery, and ask the same question. You’ll probably not get a single angler who knows the answer.
But that is changing quickly, because Bob’s Fishing Hole is back and so is the fishing on the Northwest River and the Currituck Sound.
Currituck is the North Carolina portion of what Virginians call Back Bay (behind Sandbridge). This 100,000-acre fishery stretches from just below Virginia Beach all the way to Corolla along the barrier islands and extends eastward into rivers with names like North Landing, Northwest and Chowan.
I had been hearing rumblings that the Northwest River was fishing good again and seeing some nice posts of bass caught during weekly tournaments on the Bob’s Fishing Hole Facebook page.
Being naturally inquisitive, I called Bob’s and asked about the fishing.
“Yes, it’s pretty good,” a voice told me on a phone line that sounded like it was from the 1960’s. I was intrigued and made plans to visit with my 15-year-old son and his buddy.
Basecamp for this expedition was North Landing Beach Resort Campground (NLBRC) at the mouth of the North Landing River not far from Pungo via Wakefield and Rt. 460.
While it’s quite a ways down the road, NLBRC is the perfect headquarters for this trip. It’s on the mouth of the North Landing River and has its own ramp and it’s close to two others (Munden Point Park and Pungo Ferry Landing Park). It’s also 10 minutes from a free ramp on the Princess Anne Wildlife Management Area on Back Bay. Lastly, it’s a 20-minute drive from Bob’s Fishing Hole.
Our accommodations were a two-bedroom, canal side cottage. The place was clean and comfortable with a shower and bathroom, plus a small, well-equipped kitchen. The campground was top notch with everything from a pool to basketball courts and gameroom for the kids. The beach has a spectacular sunset view.
We pulled my TRACKER Grizzly 2072 center console into the campground around 5 pm on a Wednesday, checked into our two-bedroom cottage on the canal that led to the river and were in the boat motoring up river by 6:15.
We fished until dark and only caught one small largemouth bass on a spinnerbait, but we found some areas that looked great with cypress knees and submerged grass aplenty.
Protected creeks like the Blackwater, West Neck and Pocaty are where most largemouth bass reside in this fishery, and on our next expedition we’d have more time to explore them.
Back safely at the cabin that night I told the boys we’d hit the famed Bob’s Fishing Hole and the Northwest River in the morning.
Bob’s is located right on Rt. 168 a.k.a. the Chesapeake Expressway, eight miles south of Great Bridge. You’ve probably zoomed by it on the way to the Outer Banks. It’s been there for over 40 years, a white-painted cinderblock building just off the road between the railroad tracks and the river, next to a water supply pumping station, with a single launch ramp, several picnic tables and parking for 40 or so trailers.
James Waters bought the place in 1999, and his parents ran it until he retired from managing a retail distribution center to run it. A partner, Dennis Padgett, came on board in 2007 and together they have created an amazing tackle shop, boat launch and fishing headquarters for the area, all in conjunction with the best fishing in 40 years.
“The last few years is when it’s really come back. We’ve had a couple ups and downs with storms, but it’s been a good 8-10 years since we’ve had a fish kill. This year has been the best year in quite some time as far as big fish. We’ve had a couple over nine and one over 10, many over eight. You usually have to have at least a seven pounder to get big fish in our tournament,” Waters told W2.
He also explained why the Northwest’s fish are susceptable to storms.
“When a hurricane comes it sucks out all the water from the swamps. It’s nothing but dead water that depletes all the oxygen in the river. Then, once the hurricane leaves, a wall of saltwater comes back in and that double shot kills a bunch of fish. Your big fish are the first ones to go.”
The Northwest is one of a series of rivers that feed into Back Bay/Currituck Sound behind the barrier islands of Sandbridge, Corova and Corolla. The delicate balance of fresh and saltwater often permits the growth of submerged aquatic vegetation in these wide shallow expansive fisheries and when that happens largemouth bass thrive.
Currently, bass are doing better than they have in years in parts of Back Bay and Currituck, so anglers fishing out of Bob’s literally have hundreds of square miles of water to choose from when visiting.
You really don’t have to leave the Northwest, though to fill your livewell. There’s also crappie, bluegill, blue catfish and a winter run of yellow and white perch (up to two pounds). Some striper also run up the river.
During our morning session on the river out of BFH, we three each had different angling tactics. My son’s friend began with a floating frog and then a spinnerbait. My son mostly used a Chatterbait. I used a crankbait and a creature bait.
While it was difficult to leave the incredible tackle shop and James’ fishing advice, we were on the water by 7:30 a.m. and heading down river to a section Waters’ suggested. Problem was, everything looked good.
Cypress knees, tupelo trees, downed trees, creek mouths, it’s all in play. We never saw any lily pads and didn’t encounter any green weeds until we began fishing down around the Virginia/North Carolina line.
By noon, it was getting hot, and we’d only boated four small bass — two for me and one each for the boys, so we ran the Grizzly back up the river and pulled into a side canal near Bob’s that offered heavy shade.
It took just a few casts to land our first keeper. My son made a nice pitch with a Chatterbait, and a two-pounder obliged him. Within a couple more casts, his friend caught a similar fish on his spinnerbait. I was up next with my creature bait. We caught several more fish the boosted spirits, including a chain pickerel before we decided it was time to take a break and do some lure shopping.
Back at Bob’s, the boys each bought another spinnerbait and Chatterbait. I examined the stock carefully and noted a section of what seemed like every color of ZOOM Ultra Vibe Speed Craws. I chose a peg of Dasol Pirami Pearl that only had two bags left figuring that was a good color. It’s like a pearlescent pink and appears shiny brown in the tannin-stained water.
We decided to fish close by BFH again based on our recent success, this time idling above the launch to Rt. 168. There’s a low bridge that might be tricky for some boats to navigate and pilings in the water that should be heeded, but we made it through and ate lunch in the shade under the bridge with my Minn Kota iPilot holding us in place.
After lunch we commenced to fishing under the bridge. There was deep water filled with old bridge parts according to my Humminbird Helix 9 side imaging and plenty of shaded vertical structure likes stumps, cypress knees and bridge pilings.
It didn’t take long to find the fish there. I reeled off five in about 15 minutes pitching the pretty little ZOOM craw. One of them caught the bait just at the surface as I pitched it to a stump.
The boys each caught another bass and one more jackfish.
None of the fish were more than two pounds but by day’s end we had 14 bass visit the Grizzly.
Around 4:30 we put the boat on the trailer and headed back to North Landing Beach Resort Campground for showers and then dinner at nearby Monk’s Restaurant.
What can I say about Monk’s other than you have to go if you are in the area. Best darn cheeseburger and a beer I’ve ever had.
We made it back to the cabin at dark. I was asleep quickly hoping predicted heavy rain would be over before dawn so we could hit the road safely.
Do you remember going on fishing trips like this with your father, grandfather or uncles? Some were memorable because of mishaps. Others were memorable because you didn’t catch any fish. And sometimes they are memorable because everything goes well and you catch enough fish to want to go again.
That’s exactly how this expedition went, and I can’t wait to visit Bob’s Fishing Hole again.
If you are looking for a new fishery to visit this year or next, make plans and go!