CORNELIUS, N.C. – For everyone but Wesley Strader, bass fishing is extremely tough on Lake Norman now. Strader’s 17-pound, 6-ounce bag on the second day of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Eastern Open gave him a 5-pound, 2-ounce lead going into the final day, when only the top 12 anglers will be competing.
“I told my co-angler today that this is about as tough a day as I’ve ever had – ever – on this lake,” said Andy Montgomery, who lives in Blacksburg, S.C., and won the last Bass Pro Shops Open on Lake Norman in 2014. “It’s really tough out there. It’s hard to get a bite. I didn’t even have a limit until 12:30 or so.”
Montgomery’s limit weighed 12-2 Friday and moved him up from 15th place on Thursday to seventh Friday. His two-day total is 24-3. Only 2 pounds, 15 ounces separates 2nd-place Jared Lintner (26-1) and 12th-place Patrick Walters (23-2).
“It’s the fishing pressure,” said Montgomery in explaining why Lake Norman is so difficult to solve now. “They had a big bass tournament last week. There were 300 or 400 boats in it. It’s just the pressure.
“A week ago this place was incredible. I bet if you asked those guys out here, their first day of practice was incredible. The pressure gets to them. You know you’re fishing behind someone all day.”
Patrick Walters, the Thursday leader with 15-12, barely made the top 12 cut Friday. The 23-year-old angler from Ladson, S.C., finished 3 ounces ahead of Tyler Berger of Delaware, Ohio, to earn the final spot in Saturday’s final.
“I bet I caught 50 fish today, but nothing of any size,” said Walters, who finished with a limit weighing only 7-6.
Fishing was plenty tough, especially for big bass, on Thursday, and it got even tougher on Friday. Among the 203 pro anglers, the number of limits decreased from 160 to 142 and the weight of the average bass brought to the scales dropped from 1.84 pounds Thursday to 1.73 pounds on Friday.
It looks bleak for everyone but Strader, the Spring City, Tenn., angler who is coming off a Bassmaster Elite Series win Monday at Kentucky Lake. Strader said he could have had a 17-pound bag Thursday, when he weighed 13-13 and was in sixth place.
“I lost two 4-pounders,” said Strader, adding, “You never know about bass. Just when you think you’ve got them figured out, they’ll fool you. But I’m getting enough bites on docks that I think I could bring in a decent limit (if he has to go to his fall-back plan). I think if I could catch 10 or 11 pounds, I’ll be pretty good.”