Fishing With Capt. Gus: How to Catch Fish in April & May

Check the banks and shallow shorelines

Capt. Gus Gustafson of Lake Norman Ventures, Inc. was an outdoor columnist and full-time professional fishing guide on Lake Norman, NC. He passed away in April 2023 and is greatly missed. His memory lives on in his timeless advice columns as an expert angler.

The best times to catch bedding bass are during the new and full moons in April and May. Those not bedding — the pre- and post-spawn fish — will be holding in pocket openings, near shallow points and on the shady side of boat docks. The best baits to use in April are football jigs, soft plastics, spinner baits and Alabama rigs.

April is the month that bass, hybrids and crappie will be swimming along shallow shorelines. They’ll either be spawning or feasting upon a spring buffet of minnows, fish larvae, insects, small birds and aquatic animals. Cast for bass and crappie along banks lined with brush, overhanging branches and willow trees.

Tournament series football lure for April and May fishing
Tournament series football lure by Old Fart Lures.

Boat docks are year-round haunts for big fish. Catfish, some over 30 pounds, roam the shallows from dusk until dawn. They’re easy to catch on a variety of stink baits, chicken parts and fresh-cut bait. Other cats can be taken throughout the day in deeper water.

Large bass and stripers will be particularly aggressive after dark, so fish topwater lures near lighted boat docks. The best fishing begins a couple hours after sunset; give the fish time to adjust to the darkness and for the lake to settle. When conditions are favorable, the bite can last for hours.  

White perch fishing improves toward the end of the month with the best catches coming from live crappie minnows fished near the bottom in 15 to 20 feet of water. The same brush piles that hold crappie will attract perch. As a reminder, North Carolina doesn’t have a size or creel limit on white perch, so you can keep all you catch.

junebug spinner lure for april and may fishing
Kajun Boss Outdoors Junebug sinner lure (Photo by Andy Crawford Photography)

A combination of warm weather and great catches make April one of the best months to fish. The white perch bite is especially good on Lake Tillery, Badin Lake and Lake Norman.

Regardless of the method you use, whether casting artificial lures or drifting live and cut baits, sooner or later a fish will most likely hit your line.

Bonus Tip from Capt. Gus: A cup or two of dry dog food thrown around the dock each day will not only feed the ducks but serve as chum to attract fish. To prevent the pieces from floating away, first allow the food to soak in water for a few minutes.

Captain Gus Gustafson

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