Norman countdown

The snow has been gone for a few weeks now, and the ice is off the pond up the hill from my humble southern Ohio abode. I keep threatening to hike to the pond with a few rods and limber up my casting arm.

It's something I really should do well before the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open at North Carolina's Lake Norman later this month. Since Norman is a short cast from Charlotte, its banks are dotted with copious boat docks.

Those docks provide abundant cover for Norman's largemouth and spotted bass, and they're sure to play a major role during the tournament. Dock bass reward pinpoint casting and the ability to skip lures under these manmade covers.

Cast poorly, and your offering will land too far from the dock to pull a bass from beneath it. Or, worse, you'll slam your bait into the dock or a pontoon boat moored to it. Bass aren't inclined to bite when their ears are ringing.

I fish so infrequently that my casting accuracy isn't what it should be. As for skipping, I have serious shortcomings.

I do passably well with spinning tackle and baits that are easy to skip, such as a wacky-rigged sinking worm or a light tube. With a jig or a shaky head worm, I'm an embarrassment to the bass fishing fraternity.

My inability to skip with baitcasting tackle is a frustrating liability. I know anglers that can skip with a baitcaster all day and never get a backlash. They tick me off.

So, when I fish the Norman tournament as a nonboater, I will have a spinning rod rigged with a wacky-rigged Yum Dinger specifically for skipping docks.

I'll also have another spinning rod rigged with a shaky head worm. I caught several spotted bass at Norman on a shaky head several years ago when I fished there with Cleveland, Ohio, bass pro Frank Scalish.

We were there doing a photo shoot and snuck away a few hours each day to do a little fishing. We plucked bass from docks and submerged brushpiles. And, we were fishing Norman the same week in March that the Bassmaster Open happens this year.

Another bait that caught several bass when I fished with Scalish was a suspending jerkbait. It pulled bass from under docks and up from brush piles. I'll do some research on Norman before my next blog and provide updated information.

At this point, I figure my nonboater tackle will also include a flippin' rod, a baitcaster for small cranks and topwater plugs, and another baitcaster for casting jigs. Hmmm, maybe a spinning rod for drop shotting, too.

One of the perks of being a fishing writer is that I sometimes have an opportunity to play with tackle that is beyond my means. I've been casting a GLoomis NRX Bass Casting rod in my yard lately. It's a 7-foot, 1-inch, medium action baitcaster.

The NRX sells for $495. Talk about sticker shock! I was also shocked when I picked up the rod for the first time. It is so light I didn't want to let go of it for fear it would float into the stratosphere.

The rod is matched with another new product, a Shimano Core MG 7.1:1 gear ratio reel that weighs only 5.5 ounces. It goes for $369. At that price, I'm sorry to report that it casts like a dream.

This combination makes for effortless casting. Very impressive.

I also put the Core reel on one of my flippin' rods. Wow! The weight reduction makes flipping and pitching much easier. No doubt, you'd really appreciate this reel after a long day with a flippin' stick.


Editor's note: Mark Hicks is one of the country's most widely read and respected bass writers. He has penned countless articles for Bassmaster Magazine, B.A.S.S. Times and other publications.

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