New Time, New Strategies for Norman

Published on 09-13-2020

New Time, New Strategies for Norman

By Pete Robbins

As the result of this year’s rescheduling, the Big Bass Tour event at Lake Norman was forced to abandon its usual springtime slot and move to September. That’s a time of year that can be tricky throughout the south, but on the highly-prolific North Carolina lake you can still expect tons of fish to be biting. The toughest part is always catching a winning-caliber fish.

“’Big’ is a relative term,” said Elite Series pro Matt Arey, of nearby Shelby, N.C. “A five-pounder is a big one there. The lake is absolutely dominated by smaller spotted bass.” Arey, who won two FLW Tour events at Beaver Lake from the front of the boat, understands both power techniques and finesse fishing, and in this case he’d push all of his chips to the center of the table on the former.

“I’d do two things,” he explained. “Fish deep brush with a jig and fish shallow with a variety of topwaters.”

Of course it’s eminently possible to fish with a dropshot or a shakey head, or even a small ribbed swimbait, and catch 30 or 40 spotted bass, but as a general rule if that’s what you’re doing “you’re going to get your teeth kicked in, both in a five-fish derby and in a big bass derby.” A strategic competitor may be able to ride a bigger-than-average spot to an hourly check, possibly even a good one, but that same fish is unlikely to challenge for a top-ten spot overall, where the big prizes lie

Arey’s brush fishing setup would start with a green pumpkin jig and a matching trailer, preferably with red or blue flake, which matches the bluegills that inhabit the piles at this time of year. He’d fish it on a 7’6” heavy-action Team Lew’s Custom Pro rod, paired with an 8:1 gear ratio Hyper Mag casting reel spooled with 17 lb. test P-Line Tactical fluorocarbon.

The goal when fishing a topwater would be to cover as much water as possible with a variety of lures, including a buzz toad, a big walking bait, and “I hate to say it, but a Plopper.” He’d fish them all on a 7’3” medium-heavy Team Lew’s Custom Pro paired with the same 8:1 Hyper Mag reel. He’d tie the buzz toad and the walking bait to 17 or 20 lb. test P-Line Original and he’d put the big plopper on braid.

One nice thing about Norman is that the tournament, and each individual award, could possibly be won from any part of the lake. “One end may be better than the other,” Arey advised. “At this time of year, due to various water quality factors, one section may be alive. I particularly like the mid-section for quality, but it could also be strong really high or really low. I might even run way up the river toward I-40, but if you depend on that, a hurricane or a tropical storm could wash it out.

Only one time in the past five years has more than one sub-5-pound fish snuck into the overall top ten at a BBT tournament on Norman, so don’t expect to contend for the victory with a fish that falls short of that mark. At the same time, the top five has been highly variable. Only one fish over 7 has come to the scales, and only once have there been more than two fish over 6. That means it is more critical than ever to pay attention to the live leaderboard. A strategic angler who takes note of hourly “market inefficiencies” can benefit big time, and someone who fails to pay attention to ongoing trends can suffer needlessly.