Lake Norman has always been popular with recreational boaters, skiers, wake-boarders and those who enjoy raft-ups. But until recently, fishermen didn't hold it in the same high regard. In fact, fishing was so poor that anglers nicknamed it "The Dead Sea."
Beginning in the mid- to late '90s, however, it regenerated into one of the premier bass-fishing reservoirs in the U.S.
Lake development usually has a negative effect on fishing. But because Norman was void of grass, stumps, standing timber and other habitat needed for a healthy fish population, the addition of thousands of boat docks and miles of riprap was exactly what the fishery needed.
What's more important, the introduction of spotted bass, a member of the black bass family, gave tournament anglers another fish to target.
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It didn't take long for spotted bass to adapt to Lake Norman. Today, so many people fish for "spots," as they are called, that the limit of five fish is easily achieved on most trips. On average, the spotted bass is smaller than its largemouth and smallmouth cousins, but there are plenty of 2-, 3- and even 4-pounders. The state record, a 61/2-pounder, was taken from Lake Norman Dec. 26, 2003, by Eric Weir, who caught it on a Zoom Finesse Worm - a plastic lure popular with local fishermen.
In fall 2010, "Visit Lake Norman," led by Executive Director Sally Ashworth, was instrumental in helping organize and facilitate five bass tournaments. The largest was the FLW Bass Fishing League Super Tournament in September, followed by the locally popular Ryan Newman Charity Tournament in December. Collectively, bass tournaments during the second half of 2010 added $410,000 to the region's economy.
This season begins with the Bass Pro Shops Bassmasters Southern Open March 24-26. This is the first time since 2006 that the lake has hosted a national Bass Anglers Sportsman Society event.
The tournament will draw 400 of the top professional anglers from around the world. Boats will launch from Blythe Landing each morning. Weigh-ins will be at Blythe Landing the first two days and at the Bass Pro Shops at Concord Mills mall on the final day.
Travis Dancy, sports marketing manager at Visit Lake Norman, said, "The economic impact of this tournament is expected to be $478,000 and will feature national television exposure for the entire Lake Norman region."
Free fishing seminar: "Bank and Dock Fishing for Sunfish, White Perch, Catfish and Carp" will be 6:30-8 p.m. Thursday at Gander Mountain, off I-77 Exit 36. I will cover everything from fishing with cane poles, hooks and bobbers to using live and cut baits. I'll also give suggestions on the best places to fish from shore. Details: 704-658-0822.
Boater safety class: The Lake Norman Sail & Power Squadron's next boater safety class will be at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Duke Energy Environmental Center in Huntersville. The cost is $45. Register at www.usps.org/lakenorman.
Call Bob Yannacci, 704 660 5568, for information.
It's time to check the expiration date on your fishing license. You can buy licenses at most area bait shops, sporting goods outlets or online at www.ncwildlife.org.
Some stripers are feeding under seabirds near the N.C. 150 bridge and along the edges of the river channel. Best bets are crappie and white perch, which are moving toward the shallows to begin their spring spawn. Spotted bass are active over deep humps and around the same brush piles and fish attractors where crappie are feeding.
The surface water temperature varies but is mainly in the mid- to high 40s in open waters not affected by power generation. The water level is about 3.7 feet below full pond on Lake Norman and 2.7 feet below full pond on Mountain Island Lake.