Fishing with Gus: Find the bait; bass will be nearby
Friday, Aug. 15, 2014

Fishing with Gus: Find the bait; bass will be nearby

Most bass fishermen have heard the expression “Find the bait, and the bass will be close by.”

When Lake Norman anglers think of bait, they think of the large schools of shad and herring that roam its waters. While it’s true that shad and herring are the preferred bait fish for black bass, other fish also help to fill their stomachs.

Probably the favorite of big bass is bream (sunfish), followed by crappie and white perch. They’ll even eat their own offspring. So it’s not surprising to learn that bass fishermen in summer tournaments seek out bream beds, not to catch the bream, but to tempt the larger-than-normal bass that are feeding on the spawning fish.

The bass’ diet also includes a variety of other foods. Insects, larvae, baby ducks, snakes, worms, frogs, crayfish, grass shrimp and rodents make up portions of their seasonal buffet. Midsummer anglers look for mayflies caught in spider webs on docks and piers. The dead or struggling insects are indications that a hatch is in progress, and bass and other predator fish are in a feeding frenzy.

Muskrats – rodents that eat transducer cables and the boots on boat outdrives – would be even more annoying if it weren’t for the catfish and bass that eat them.

That’s right: Big bass will eat muskrats and other surface-swimming semi-aquatic rodents that sometimes gather in boat basins. There are actually fishing lures available that mimic the appearance of mice, rats and muskrats.

Ducks, frogs and snakes also find themselves prey to the ever-hungry bass. While Norman doesn’t have many lily pads and frogs, it does have a large mallard duck population. Big bass can and do often attack and swallow baby ducklings as they swim behind their mothers. Buzz and spinner baits with yellow or chartreuse skirts, cast in the vicinity of ducklings, often produce amazing results.

Seldom seen but quite prevalent in Lake Norman are crayfish, a favorite of the spotted bass. While crayfish prefer muddy banks, they also live in the cracks and crevices of the hundreds of miles of rip-rap rocks that protect Lake Norman’s shores from erosion. So it’s no wonder that a well stocked tackle box holds a variety of crayfish-colored lures.

Coming event

Free fishing seminar: “Bank and Dock Fishing for Sunfish, White Perch, Catfish and Bass” will be discussed in a seminar 6:30 p.m. Aug. 20 at Gander Mountain, off I-77 Exit 36. Jake Bussolini and I will cover fishing with cane poles, hooks and bobbers, and how to use live and cut baits. We’ll also offer suggestions for the best places to fish from shore and where the white perch are biting. Bring the family. Call 704-658-0822 for information.

Hot spots of the week

Best bets for late-August white perch are the waters between channel markers 22 and 24 upriver, between channel markers M2 and M3 in Mountain Creek and between markers D7 and D11 in Reed Creek. The best fishing is at depths to 40 feet using live minnows or Sabiki rigs.

Spotted bass are on channel points and river humps during the day.

Largemouth bass fishing is best after dark near lighted docks.

Lake conditions

The surface water temperature varies by location but is mainly in the 80s in open waters not affected by power generation. The water level is about 1.7 feet below full pond on Lake Norman and 1.8 feet below full on Mountain Island Lake.

Gus Gustafson is a freelance writer and a professional fishing guide. Have a story idea for Gus? Email him at

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