A good example

Hank Cherry said he likes how Cody Hoyle has his head down and is working his plan. 

“He’s a good example of picking a plan and sticking with it,” Cherry said. 

Confidence

Hoyle is picking part marinas and docks, and while Cheery said that’s a great tactic it wouldn’t be his early morning choice.

“In my opinion, it’s too early to be doing this,” the defending Classic champ said.

However, he also acknowledged that Hoyle isn’t necessarily wrong.

“If that’s what he’s confident doing, he’s only got to catch four more and he wins,” Cherry said.

‘Just breathe’

Cody Hoyle just idled past us to head to his third stop, and Cherry offered him some advice.

“Just breathe,” Cherry said. “You just need four more.”

Perfect for docks

Day 2 leader Cody Hoyle is fishing docks up Reeds Creek, and Bassmaster Classic champ Hank Cherry said it was a great decision.

“These conditions are perfect for dock fishing,” Cherry explained. “With no wind, it should cut down the school fishing and make the dock bite really fire off.”

Fog delay lifted for Championship Saturday

Fog began developing over Lake Norman just prior to the 7 a.m. final day start of the Basspro.com Bassmaster Southern Open. The Top 10 anglers and their boats will be held at Blythe Landing until boating conditions are deemed safe by B.A.S.S. officials.

Update: After the 7 a.m. takeoff was delayed by 25 minutes due to fog, the final day of competition is underway at the Basspro.com Bassmaster Southern Open at Lake Norman. 

Go with what you know

Two-time Bassmaster Classic Champ Hank Cherry said Lake Norman is just like any other impoundment in the country, so those who excel on their home lakes shouldn’t make this event more difficult than it has to be. 

“Whatever you do in an impoundment like this, you can go out and do it here,” Cherry said. “If you like to skip jigs, you’re going to get five bites a day. If you like to fish Topwater, you’ll get five bites a day. 

“You just have to do it all day.”

 

Dialing in docks

Lake Norman is known for a couple things: First, it’s the largest manmade lake located wholly within North Carolina. Second, there’s a lot of docks — a lot of docks.

No surprise, Day 1 heard many anglers report leveraging the dock pattern. An exhaustive lesson in dock fishing would take longer than we have here, but a few notable points arose from Thursday’s weigh-ins.

Depth: With many fish still in their offshore pattern and some just starting their fall migration, deeper main lake docks and those near the mouths of major creeks seemed to be most consistent.

Johnny Bigger, who shared the fifth-place spot with Josh Douglas, caught most of his fish by throwing a jig around docks. He noted that his fish repositioned throughout the day, but a deeper option remained a prerequisite for a productive dock.

“I was fishing in 15-18 feet on the ends of the docks and as the day got hot, it seemed like they moved up a little bit,” Bigger said. “At the end of the day, I caught some keepers in the 5- to 6-foot range. The docks just have to have some depth out in front.”

Shade: The sunny skies of Thursday and today starkly contrast the cloudy, rainy stuff that hung over the practice days. Cody Hoyle, who placed second yesterday with 14 pounds, 9 ounces, said docks are the first point of refuge for bass fleeing the brighter conditions.

Asked what features he looks for in docks, Hoyle said it’s pretty straightforward: “The bigger the better.”

Food: While the fish appreciate those shadows, they’re also feeling that seasonal urge to bulk up for winter, so a dock with no forage is usually a barren dock. Hoyle said he checked 150 docks on Day 1 and the best ones were packed with bait, bream and crappie.

Additional Structure: Hoyle and others noted that docks with brush tend to attract more bass. Homeowners typically plant brush piles to congregate crappie, but these structures also offer feeding opportunities for larger predators.

Positioning: While Hoyle kept his bait selection confidential, he noted that he used two different finesse presentations — one for suspended fish and one for those hugging the bottom.

Docks will undoubtedly play a major role for several anglers today. We’ll be interested to hear how specific details impacted the game.

Docks and efficiency

Yesterday, Cherry shared that docks are a great Lake Norman option for tournament-winning bags. But he also said not just any stretch of docks will do.

In fact, he was extremely specific about where he would head if he were fishing this event.

“I would never be more than 5 feet deep,” Cherry said.

And the docks on which he would focus would usually be in half that much water.

“You want to go to the docks farthest back in the creeks as you can get,” he said. “I’m talking about the ones that are almost on the bottom, where you trolling motor is pretty much in the mud.”

He took me back to an example area, and the floating docks were often touching bottom closest to the bank, but the key is how landowners have prepped their boat docks.

“It’s shallow in here, but they dredge those docks out,” Cherry explained.

Sure enough, each dock had deeper water that fell from the shallows into a depression he said was deep enough to hold bass.

Cherry said he wouldn’t spend much time on any one dock, focusing solely on the small shadows cast by the pontoons and small platforms.

“I would make two casts to that dock, two casts to that dock, maybe three casts to that one because you probably need to get under that boat pontoon,” he said. “But you don’t have to make repeated casts to it. When you cast in there, you’ll pick up your rod and your line will swim off or there isn’t a fish there.”

And the bass that pick up his jig are usually largemouth — and can be the 5- to 7-pounders that make for larger sacks of fish. 

This makes the approach extremely efficient, allowing a lot of docks to be covered in a day as an angler hops from one shallow dock-filled cove to the next.

“Why would I want to fish a dock that I have to make eight or 10 casts to when I can fish one that I only have to make one or two casts to?” Cherry asked.

Smith doing the math

Morning reports from Bassmaster photographer Andy Crawford indicated that Day-1 leader Blake Smith was having a tough time igniting the fast start he experienced yesterday. Certainly, he’d rather have an early limit, but there’s plenty of time to get it going.

Also, Smith said his big start — 15 pounds, 7 ounces — exceeded his expectations and positioned him well.

“I figured that 12 pounds a day would win and I threw back two 11-pound limits (on Day 1),” he said.

Winning’s always the immediate goal and since Smith has fished all three Basspro.com Bassmaster Southern Division events, a win would earn him a spot in the 2022 Academy Sports and Outdoors Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell.

Beyond those objectives, Smith’s also working to secure his 2022 Bassmaster Elite Series invitation. The top three in each Opens division and the top three in the Overall Opens standings qualify for the Elites.

Coming into this event third in points, his Day 1 lead moved him atop the points. Smith will likely play a conservative game today to ensure he makes it to Championship Saturday, when he can step on the gas.

Given the dynamic nature of the fall transition, few guarantees exist this week. Covering water seemed to be the most common theme from Thursday’s weigh in, but then third-place pro Charlie Hartley reported sacking up all of his weight on one offshore spot the size of his boat.

The takeaway: Save the predictions; this one’s going down to the wire.

Waiting on moonset

The day dawned with a bright, nearly full moon overhead. 

Hank Cherry pointed at it and said it could really hamper the morning bite.  

“See that? When that goes down the fish will turn on,” he said. “The fish have been feeding all night.”

And he said the single blowups are absolutely the bass to target. 

“Those are the big ones,” he said. “You can cast out there and catch those.”

 

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