LeHew Says Weather Will Determine Everything at Norman

Published on 04-04-2024

By Pete Robbins 
Reached on the water two weeks before the annual Big Bass Tour event on North Carolina’s Lake Norman, five-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier Shane LeHew virtually salivated when thinking about the options available to anglers and the likelihood of big bass being weighed in. 
“The water has gotten clearer and the lake is fishing really well from top to bottom,” he said. “And we’re seeing an increase in the numbers of big largemouth.” 
That’ll be the rub for competitors, as the top dog at this annual event almost always seems to be somewhere between 6 and 87 pounds. In the March 2022 event, there was a 7.17 and four over 6, and in April of 2019 there was a 7.34 and one more in the 6 pound range. Beyond that, where things land at the top is anyone’s guess. A 5-pounder will always earn a good paycheck, but exactly what it will take t earn top honors is a moving target. 
It's also tricky to figure out what will earn hourly checks. The lake is so jam-packed with spotted bass, that it’s possible to get sidetracked on them. For non-strategic anglers, that may mean wasting time, but it’s possible to catch spots and cash checks, too. Invariably, though, it takes a largemouth to win. 
From Norman, LeHew reported 57 to 60 degree water temperatures, so a warming trend would mean bass flooding the shallows and getting set to reproduce. Up in the river section, though, the water might still be colder, and that process cold be delayed. 
“I’d look in the short, flat pockets first,” he said. “The spots will get on the dock walkways. The largemouth, I’m not really sure why or how they pick where they spawn. It could be on a rock, or one little stick, or just on sand.” 
He said that the key would be to “cover a lot of water because you can literally catch a six-plus from dam to dam” after one of the best winters of fishing that he can recall. One tool for making that happen would be a 6-inch Berkley Cull Shad swimbait in any sort of white or shad pattern. Skipping Norman’s seemingly endless selection of docks is another primary way for both newcomers and old hands to get healthy. He prefers a 3/8 or ½ ounce Berkley Powerbait Skippin’ Jig in green pumpkin or watermelon. Not only does it slide into tight crevices easier than its counterparts, but it has the additional proven benefit of scent. For those who have trouble skipping a jig, or who need something more finesse-oriented, a wacky-rigged Berkley General (either the original or the Maxscent version) in those same colors is deadly both under docks and in open spaces. 
More than perhaps any other Big Bass Tour event, Norman is characterized by tight weights, especially at the top. While it’s not impossible for a 7-, 8- or even 9-pound bass to make an appearance, expect the top five to be lower than that. Even smaller fish will earn solid paydays. That makes watching the live leaderboard even more critical than ever.