I've wanted to check out Lake James or Rhodhiss. James might be a little far though.
I don't want to sound rude or anything, but you might want to change the title of your post. If you mention Hickory in the title people with info on the area will be more apt to click and comment. Just trying to help.
I've always wanted to fish Johns River which is just outside of Morganton. The the boat traffic wouldn't be as bad as the lakes will this weekend. Current is slow enough you can put in and take out at the same spot and from what I've seen it looks fishy.
If you have two vehicles or someone to drop you off and pick you up the Catawba below the dam at Lake James is a nice trip. A little hairy for the first 1/4 mile if they are generating power but not that bad. I think it's Class II. Be sure to stay left at the first split, after that it doesn't matter much. I don't remember exactly but I think it was about an 8 mile paddle. If you decide to do this one fish the first few miles hard then pick the good spots the rest of the way. The trout fishing gets harder as you go along.