Lake Norman & Mooresville

Fishing with Gus: Try these lures to catch stripers and hybrids

Gus Gustafson with a trophy Lake Norman striped bass.
Gus Gustafson with a trophy Lake Norman striped bass.

November and early December have been relatively mild, with surface water temperatures hovering around 60 degrees. That’s warm for this time of year, so it’s no wonder that bass and crappie fishing has been good.

On the other hand, hybrid and striped bass fishing has been hit or miss. Linesider fishermen are patiently waiting until water temperatures dip into the low 50s. According to, the wait will not be long. The long-range forecast calls for overnight temperatures near or below freezing, beginning soon and lasting through the holidays. Winter officially begins on Dec. 21.

In the meantime, the majority of striper and hybrids catches have been in the main channel and finger creeks above the N.C. 150 bridge. Those catching fish are getting an early start and are keeping one eye on the fish-finder and the other on the sky. The fish-finder indicates the depth of forage and predator fish below the boat, while diving sea birds indicate fish on the surface.

The tips discussed below should help to improve your catch rate this winter:

When stripers and hybrids are surface feeding, use lures that create a disturbance on the water. Those that churn the surface or make a chugging or popping sound are best. While every angler has a favorite lure, some of the most popular ones are:

▪ Rebel’s Super Pop-R: a 3-inch popper that’s heavy enough to cast long distances

▪ Tackle Town’s handcrafted buzz and spinner baits

▪ River2Sea’s Whopper Plopper No. 90 or No. 130: resembles a Zara Spook but has a tail that spins

▪ Atom’s Striper Swiper: The 3/8th-ounce version is ideal for surface-feeding linesiders.

The majority of time, hybrids and stripers feed below the surface. They can be caught by casting or trolling, depending on conditions. A few Lake Norman lure favorites are:

▪ Alabama Rig: an array of more than three artificial lures or baits used by a single rod-and-reel combination.

▪ Roadrunner: This bladed, lead-head jig can be garnished with buck tail hair, soft plastics grubs or live baits.

▪ Rat L Trap: A lipless crank bait that resembles a shad. It’s available in a variety of sizes and colors. The 3-inch, half-ounce chrome blue back version is a good choice.

▪ Mann's Deep Diving 20-plus or 30-plus crank baits: A long billed lure that can be cast or trolled to depths of 30 feet.

Live bait is preferred by those who adhere to philosophy that “it is easier to feed fish than to trick them.” Popular live baits are shad, herring, bass minnows, small perch, crappie and bream which are drifted or slowed trolled. Multiple rods are used to allow live baits to be suspended at various depths in the water column.

Tip from Capt. Gus

Fish are very active just before inclement weather systems. It’s best to fish the day before and during the rain. As a rule, the first day after a front passes is slower than previous days.

Hot spots of the week

Crappie fishing is good to very good with 20-fish limits coming from covered boat docks, bridge pilings and submerged brush piles. White perch fishing is also pretty good for those fishing live minnows in water to 50 feet deep. As mentioned previously, bass are pretty active, with many coming from underneath boat docks and around downed timber, particularly up lake.

Lake conditions

Lake Norman is about 1.7 feet below full pond and 3.7 feet below at Mountain Island Lake. The water surface temperature is in the high 50s and low 60s.

Gus Gustafson is a freelance writer and a professional fishing guide: