Lake Norman plays host to major bass fishing events

Courtesy of Capt. Gus Gustafson Bass boats and anglers gather at Blythe Landing to weigh their tournament catches.

Lake Norman has always been popular with recreational boaters, skiers, wake boarders and those who enjoy raft-ups. But until recently, fishermen didn’t hold it with the same high regard.

In fact, fishing was so poor at Lake Norman that anglers nicknamed it “The Dead Sea.”

Beginning in the mid- to late 1990s, Lake Norman regenerated itself into one of the premier bass fishing reservoirs in the United States.

Lake development usually has a negative effect on fishing, but because Norman was void of grass, stumps, standing timber and other habitat needed for a healthy fish population to thrive, the addition of thousands of boat docks and miles of rip-rip was exactly what the fishery needed.

More importantly, the introduction of spotted bass, a member of the black bass family, gave tournament anglers another fish to target.

It didn’t take long for spotted bass to adapt to Lake Norman. Today, there are so many who fish for “spots,” as they are called, that the limit of five fish is easily achieved on most trips.

On average, the spotted bass is smaller than its largemouth and smallmouth bass cousins. But there are plenty of 2-, 3-, and even 4-pounders around to make fishing for them a lot of fun.

The state record, a 6 1/2 lb. spotted bass was taken from Lake Norman on Dec. 26, 2003. The trophy belongs to Eric Weir, who caught it on a Zoom Finesse Worm, a plastic lure popular with local fishermen.

Last fall, Visit Lake Norman, led by Executive Director Sally Ashworth, was instrumental in helping organize and facilitate five major bass tournaments. The largest was the FLW Bass Fishing League Super Tournament held in September, followed by the locally popular Ryan Newman Charity Tournament in December. Collectively, bass tournaments during the second half of 2010 added $410,000 to the region’s economy.

This season’s kick-off begins March 24 to 26 with the Bass Pro Shops Bassmasters Southern Open. This is the first time since 2006 that a national Bass Anglers Sportsman Society event has been held on Lake Norman. The tournament will feature 400 of the top professional anglers from around the world.

Boats will launch from Blythe Landing each morning. Weigh-ins will take place at Blythe Landing the first two days and Bass Pro Shops in Concord on the final day.

According to Travis Dancy, sports marketing manager at Visit Lake Norman, the economic impact of this tournament is expected to reach $478,000, while increasing national television exposure for the region.

Upcoming events

• I’ll host a free fishing seminar, “Bank and Dock Fishing for Sunfish, White Perch, Catfish and Carp,” from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 24, at Gander Mountain, 236 Norman Station Blvd. I’ll cover everything from fishing with cane poles to using live and cut baits, to the best places to fish from shore. Details: 704-658-0822.

• The Lake Norman Sail & Power Squadron hosts a boater-safety class from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 26, at the Duke Energy Environmental Center, 12700 Hagers Ferry Road, Huntersville. The class costs $45. Register in advance. Details: www.usps.org/lakenorman or Bob Yannacci, 704-660-5568.

Tips from Capt Gus
Fishing season is upon us, and it is time to check the expiration date on your fishing license. Licenses can be purchased at most area bait shops, sporting good outlets or online at www.ncwildlife.org.

Hot spot of the week
Some stripers are feeding under seabirds near the N.C. 150 bridge and along the edges of the river channel. Best bets are crappie and white perch, which are moving toward the shallows to begin their spring spawn.

Capt. Gus Gustafson of Lake Norman Ventures is an outdoor columnist and a full-time professional fishing guide on Lake Norman. His website is www.fishingwith
gus.com. Contact him at 704-617-6812 or Gus@LakeNorman.com.

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