Hot Spots: Buggs Island

Also known as Kerr Lake if you live in North Carolina, Buggs Island Reservoir has flown under the radar in the national bass tournament scene over the last two decades. That changed when the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens visited the 50,000 acre reservoir in May and even though the conditions dramatically changed every day, nearly the entire field caught limits every day of the tournament. 

Largemouth are the predominant player on Buggs Island while the spotted bass population has increased over the last several years. Shad and bluegill are the predominant forage base for the bass while blueback herring also swim in the lake. For a break in the bass action, anglers can also target a prolific striper population.

Part of what makes Buggs Island such a good fishery, according to Opens Elite Qualifier angler Jack Dice, is how patternable the lake can be. 

“There’s a lot of fish in the lake and if you do anything long enough, you can get a bite,” Dice said. “This lake is (somewhat) a highland lake, so it is semi-conditional. To me, why I have loved this lake is, it rewards the angler that is open-minded and figures out what the bass are doing that day. They usually tell you. You can get a bite doing almost anything. This is one of the best pattern lakes in this area.” 

With that said, any and every section of the lake can produce tournament winning bags of bass on a given day. 

While there is plenty of deep, clear water on Buggs Island where anglers can fish points and humps, locals will tell you that the fishery goes from good to great when the water rises into the bushes and trees that line the banks. The upper section of the lake also provides some opportunity to fish stained water.

While the wintertime can be the best time to catch a really big bass, the mid to late spring when the bass, bream and shad are spawning provide great opportunities for numbers of fish as well as size.  

Lay of the lake: Just north of Raleigh, Buggs Island runs west to east along the North Carolina and Virginia border. The 50,000 acre impoundment on the Roanoke River provides over 800 miles of shoreline for anglers to cover. Clarksville, Va. hosted the St. Croix Bassmaster Open and is a popular place for tournaments to launch from any time of year. 

Trivia: Before the 2023 Open, the Bassmaster tournament trail had not visited Buggs Island since the 1998 Virginia Invitational. That tournament was won by George Cochran with 41 pounds, 6 ounces.

Where to stay: Campgrounds are plenty around the shores of Buggs Island and there are several different hotels in the city of Clarksville. For a beautiful stay and a trip through history, Cooper’s Landing Inn & Traveler’s Tavern is a unique experience.

Marinas and ramps: Popular boat ramps on Buggs Island include Staunton River State Park, Bluestone Boat Ramp, Occoneechee Boat Ramp at Kerr Lake, Eagle Point Boat Ramp and Henderson Point Boat Ramp. 

Good eats: After a long day on the water, you don’t have to go far from Clarksville for good food. Bridgewater Bar and Grill sits next to the lake and provides a variety of tasty options.