Fewer angling for plentiful fish

It seems as though I'm seeing fewer fishing boats on the water in June this year than in years past. It may be because of the economy, the price of gas, or the early summer heat wave.

Whatever the reason, it is not that fishing is slow. In fact, bass are biting better than they have in years.

Spotted bass are everywhere. Largemouth bass are not as plentiful as in previous years but seem bigger.

So if the heat is the reason you aren't fishing, just get an early start. Be on the lake by 5:30 or 6 a.m., and plan to stop before the summer sun gets high in the sky.

Here are a few tips to put more bass in the boat once you're on the water.

First, keep a watchful eye out for surface-feeding bass. Look for swirls and splashes, particularly over river and creek points. Individual fish and small schools of spots are feeding on shad throughout the day.

A lot of surface activity occurs at dawn, but the bite continues on most days into the afternoon. Best lures to use are flukes, buzz baits, rattle traps and topwater poppers with an ice fly trailer.

If it's largemouth bass you are interested in catching, cast soft plastics under deep-water docks and piers. The bigger fish like lots of shade. Skipping baits far back under docks seems to be more productive than casting to the outer edges of a platform. Piers with lots of wood pilings, cross-members and a ladder or two attract more big bass.

The many bridges that span Lake Norman are popular haunts for summer bass. It must be the combination of shade, algae, current and the location near deep water that draws the fish.

Bridge areas should be fished when boat traffic is light. Best bets are the N.C. 150 bridge, the railroad bridge in Mountain Creek and the Buffalo Shoals Road bridge just north of river Marker 25.

The same submerged brush piles that hold summer crappie attract bass as well. The deeper brush is usually where big largemouth bass congregate; shallow-water brush piles are magnets for spotted bass. Weedless, soft plastics and deep-diving crankbaits are the lures to use when casting into and around brush.

Sonar and GPS have made it easy to locate underwater islands (humps). They attract fish year-round and are some of the best places to find summer bass. Humps are numerous throughout the lake, but many of the better sites are in the main river channel and in Mountain, Reed and Davidson creeks. Humps can be fished in a variety of ways, but for starters, try a shaky-head, bucktail or plastic worm.

Give summer bass fishing a try. There are plenty of fish to be caught!

Hot spots

Bass are schooling on the surface all day and are being caught on top-water lures, Rat-L-Traps, bucktails and spoons. Some stripers are deep in Mountain Creek and the river channel from Marker 8 south to Marker 3. White perch fishing is outstanding; reports of 100 or more perch per trip are common. Catfishing is very good.

The surface water temperature varies by location but is mainly in the high 80s in open waters not affected by power generation. The water level is about 2.4 feet below full pond on Lake Norman.