CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The photo tells the story - or does it?
It shows professional bass fisherman Jeremy Starks holding aloft four monster smallmouth bass. Given Starks' travels on the Bassmaster Elite Series tour, one might suspect the fish came from Lake Erie, Lake Champlain, Dale Hollow Lake or one of the nation's other legendary smallmouth fisheries.
They did not.
They came from the Kanawha River, inside the Charleston city limits.
"That was a heck of a day," said Starks. "I actually caught five, but I could only hold four for the picture. All of them were caught in about a 11/2-hour span, early in the afternoon."
Starks usually doesn't keep fish in his livewell unless he's fishing in a tournament. But on May 23, with the Kanawha running a tad high and on the swift side, he ended up with five big ones in the well at once.
"It was kind of funny how it happened," he recalled. "The current was pretty strong that day. I caught a 4-pounder and wanted to get a picture of it, but with the current that strong I didn't want to get off the trolling motor and get pushed away from the spot I was fishing. So I put the fish in the livewell, figuring I'd get a picture later."
Then he caught another lunker. And another. And another. And yet another. By the time the fishing slowed enough for a photo, the livewell was full.
"The smallest fish was 4 pounds, 3 ounces, and the largest was 6 pounds," Starks said. "That's a bag of bass that would stand you in good stead anywhere. It's something to be proud of that they came from the Kanawha River."
Starks grew up in the Upper Kanawha Valley, and in his lifetime has seen the river transformed from a badly polluted carp-and-catfish fishery into a dynamic multi-species fishery that includes sauger, walleye, muskellunge, hybrid striped bass, largemouth bass and smallmouth bass.