SO YOU THINK all of Virginia's big bass come from the huge southern impoundments 200 miles from town - Gaston, Kerr, Smith Mountain and the like?
Wrong. The biggest bass caught in the state during the first six months of 1977 - a 12 1/2-pounder - came from Lunga Reservoir on Quantico Marine Base, just a 45-minute drive from Washington.
That lunker bass is one of the more startling catches recorded by the Virginia Game Commssion during the first half of this year's citation fish awards program, but some of the others also give area anglers useful clues to where to catch king-size game fish in the Old Dominion.
Lunga has produced quite a few citation-sized largemouths over recent years, and a citation bass means 8 pounds or better in Virginia. Lunga easily ranks as the top lake near Washington for truly big bass. Only 10 h.p. motors are permitted on this impoundment, however, and you must register and check out every day when fishing this and other waters on the base.
Lake Anna turned up five largemouths over 8 pounds during the first half of '77. The heaviest was an 8-pound 10 ounce fish caught in March.
Lake Gaston, on the Virginia/North Carolina border, has traditionally led in producing citation bass over recent years. Through June, Gaston chalked up the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth largest in the state - all over 11 pounds. Six of the top 10 bass came from this fertile impoundment.
In point of sheer numbers of citations however, Back Bay showed a surprising surge, eclipsing Gaston for the top ranking. This large shallow body of water is in the southeast corner of the state, just above the North Carolina's Curituck Sound.
Private ponds also yielded many big bass, as did Chickahominy.
Best time for big bass in Virginia was, overwhelmingly, early spring. Fifteen of the top 20 bass were taken in February, March and April. The 12 1/2 pounder was hooked Feb. 22.
All told, 213 largemouth over 8 pounds were recorded in Virginia through June this year. Apparently the coldest winter in history didn't bother the bass.
It takes a 4-pounder to qualify for a smallmouth citation in Virginia, and 84 were recorded by the Game Commission between January and July. Top fish in this category was a 6-pound 2-ounce specimen landed April 4 at South Holston Dam in the southwestern corner of the state.
Philpott and Smith Mountain lakes were the two most consistent waters for big bronzebacks. Both are near Roanoke, about a five-hour drive from Washington.
Rivers aren't generally noted for producing big smallmouths, but the James yeilded quite a few, the largest a pair of 4-pound 12-ouncers. The nearby Rappahannock produced a handsome 5-pound 4-ounce brozeback, along with a fair number of other 4-pound-plus fish. The Shenandoah gave up only two bass over citation minimum.
Striped bass fishing in Virginia was superb over the six months, judging from the 251 fish over 15 pounds recorded. It seems the Game Commission made a smart move last spring when it upped the minimum qualifying weight for stripers from 10 to 15 pounds.
Smith Mountain Lake dominated this category, accounting for the top 17 stripers in the state, as well as 204 of the 251 citation fish. Best months were March, April and May.
The state record for muskellunge was broken in March of this year with a 36-pound 8-ounce fish caught in the Clinch River by E.L. Addington of Gate City. But the next 22 biggest muskies came from - you guessed it - Smith Mountain Lake. Burke Lake had only one citation-sized muskie registered - a 14-pound 2-ouncer taken by Danny Goodman of Springfield in April.
The largest channel cat was a 21 1/2-pounder taken from Diascund Resevoir (near Chickahominy) in May. These fish must be over 10 pounds to qualify for citations, and there was really no discernible pattern in the big-whisker catches. Burke lake provided a few good specimens for some anglers.
Chain pickerel over 4 pounds were caught most often in Lake Burnt Mills, Chickahominy, Kerr Reservoir and nearby Lake Anna. Biggest chain was a 6-pound 1-ounce fish from Lake Burnt Mills.
On a more modest scale, good sunfish waters included Lake Prince, Lake Powell, the Northwest River and private ponds. The heaviest sunfish in the six months went to a whopping 3 1/2 pounds.
Crappie over 2 1/2 pounds were taken most often out of Kerr Reservois, while yellow perch fishing was best in the Mattaponi River during the last week in February and the first week in March.
The greatest number of rainbow trout over 5 pounds were pulled out of Sherando Lake, a beautiful body of water just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Brown trout of 2 pounds or better were captured most often in the Smith River, a tailwater stream below Philpott Lake that features native, streambred fish.
Those really wanting to fight the odds should go after trophy brook trout in Virginia. Only one citation brook trout was caught in the state during the first half of '77 - a 3-Pounder taken by C. Ramey of Grundy, who was fishing Lick Creek on opening day.
If you've just caught or plan to catch a lunker you can obtain an application for a citation from the Virginia Commission of Game and Inland Fisheries, Box 11104, Richmond, Va. 23230.