Spawning bass could play major role on Lake Norman

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Seigo Saito
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Andy Montgomery will be among more than 400 pro and co-anglers competing in the second Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Eastern Open May 10-12 on Lake Norman out of Cornelius, N.C.

CORNELIUS, N.C. — When a major bass tournament is held in the southern half of the United States in May, it’s a safe bet the spawn will a play big factor in how the first-place prize is earned.

The Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Eastern Open No. 2 on Lake Norman will be no different.

The tournament is scheduled for Thursday through Saturday, with daily takeoffs at 6:15 a.m. CT from Blythe Landing in Huntersville, N.C., and daily weigh-ins are set for 2:15 p.m. back at the landing on Days 1 and 2. The final-day weigh-in will be held at 3:15 p.m. at the Bass Pro Shops in Huntersville, N.C.

Andy Montgomery, a Bassmaster Elite Series pro from neighboring South Carolina, said determining the phase of the spawn will be job No. 1 for the anglers.

“We’ve had a late winter, so that leaves a lot of question marks,” said Montgomery, who won the most recent Open held on Lake Norman in 2014 with a three-day total of 37 pounds, 10 ounces. “If the bass are spawning, it is really hard to compete if you’re not sight fishing.”

That tactic could be tough, Montgomery said, due to the stained water conditions from recent heavy rains in the area. If visibility is a problem, he expects anglers to choose baits that will cover a lot of water to help them find spawning fish that they can’t actually see.

“The lake may be dirty,” he said. “You may see something like a big spinnerbait come into play — something that traditionally wouldn’t catch them on Lake Norman.

“Again, the biggest key, is whether or not they are spawning.”

If it turns out the spawn is over — or at least in its final stages — Montgomery said it could be a much tougher tournament. Anglers will be forced to turn to typical postspawn haunts and target fish that might not be in the mood to bite.

“There will be fish that have spawned out that will be on points and docks and things like that, but I don’t believe you can win on that pattern alone — especially if you still have some on the beds,” he said. “There will be a lot of fish caught, no matter what you like to do on Lake Norman.

“If they are finished spawning, docks and largemouth will become keys.”

In 2014, Montgomery weighed in 13 spotted bass and two largemouth to win with 37-10. He said he expects the largemouth to play a bigger role this time — and because of that, he believes the winning weight will be higher, even if the fishing is tougher.

“It will take around 45 pounds if the fish cooperate,” he said. “You could definitely see some 18- to 20-pound bags.”

The tournament will feature a full field of more than 200 boats — each with a pro division angler and a co-angler — for the first two days. Only the Top 12 pro and co-anglers will advance to Saturday’s final round.

The pros also will be trying to rack up enough performance points in this and three other Eastern Opens to qualify for the season-ending Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Championship to be held in October. The winner on Norman also gets a berth in the championship, which will qualify seven anglers for the 2019 Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods in Knoxville, Tenn., and will earn 11 anglers invitations to compete in the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series.

The winner in the pro division will earn $52,000 in cash and prizes, while the winning co-angler receives a $30,000 cash/prize combo.

Visit Lake Norman, Visit Cabarrus and Visit Charlotte are hosting the event.