Stormin’ Norman in April, Big Bass Style
Wednesday, April 18, 2018
Stormin’ Norman in April, Big Bass Style
Montgomery predicts that looking at them will be key
By Pete Robbins
After a seemingly interminable winter punctuated by a series of early spring cold fronts, many anglers throughout the Carolinas are ready to put their polarized glasses to the test on shallow bass. Elite Series pro Andy Montgomery said that they should be thrilled when the Big Bass Tour makes its fifth stop of the year April 28 and 29 on North Carolina’s Lake Norman, because the spawn should be in full swing. Temperatures are expected to be in the 70s heading into the event, and that heat should pull any hesitant bass up where they can be seen.
“The biggest thing is finding that big fish,” Montgomery said. Anglers may want to practice by putting their trolling motors on high and covering as much territory as possible, never picking up a rod. One other strategy would be to fish a big swimbait, not in the hopes of catching a monster, but in having one follow your bait and disclosing the location of a difficult-to-see bed. Indeed, he believes that while some of the biggest fish may bed in traditional spots like the backs of pockets, sometimes the true giants will engage in reproduction deeper, or on the main lake. Those with limited scouting time will be challenged because “the best thing about Norman is that any tournament can be won anywhere from one dam to the other. This is no different.”
Once anglers locate the “right” fish, Montgomery advises changing baits until you find the one that tempts her – and it will be a “her.”
“It often takes a little bit longer to catch the females,” he said. “You have to mess with the male to get the female aggravated.” He’d cycle through soft plastics like a Strike King Rage Bug, a lizard or a wacky worm until the fish couldn’t stand it anymore. He prefers natural colors, but won’t hesitate to go to something gaudy like white, bubble gum or chartreuse if a fish doesn’t get triggered by those initial offerings.
His biggest Lake Norman bass was right under 7 pounds, and while 7 pounders occasionally show up in wintertime tournaments, at this time of year he expects something in the “high sixes” to take the crown. That’s fairly consistent with past Big Bass Tour results: Last year the big fish was 5.89 pounds and it took 4.92 to make it into the top 10. In 2016, two anglers weighed in 6.06 twins for top honors and it took 4.87 pounds to claim 10th place. Notably, those two tournaments were in May. The last time this event was held in April, in 2015, there were three fish over 6 pounds, including a 6.63 pound toad, but the low end of the top 10 remained roughly the same, with a 4.73 pound bass earning that place.
The “X Factor” that makes Lake Norman an angling strategist’s dream, and provides an opportunity for anyone to earn an hourly check, is the massive population of schooling-sized spotted bass. Looking back through the results over the past three Big Bass Tour events at this venue, during the vast majority of hours there is at least one fish (and often more) under 2 pounds that earns its captor a check. Fish weighing less than a pound and a quarter – the type that anglers typically want to cull out of a five-bass limit – can pay off for anglers who time their weigh-ins intelligently. One huge conservation benefit of this format, especially during the spawn, is that anglers need only carry a single fish in their livewells to be “winners,” as opposed to more typical invididual or team tournaments where there may be five.
Indeed, Montgomery said that timing is critical not just to claim hourly money, but to find the biggest overall bass of the event. “Typically, when they just get there, that’s when they’re most aggressive,” he said. If she doesn’t bite quickly, though, that’s when an angler has to decide how best to use his or her time – do you wait out a fish that ignores your baits, or leaves the nest for brief periods, or do you put your shallow water anchors down and wait her out?