Capt. Gus holds a spotted bass.
Photo courtesy of Capt. Gus

Spotted Bass were introduced to Lake Norman during the mid-to-late 1990’s. Since then, they have thrived in North Carolina’s largest freshwater impoundment. Thanks to them, Lake Norman, once called the Dead Sea by bass anglers, is now among the most popular stops on the FLW and BASS professional tournament trails.

The smallest fish of the black bass family gets its name from the black spots on its belly. It can also be identified by a rough patch on the tongue, which helps to hold, crush and eat crayfish. While smaller than its cousins (large and smallmouth bass), the spotted bass makes up for its size with tenacity, and is famous for the hard fight that often allows it to pull the hook when being landed.

Crayfish are an important part of a spotted bass’ diet but, Lake Norman’s shad and herring are the preferred food fish. Large schools of spots roam the waters and devour forage fish, either on the surface or in tight balls suspended near underwater structure. Unlike largemouth bass that hang out near docks and fallen trees, spotted bass prefer underwater humps, points and sharp drop-offs where schools of baitfish are likely to be.

Some speculate that spotted bass outnumber the largemouth by a ratio of ten-to-one at the lower end of the lake. This makes one wonder why the size and creel limit is the same for both species. Regardless, with a lake teeming with spots, professional anglers often catch and release thirty or more during a day of tournament fishing. To accomplish this, they use a variety of deep water techniques to entice them to strike.

Popular baits with tournament anglers are soft plastic lures fished drop-shot and shaky-head style, as well as, artificial worms and lizards fished on Carolina rigs. Jigging spoons, buck tails and crank-baits are also quite effective, particularly when schools of fish are feeding aggressively. When conditions are right, spotted bass will crash the surface in an attempt to silence the sound of a noisy top water lure.

For those new to spotted bass fishing, fall is a great time to catch a limit. Spots spend much of the day in water less than fifteen feet deep. This makes them easy targets for anglers who use light spinning tackle to cast or troll crank-baits. Best crank-bait colors are chartreuse, crayfish, silver and blue. Once a fish is caught, continue to fish the area thoroughly for additional members of the school.

On Lake Norman, the size limit for black bass (including largemouth and spotted) is fourteen inches. Two fish can be less than fourteen inches. The creel limit is five fish in the combination.

Tips from Gus:
The inquisitiveness of a spotted bass will attract it to a small bait that moves erratically. Small soft plastic worms fished on a drop-shot rig are popular baits. Lake Norman holds the state record for a 6.5 lb. spotted bass caught in December, 2003.


September Fishing Forecast: The Fall Equinox occurs on the day when daylight and night are of equal length. This year, it happens on September 22nd. Also known as the first day of autumn, it is significant to fishermen as it signals the end of summer and high temperatures.

The fall cool down is not only refreshing to anglers, but fish also sense it and become more energized. Their newly found energy is used to chase forage fish as they begin to bulk up for the winter season.

What can Lake Norman anglers expect to catch in September? Lots of bass, along with a mixed bag of white perch, crappie and hybrids. By mid-month, seventy-degree water temperatures will trigger a migration of fish to the shore. When this occurs, fish are easier to locate, and can be frequently taken by those casting to the shoreline.

One of the best places to find fish early in the month will be upriver, where the water temperature is least affected by power generation. The area between the State Park and Buffalo Shoals Rd. Bridge is a good starting place to target schooling bass, large crappie and hybrids. Bass will spend most of the day chasing baitfish to the surface, and crappie will move inshore near brush piles, downed trees and deep-water fish attractors.


Upcoming Events:

  • Free Fishing Seminar – “Getting Ready for Fall Fishing on Lake Norman”- Jake Bussolini will conduct this ninety-minute seminar beginning at 6:30 p.m. on September 21st. at Lake Norman Volunteer Fire Dept., 1518 Brawley School Rd., Mooresville, NC. For additional information, contact Jake at 704-201-8709.


Lake Norman’s water level is about 3.0’ below full pond. The surface water temperature is in the eighties in water not affected by power generation.


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 at or call 704-617-6812.