LeHew Says Norman Will Require Strategy

Published on 03-24-2021

LeHew Says Norman Will Require Strategy

By Pete Robbins

Of all of the fisheries close to major US urban centers, North Carolina’s Lake Norman is one of the most heavily pressured, yet year after year it continues to produce huge numbers of both largemouth and spotted bass. That makes it a fun venue for a Big Bass Tour event, but also one that requires close attention to the hourly and daily leaders, said Elite Series pro Shane LeHew. The 32 year-old resident of Catawba, NC, and former collegiate angler who grew up fishing Norman said it’s chock full of 2- to 4-pound bass, the types that can regularly claim checks, but can also get shut out if you’re not careful.

“There may be a few sight fish to be had,” LeHew said of the tournament’s March 26th to 28th competition days, but he’d guess that most of the lake’s bass will be just shy of starting the spawning ritual. “If you don’t find them spawning, I’d probably look for them with a swimbait, a jig or a soft plastic under docks.”

Specifically, he’d look in the mid- to upper section of the lake, where there’s apt to be a bit more color in the water, keeping it warm and making the fish more comfortable up shallow. “And I’d typically expect to find them under the walkways or the shallowest parts of the docks,” he added. His primary tools would be a flipping jig with a Berkley Chigger Craw on the back, a wacky-rigged Berkley General in green pumpkin and a straight-tailed shakey head worm in the same or a similar color. “I’d also throw a 5- or 6-inch Berkley Hollow Belly Swimbait on a hook with a 3/16 or ¼ ounce belly weight on the same type of stuff.”

If the shallow water dock game isn’t your cup of tea, LeHew recommended that you consider going up the river, where the water is typically a lot colder, and hunting a true pre-spawn giant. He’d throw a one-two punch of a Chatterbait and the ultra-hot Berkley Frittside crankbait up there to garner the big girls’ interest.

What color Frittside?

“Spray tan,” he answered without hesitation. “They’re getting really used to red around here, just like they are everywhere.”

LeHew said that he’d expect a fish in the 6-pound class to claim top honors. That’s pretty consistent with the last six Big Bass Tour events held on Norman, where the overall top prize winner has ranged from 5.88 to 7.34 pounds, with three of the six between 6.06 and 6.63. Competitors will be heartened to hear that the single biggest fish weighed in during that span was the 7.34 weighed in during mid-April 2019. Indeed, that was the earliest BBT event on Norman over that time span, which means that in March the potential for a true giant exists.

That doesn’t mean anglers shouldn’t spend time on some smaller fish. While there are usually at least six fish over 5 pounds weighed in (with 2015 being the rare exception to that rule) a 3-pounder almost always gets paid on an hourly basis, and fish beneath 2 pounds occasionally grab some cash. That means that both the typically heavier largemouths and the typically lighter spotted bass are in play, and anyone is a threat to earn a check. Pay extremely close attention to the live leaderboard, plan your milk run accordingly, and it’s possible to “game the system” and earn big bucks with fish that are not huge. This is March, though, so to be top dog you’ll likely have to bring in a goliath.