Mike Marsh Outdoors

Mike Marsh’s book, Fishing North Carolina, shares his best-kept secrets for fishing 100 lakes, rivers, ponds, sounds and piers.


To order:

Fishing North Carolina ($26.60),

Inshore Angler:

Carolina’s Small Boat Fishing Guide ($26.20),


Offshore Angler:

Coastal Carolina’s Mackerel Boat Fishing Guide ($22.25)


mail a check or money order to:


Mike Marsh

1502 Ebb Drive

Wilmington, NC 28409

or visit www.mikemarshoutdoors.com

for credit card orders.



Piedmont Lakes Fishing Report: February-March 2019

What to expect when you head out to fish the lakes of the Piedmont over the next few weeks. Get a clue from noted outdoor writer Mike Marsh.

Catawba Reservoirs


Lake Hickory

Randy Moose (Lyndon’s Riverview Sports, 828-632-7889) said bass will be striking crankbaits on primary points.


“The bass are biting Bill Norman Little N and Middle N lures,” he said. “Another good crankbait is the Spro Little John 50. They are biting all over the lake, but the best places points, riprap and are anywhere else with rocks.”


By March, when the water is warmer, anglers can add other lures to their arsenals. Bass will be hitting Zach’s spinnerbaits in chartreuse or white colors.

Another good bet is a Zoom Fluke in Pearl or Smokin’ Shad colors.


Stripers will strike bucktail jigs on main channel points. If the fish are picky, adding a Zoom Magnum Fluke trailer should liven up the bite. In a pinch, drifting live shad should stir up some striper action.


Crappie anglers should hit brush piles with 1/32-ounce Bobby Garland jigs. The hottest colors are Hot Lips, Baby Shad and Electric Chicken. Using 2-pound test will boost the catch tenfold over heavier lines.

Catfish will bite Magic Bait in chicken liver or cheese flavors, cut fish and night crawlers. Deep channels are the best places for catfish.


Lake Norman

Capt. Gus Gustafson (Fishing with Gus, 704-617-6812) said late winter is the best time of year to fish because pleasure boaters stay home.


“It may be cold, but the hybrid bite is hot,” he said. “The hybrids are in the creeks and main channel. Look for birds, clusters of boats and look at your fish finder. The fish will be at 30-to-75-feet of water and suspended at 20-to-50-feet. You can catch them with jigging spoons, bucktail jigs and by trolling Alabama rigs. If the fish are in shallower water, they will hit deep diving crankbaits. The key is fishing as slow as you can go while still keeping your baits working properly. White perch and spotted bass will mix with hybrids and bite the same lures.”


If the weather is warm and the water high, largemouth bass will bite in the coves. Anglers should fish jerk baits, swimbaits and drop-shot rigs with 4-inch worms around buttonbushes, shoreline cover and docks. If a cold front moves through, anglers should fish drop-offs just offshore in deeper water. A last resort is fishing deeper docks with Texas rigged soft plastics or jerk baits.


Crappie will school at 10-feet to 40-feet. The easiest place to find them is at bridge pilings. They also hold tight to brush piles beneath docks and boathouses. To tempt crappie, anglers should soak minnows or jigs with as little movement as possible. The best lures are chartreuse curly tails, tube jigs and feather jigs in 1/64- and 1/32-ounce weights.


Blue catfish will bite on the bottom beneath hybrid schools. They will also mass in and near the power plant discharges. A one-degree temperature change is significant, so anglers should fish in the warmest water they can find. Trolling works well with the optimal speed less than one-half mile per hour. Fishing from an anchored boat also works. The best baits are fish chunks and chicken parts scented with garlic.

Lake Wylie

Jerry Neeley (Carolina’s Fishing Guide Service, 704-678-1043) said crappie should make anglers happy.

“The best way to catch crappie is by tight lining in 35-to-40-feet of water along the channel edges of the main lake,” he said. “I troll a Carolina rig with a half-ounce egg sinker baited with a minnow. I look for fish with my depth finder and they are usually just off the bottom. I troll at one-half mile per hour and run a HydroWave H2 speaker on a shad setting to really make them bite.”


At the end of February, the water warms enough for crappie to head for docks. Neeley shoots jigs under the docks or jigs in the brush piles. In March, trolling the creeks with long lines catches bigger fish.

For white perch, anglers should troll Big Allison Creek and Mill Creek with two-hook down line rigs. At the mouth of Big Allison, the big island near Ebenezer Park is a good place to troll.


Catfish will feed in white perch schools. The main lake is the best bet in February. As the water warms in March, the fish head to creeks, including South Fork River, Mill Creek and Catawba Creek. The best bait is white perch chunks.


For catching bass, the best spots are Big Allison Creek when the Catawba Nuclear Plant is operating and South Fork River when the Allen Steam Plant is operating. As the water warms up, bass move to the creek mouths. A Carolina rig with a worm cast to shoreline structure will catch them. In March, casting a spinnerbait to lay downs in muddy water will entice the biggest bass. Another good bet is casting a Rapala Minnow or KVD DD-8 crankbait in the backs of the coves.


Lake Wateree

Bryan Rice (bryanricefishing.com), a pro angler on the FLW T&H Marine BFL circuit, said the bass bite is dicey.


“Due to rainy weather all winter we have had high, muddy water,” he said. “Under those conditions I hit the banks in 3-to-5-feet of water with black-and-blue Pro Line jig, casting it to any woody cover I find.”

In early March, the fish should ratchet up into the feeding mode as the water warms. Rice ricochets a Bay Rat 1.5 square bill crankbait off the rocks.


The best colors are Fire Tiger, G-ville Craw and Dirty Rice, a color that Bay Rat Lures named for him.


By the end of March, the bass will be in the pre-spawn mode, with the males looking for the pebble banks and bottoms and the females patrolling the nearby drop-offs. On sunny days, the shallows warm up quickly so anglers should fish soft plastics on the sunlit banks.


Rice casts a Carolina rigged Zoom Trick Worm in black or June Bug colors. Another tactic is casting Zoom French Fry finesse baits on drop-shot rigs. Best colors are watermelon, watermelon/red flake and pumpkinseed. He dips the tails of his soft plastics in chartreuse or yellow Dyeface garlic scent and the noses in Java scent.


Away from the banks, the humps with stumps will hold some bass. A ½-ounce Stan Sloan spinnerbait will lure them away. Best spinnerbait colors are silver willow-leaf blades with a white skirt in clear water and gold willow-leaf blades with a chartreuse skirt in stained water.





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