Photo: Capt. Gus with a trophy Lake Norman striped bass.

November and early December have been relatively mild, with surface water temperatures hovering around sixty degrees. That’s warm for this time of year, so it’s no wonder that bass and crappie fishing has been good.

On the other hand, hybrid and striped bass fishing has been hit or miss. “Linesider” fishermen are patiently waiting until water temperatures dip into the low fifties. According to, the wait will not be long. The long-range forecast calls for overnight temperatures near or below freezing, beginning soon and lasting thru the holidays. Winter officially begins on December 21.

In the meantime, the majority of striper and hybrids catches have been in the main channel and finger creeks above the Highway 150 Bridge. Those catching fish are getting an early start, and are keeping one eye on the fish finder and the other on the sky. The fish finder indicates the depth of forage and predator fish below the boat, while diving sea birds indicate fish on the surface.

The tips discussed below should help to improve your catch rate this winter:

When stripers and hybrids are surface feeding, use lures that create a disturbance on the water. Those that churn the surface or make a chugging or popping sound are best. While every angler has a favorite “go to” lure, some of the most popular ones are:

  • Rebel’s “Super Pop-R”- a three inch popper that’s heavy enough to cast long distances
  • Tackle Town’s handcrafted buzz and spinner baits
  • River2Sea’s “Whopper Plopper #90 or #130” – resembles a Zara Spook, but has a tail that spins
  • Atom’s “Striper Swiper” – the 3/8th oz. version is ideal for surface feeding linesiders.

The majority of time, hybrids and stripers feed below the surface. They can be caught by casting or trolling, depending on conditions. A few Lake Norman lure favorites are:

  • Alabama-Rig – an array of more than three artificial lures or baits used by a single rod and reel combination.
  • Roadrunner – This bladed, lead-head jig can be garnished with buck tail hair, soft plastics grubs or live baits.
  • Rat L Trap – A lipless crank bait that resembles a shad. It’s available in a variety of sizes and colors. The 3”, ½ oz., chrome blue back version is a good choice.
  • Mann’s Deep Diving 20+ or 30+ Crank baits: A long billed lure that can be cast or trolled to depths of thirty feet.

Live bait is preferred by those who adhere to philosophy that “it is easier to feed fish than to trick them.” Popular live baits are shad, herring, bass minnows, small perch, crappie and bream which are drifted or slowed trolled. Multiple rods are used to allow live baits to be suspended at various depths in the water column

Tips from Capt. Gus: Fish are very active just before inclement weather systems. It’s best to fish the day before and during the rain. As a rule, the first day after a front passes is slower than previous days.

Hot Spots of the Week: Crappie fishing is good to very good with twenty fish limits coming from covered boat docks, bridge pilings and submerged brush piles. White perch fishing is also pretty good for those fishing live minnows in water to fifty feet deep. As mentioned previously, bass are pretty active, with many coming from underneath boat docks and around downed timber, particularly up lake.

Lake Norman is about 2.6 feet below full pond and 2.5 feet below at Mountain Island Lake. The water surface temperature is in the high fifties and low sixties.

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