University City

October 19, 2012

Spotted bass may be small, but they give a good fight

What is a spotted bass?

What is a spotted bass?

This question is frequently asked by anglers new to the sport of fishing on Lake Norman. To answer, a spotted bass is a member of the black bass family, which also includes small and largemouth bass. Known by locals as spots, they’re best identified by a patch of teeth on their tongue.

Spotted bass were introduced in the 1990s, but it didn’t take long for the species to prosper in a lake void of vegetation. Unlike the largemouth bass, which hides and ambushes its prey, spots travel in schools when seeking shad and herring. They attack with such tenacity, it’s often compared to that of bluefish blitzing in the surf. The only difference is spots swallow their prey whole.

While spotted bass are smaller on average than their largemouth cousins, they make up the difference with their relentless energy. That’s why, when hooked, anglers are fooled into thinking they’re fighting a fish considerably larger.

A second frequently asked question is, “How big do spots get?” While no one knows for sure, the largest one ever caught in North Carolina weighed 6.5 pounds and came from Lake Norman. One caught earlier this year that weighed 6.97 pounds proved to be a hybrid, not a pure spotted bass. DNA analysis showed it came from a largemouth female and a spotted bass male.

Spotted bass are easy to catch, particularly since they usually swim in large schools. When you catch one, expect others to be in the area. They strike the same lures that tempt largemouth bass and can be caught on either spinning or bait casting gear.

Flukes, buzz baits and poppers are preferred baits for surface feeding spots. Suspended fish are easily fooled by anglers who cast crank baits and Alabama rigs. Soft plastics, rigged drop shot or shaky-head style are better for bottom-feeding fish.

Casting is the preferred method of fishing for spots, but trolling or drifting live baits over humps, points and drop offs will catch them, too. Regardless of the method you use, remember that forage fish on Lake Norman are small, so “match the hatch” with appropriately sized baits.

The size limit for spotted and largemouth bass on Lake Norman is 14 inches, (two may be lesser in size). The creel limit for largemouth and spots is a combination of five.

Tips from Capt. Gus

Fishing and hunting regulations vary throughout the state. It is prudent to study the current issue of the North Carolina Inland Fishing, Hunting and Trapping Regulation Digest, effective Aug. 1, 2012 to July 31, 2013. Free copies are available everywhere fishing and hunting licenses are sold, or online at

Hot Spots of the Week

Cooling water temperatures have sparked crappie, bass and white perch fishing. Fall fishing on Lake Norman is the best it has been in years, particularly for bass and crappie. Bass are easy to locate, particularly when surface feeding. Just look for splashing and jumping fish and cast a top-water lure into the fray. Anglers fishing main channel points and bridge pilings are seeing lots of surface feeding activity. Crappie are moving into shallower water where fish are suspended near submerged brush piles in 8 to 20 feet of water.

Lake Norman’s lake level is about 3.8 feet below full pond and 3 feet below on Mountain Island Lake. The surface water temperature is in the 70s in water not affected by power generation.

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