Photo of Capt. Gus with a Lake Norman Spotted Bass

Have you ever wondered why the guys on those weekend outdoor television shows seldom lose a fish? The bass jump a lot, but don’t shake off. The “wicked tuna” pulls line off the reel, but the line doesn’t part. And, at the end, the fish are slung into the boat, led to a net, gaffed or harpooned without incident.

How they land fish, after fish, without losing them is simple. It begins by using fishing tackle that matches the type and size of the fish being targeted. The drag setting on the reel is adjusted to about one third of the line’s breaking strength. And finally, a length of heavy leader material (for fish with teeth, sharp spines or rough skin) is attached to the terminal end of the line. The leader also helps prevent the line from breaking when the fish is close to the boat.

Weak line and improperly tied knots are the primary reasons some fish are lost. The first ten to twenty feet of line should be checked for nicks, rough spots and evidence of lost tensile strength. If the line appears opaque, is twisted, or is more than one season old, replace it. Best practices to follow suggest that a few feet of line be cut off each time a new hook or lure is tied and after every big fish is landed. Knots should be lubricated with saliva and pulled tight. Those that require multiple turns of line should be drawn up tightly without any overlapping.

Don’t try to save money by purchasing inferior terminal tackle. Snaps, swivels, and hooks should be of good quality and should match the line and tackle requirements of the fish you’re after. Hooks should be checked for sharpness, bent back into shape as needed and replaced when one or more of the treble hooks is missing.

A firm hook set, combined with steady pressure, will assure that the majority of fish tempted are landed. The key to wearing down a fish is to keep the rod bowed and pointed in the direction of the fish, not to erratically pump the rod and crank it at a high speed. Be smooth and steady, don’t jerk, and keep the line tight. Should the fish start to pull line off the reel, let the drag do the work. Hold the rod tip up and don’t wind again until the fish stops running. As the fish gets closer, stop reeling when the line is a rod length away, then lead it to the hand or net of the person responsible for landing it.

Tips from Capt. Gus:

  • The Five-turn Clinch and Palomar knots are most frequently used by bass, striper and cat fishermen.
  • Don’t try to overpower the fish by reeling too fast. Take your time and apply steady pressure while wearing it down.
  • Always net your catch head first.

Upcoming Events:

Free Safe Boating Class – “How to Navigate Lake Norman Day or Night” will be held at The Peninsula Yacht Club, 18501 Harbor Light Blvd, Cornelius, NC at 6:30 p.m. on September August 14th. Becky Johnson and I will cover “Understanding LKN’s Channel Marker and Buoy System”, “How to Avoid Shallow Water”, “Ten Most Dangerous Spots”, and “Interpreting Lake Maps”. For more information, call Ashley at 704 892 7575.

Free Fishing Seminar – “Using sonar to Improve Fall Fishing” is the topic of Jake Bussolini’s ninety-minute seminar beginning at 6:30 p.m. on September 21st at Gander Mountain, Exit 36, Mooresville, NC. For additional information, call 704 658 0822.

Fishing Report:

Look for schools of white perch swimming in deep coves. Best baits to use are shiny spoons and Sabiki rigs. Spotted bass, flathead and Arkansas blue catfish are shadowing the perch and are being caught on secondary rods baited with live perch on 5/0 hooks. Bass are surface feeding on points and in boat basins, particularly at dawn and dusk. Fishing after dark has been good to very good for largemouth bass, perch and crappie around lighted boat docks, bridge pilings and boat ramps.

The water level on Lake Norman is approximately 3.0′ below full pond. Mountain Island Lake is 2.9′ below full. Surface water temperatures are in the high eighties and low nineties, depending on location or proximity to a power plant.

Capt. Gus Gustafson of Lake Norman Ventures, Inc. is an Outdoor Columnist and a full time Professional Fishing Guide on Lake Norman, NC. Visit his website, or call 704-617-6812. For additional information, e-mail