Jet Boat Takes Anglers to Rocky Stretches of New, Gauley and
7 August 2016
By John McCoy, Staff Writer
GAULEY BRIDGE — Peering intently at the water ahead, Bobby Bower
conned his boat carefully through a labyrinth of truck-sized
“Not many people get to see this part of the river,” Bower said as
he switched off the boat’s engine, dropped a trolling motor over
the bow and picked up a fishing rod. “Not many boats can get up
Bower’s jet boat can, and that’s one of the reasons the
Fayetteville-based fishing guide has started offering
late-afternoon, three-hour fishing trips to the Gauley Bridge
“We call these trips our ‘3-Hour Tours,’ like in the theme song to
‘Gilligan’s Island,’” he said, laughing. “It’s pretty special to
be able to fish the New River, the Gauley River and the Kanawha
River all in one trip.”
Bower said most guides avoid the Gauley Bridge area because the
river is wide, shallow, and filled with huge rocks submerged just
below the water’s surface. It’s a place where the propellers of
ordinary outboard motors go to die.
“With the jet boat, I don’t have to worry about shearing off a
prop,” he added. “When the boat is up on plane, I can run in water
as shallow as five inches.”
The boat’s shallow draft allows Bower to take clients into the
lower reaches of “The Dries,” a largely inaccessible section of
the New River that carries only a tiny portion of the river’s
natural flow. The rest gets diverted through a 3-mile-long tunnel
that stretches from Hawks Nest Dam to a hydropower station at the
mouth of The Dries.
“To me, this is one of the most beautiful spots on the river,”
Bower said as he flipped a small crankbait into narrow coves and
backwaters created by The Dries’ house-sized boulders. A 9-inch
smallmouth bass nailed the lure, and Bower landed it swiftly and
tossed it back into the New.
“I’ve seen some nice muskies up in here lately, so I’m going to
throw something larger for a little while,” he said, grabbing a
spinning rod rigged with a huge copper-bladed spinner.
As the boat approached the hydropower station, Bower switched back
to light tackle. In short order, he was fast to another bass.
“A double!” he shouted seconds later when he saw his client set
the hook into a scrappy smallmouth.
Bower said when water and weather conditions are right, clients
willing to fish hard can to catch enough bass “to wear their arms
out.” During the warm months of the year, most of those fish are
“In early spring, you’ll catch smallmouths as well, but you’re
also likely to hook into a nice walleye or even a muskie,” he
explained. “This stretch of water has produced state-record
walleyes as well as muskies in the 50-inch class.”
Bower is marketing the trips to anglers in the
“It’s an easy drive up here for folks coming from either city.
It’s close enough that most people can get in a three-hour trip
without missing a full day of work,” he said.
The outings cost $195 for two anglers. The price includes the
guide’s fee plus refreshments. Bower said more expensive custom
packages, with longer hours and more elaborate amenities, also are
“We cater to people’s wishes,” he added. “Heck, we’ll grill steaks
on the riverbank if that’s what people want.”
The 18 1/2-foot metal jet boat can accommodate up to three anglers
at a time. The 65-horsepower jet drive can get anglers to any of
the three rivers in only a few minutes.
“With this rig, we can cover a lot of water in a single trip,”
For scenery buffs, summer and fall are the times of year when the
Gauley Bridge area is at its most beautiful. The heavily forested
mountains rise almost vertically from the river’s banks. Sheer
sandstone cliffs jut through the dense green canopy, emphasizing
the ruggedness of the terrain.
Winter and early-spring trips might not be as scenic, but Bower
said that’s when anglers have their best chance of landing a
Bower’s jet-boat trips launch from the New River Campground,
located less than a mile upstream from the junction of the New and
Gauley rivers. Half-day, full-day and overnight float-fishing
trips in rafts are also available for the upper New River and the
New River Gorge.
More information on the trips and on Bowers’ company, Pro River
Outfitters, can be found online at www.profishwv.com.
Reach John McCoy at firstname.lastname@example.org, 304-348-1231 or
follow @GazMailOutdoors on Twitter.
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