Montgomery Favors a Two-Pronged Approach for Norman

Friday, March 22, 2019

Montgomery Favors a Two-Pronged Approach for Norman

By Pete Robbins

When the field descends upon Lake Norman for the fourth event of the 2019 Big Bass Tour schedule, many of them will certainly have shallow fish on their minds. After a long and rainy winter, the bass want to be close to the bank as water temperatures creep from the upper 50s into the low 60s, and anglers will be able to use a variety of tactics to chase them.

This event, the tenth consecutive year that the BBT has visited this gorgeous impoundment near Charlotte, comes a little earlier than the last three iterations. The mid-April date is anywhere from two to four weeks earlier than we’ve held it in recent years, which should open up a variety of options. MLF Pro Andy Montgomery, a Lake Norman veteran and perhaps the best jig skipper on tour, said he wouldn’t narrow down which part of the lake he’d focus on, but he’d keep his tactics simple.

“A great thing about this tournament is that it can be won from one end of the lake to the other,” he explained. “Most of the year the big ones are following big schools of bait around, but at this time of year you never know where you’re going to see a big one.”

He said that the water has been dirty in the early part of the year due to the massive amounts of wintry precipitation, but if there’s minimal rain in the runup to the tournament anglers should look for clearing areas where they’ll be able to see cruising bass or fish that are set up on beds.

His two primary lures for bedding fish would be a Strike King Structure Bug or Rage Bug, both in green pumpkin and white. “The bigger fish tend to bite the more natural color,” he explained. He’d fish it on “big line,” usually 20 pound fluorocarbon, with a 4/0 offset worm hook and typically a 5/16 ounce tungsten weight. In a tournament where you’re only fishing for one bass, it’s always critical to figure out how to approach each fish and how much time to spend them. “If they’re aggressive, I’ll make a lot of rapid pitches, but if they’re real spooky I’ll let it sit there until they get comfortable with it.” Again, this is a tournament where anglers need one fish, not their best five, which provides great conservation benefits at this time of year.

For the first time, we’ll be spending three days at Norman, rather than the usual two, and that’ll bring into play what Montgomery referred to as his “sleeper pattern” – a swimbait around floating docks. Some of his favorites include a Strike King Rage Swimmer and a Strike King Shadalicious, but he encourages anglers to choose one they have confidence in, start casting and not put it down until the day is over – especially as the tournament progresses. The easy fish will get picked off early, but the ones that are waiting to move up and get settled, which tend to be fatter and more aggressive, will still lurk in the shadows. His favorite docks are the ones leading into coves, but don’t pass up isolated ones in the back of pockets.

“You’re not going to get a lot of bites doing that,” he said. “But you’re only fishing for one good bite.”

Montgomery has landed bass of up to 7 pounds on Norman, and up to 6 pounds in competition there. “A 6-pounder is a really good one there.” That’s consistent with what past BBT events have produced. There are usually a handful of fish over 6 pounds and quite a few over 5, but after that things get tight. There are tons of 4-pound bass in this lake and hourly winners are often determined by ounces. Pay close attention to the live leaderboard to make sure that you don’t make a long run for nothing. On the flip side, on occasion we’ve seen hourly winners dip blow 4 pounds, so just because a fish isn’t huge does not mean it won’t put you in the money. This is often one of our most closely-fought events, and one where strategy takes center stage.