Lake Norman recap

The Lake Norman Open turned about as well as anyone could have hoped. The winner, Andy Montgomery, created a Classic spot for Cliff Prince. Both are Elite Series anglers.

I say that without any complaints or animosity towards the Open competitors. They are entitled to everything they earn during a tournament, but I have to admit that it’s nice to see the Elite field at the Classic expand. Call it a brotherhood thing if you want.   

Something else happened during the tournament that I think deserves some column space and some thought — my shaky head rig caught some bigger bass.

That’s news, at least for me. I always thought of them as smaller fish baits. You know what I’m talking about when I say I always thought of them as the kind of fish lure that’ll get you a limit but never get you a win.

Here’s what happened:

I was fishing docks with a jig on the second day. I figured that was my best chance at a decent bag after a tough first day. It wasn’t working so I decided to make a run to a different part of the lake and try for a small limit. To my surprise an amazing thing happened.  

I caught a good fish — maybe 5 pounds — and then went on to catch a few more in the “better than a keeper” class. They weren’t giants and they didn’t put me into contention for anything. They did give me some weight, however.

It may (may not) be true that in most lakes a shaky head or a drop shot will only catch small dinks and a handful of bluegill, but it’s not true everywhere. That’s something we should all keep in mind when we’re struggling a little bit.

My guess is that they work because of all the pressure the bigger bass get during a tournament. One of the popular strategies right now is to spend your practice time idling around watching your electronics looking for the tournament winners. You mark them and then worry about catching them later when it counts.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that but it does create pressure on the biggest bass in the lake. Most of the guys know where they’re hiding. Recent developments on Kentucky Lake and other Tennessee River impoundments seem to support my theory.

I’ve been hearing that the big, deep crankbait bite out on the ledges isn’t what it once was. The story is that guys are doing better with more passive, finesse lures. Many of us believe that’s because almost anyone can find the ledges now and mark the tiny spots that hold the schools of big bass. That creates a super amount of pressure on them. They become conditioned to conventional baits that worked just a couple of years ago. They simply won’t bite them anymore.

The takeaway from all of this is that we might want to rethink finesse baits, especially small shaky heads and drop shots. They might be the ticket to a plus-size bag of bass.