What will it take to win or place high in this week's Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open on Lake Norman? Conventional wisdom says it'll involve spawning bass, meaning mostly spotted bass spawning in pockets.
But thankfully, with BassGold.com we don't have to rely on conventional wisdom anymore. Former B.A.S.S. pro Ken Cook and I took a quick look at some of what the BassGold info tells us – literally us, because you might interpret the data differently, which is one of the great things about BassGold.
First, BassGold has a good number of patterns on Norman (more than 50), and thanks largely to a bunch of FLW Tour events that have been fished there, 70 percent of those patterns cover the spring.
When we generated what BassGold calls a "Pattern Report" for spring on Norman, in this case, the data seems to reinforce conventional wisdom. The bar graphs show that for the Open you'll need to be fishing shallow around spawning cover with a combination of slow and moving baits. That's some "gold" right there, but let's drill down a little deeper.
Ken: "You need to be in shallow water around spawning cover. Not necessarily looking at beds, but in the area where they should be. This works whether the fish are spawning or prespawn, or even postspawn. The good thing is Norman has lots of shoreline."
Interestingly, the Macro Factor graph shows a divergence between what's worked best for wins and for second- to fifth-place finishes: "Main Lake Pockets" and "Shoreline" are about equal across first-fifth places, but "Shoreline" – meaning non-pocket shoreline – is about twice as effective as "Main Lake Pockets" for winners.
Ken: "Docks play a big part in available habitat so they are indicated as the most important type, but woody cover is significant too. If anglers find these two components in combination, then all the better.
"Since most docks are wooden structures, they play very well as bass holding cover. Add a brushpile, and you have a perfect bass house.
"You also can't ignore the importance of rock and clay as hard bottom because of the importance of spawning habitat. [B.A.S.S. pro and local Jason Quinn also said clay was key when he finished 2nd at the Norman Elite Series event in March 2005.] So the best habitat combination would be docks with a brushpile over rock/clay bottom."
The "Habitat Factors" bar graph shows that docks are the most important cover/structure in first-fifth finishes, but when you manipulate the graph to show wins only, it shows that "Wood" (brush, stumps, etc.) is equal in importance to docks.
Here's the Habitat Factors graph with second-fifth places removed.
Ken: "Only about 30 percent of success comes from reaction baits. The remainder is spread among various slow baits. The winner will most likely use a combination of moving baits and slow stuff. Crankbaits have been the best producers in the past, but with new stuff like swimbaits and U-rigs, this may change.
"If the shad spawn is going on, swimbaits and spinnerbaits will play a big part. Still, I recommend throwing cranks and looking for a lot of good docks with brushpiles on a hard bottom. After finding good habitat, slow down with jigs and various worm-type baits [like shaky-head worms] to make bites happen."
If you were a BassGold subscriber fishing this tournament and took a few minutes to read through the pattern detail summaries for each tournament, you would see that Fletcher Shryock isn’t the only one to hunt up the river for kicker largemouths – and that you might not even need to go upriver to find those kicker largies.
The "Weights By Month" graph shows you need to average 16 to 17 pounds per day to win a tour-level event. Will it be less per day for an Open-level event?
Last but not least, Norman is a great pattern lake. Find something and you can pattern it, regardless of your prior knowledge of the lake. This is a situation where BassGold is even more valuable.
Sean Hoernke, winner of 2008 FLW Tour event at Norman, said: "The thing I really like about Norman is it's a classic pattern lake. The fish here do a lot of the things they're supposed to, so if you can find a pattern, you can run it."
Andy Montgomery, who grew up fishing Norman and finished third at the FLW Tour event there in March 2010, said in that tournament he didn't fish what he knew, he figured out a pattern and fished that.
The above is just one aspect of what BassGold does and can do for you. Right now, you can get $5 off the BassGold registration price when you click here and use code BFB001.