Bassmaster Elite Series pro Hank Cherry of Maiden, N.C., will fish Lake Norman in the 2014 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open #3 presented by Allstate, Oct. 2-4. This is the final event in the 2014 Southern Opens Series. Photo by Gary Tramontina/Bassmaster
CHARLOTTE, N.C. â For the third time in the past four years, North Carolinaâs Lake Norman plays host to the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open presented by Allstate. This event challenges competitors with very different conditions than in the two preceding Opens held on Lake Norman.
The earlier events, held in the spring, were dominated by largemouth bass. Ohioan Fletcher Shryock sacked 49 pounds, 9 ounces of bass in late March 2011 by fishing a ledge and flipping to bushes. That victory launched his Bassmaster Elite Series career.
North Carolina angler Tracy Adams won in early April the following year. He fished for bedding bass, catching 45 pounds, 6 ounces of fish over the three-day tournament.
This year, however, the largemouth wonât be locked into predictable prespawn or spawning agendas. Spotted bass, which are far more abundant at Norman, will dominate the catch. However, largemouth will likely be essential to nab the victory, said Elite Series pro Hank Cherry of North Carolina.
âWhoever wins will need at least one kicker largemouth every day,â Cherry said. âDepending on the weather conditions, 12 1/2 to 14 pounds will be a big limit.â
Cherry, who will be fishing the Open, lives within 12 minutes of five different boat ramps at Lake Norman. He has been closely monitoring the lake in preparation for the tournament.
Several factors will work against the anglers, Cherry pointed out. One is that the lake level is down only 1 1/2 feet.
âThe lake is normally down 5 feet by this time,â Cherry said.
Lower lake levels tend to pull bass away from shoreline cover and stack them up offshore. Also, the autumn feeding spree usually doesnât get underway here until mid-October, Cherry explained. Bites are harder to come by until that happens.
The biggest hindrance is that Norman is in the throes of the dreaded fall turnover, a phenomenon that shuts down the bass. It begins upriver and works its way down to the dam, Cherry explained.
âPart of the lake is cleaning up from turning over, part is turning over and part of it will turn over soon,â Cherry said.
Cherry will avoid water that is turning over, and all the competitors would be wise to follow his lead. This isnât hard to do because, âthe bad water is as black as night.â
Cherry worried that heavy rains early this week would force Â dam operators to let more water pass through the gates, pulling the nasty black water farther down the lake. An area that produces bass one day could be void of them the next.
Rainfall was lighter than expected, but whether it helps or hinders the fishing is yet to be determined.
âThe fall turnover makes the bass move around more,â Cherry said. âYouâre not going to catch them in the same places or the same way every day.â
Since the turnover will eliminate some areas of the lake, it could make for crowded fishing conditions. Despite these hindrances, Cherry believes limits will be common thanks to Normanâs abundant spotted bass population.
âNorman has so many bass itâs ridiculous,â Cherry said. âWe donât have lots of 4- to 6-pounders, but there are bunches of bass that weigh 2 1/2 pounds.â
Normanâs Catch-22 is that the lower end of the lake has more spotted bass and is the best bet to secure a limit. Kicker largemouth are more abundant on the upper lake, and they are needed to clinch a victory.
Docks, rocks, laydowns and brushpiles anywhere on the main lake will have good bass potential. There is very little aquatic vegetation at Norman.
âYou could win here from 25 feet deep to as shallow as you want to fish,â Cherry said.
The weather during the tournament will dictate the tactics, Cherry believes. Calm, sunny weather will reward those who fish deep with shaky heads and drop shot rigs. Overcast, blustery weather will open the playbook to topwater baits and other power fishing presentations.
âThe bass are just starting to gang up,â Cherry said. âYou might pull up on a wolf pack of 10 or 12 fish and sack a quick limit.â
Cherry predicts it will take 14 pounds a day to win the pro division and 10 1/2 pounds a day to claim the co-angler title.
Competition begins Thursday as the anglers take off from Blythe Landing at 7 a.m. ET. Thursday and Fridayâs weigh-in will be held at the same location â Blythe Landing â and will begin at 3 p.m. ET. Saturdayâs weigh-in will be held at the Bass Pro Shops in Concord, N.C., and begins at 4 p.m. ET.
2014 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Title Sponsor: Bass Pro Shops
2014 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Presenting Sponsor: Allstate
2014 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Series Official Sponsors: Toyota, Berkley, Evan Williams Bourbon, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha
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The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series presented by Allstate, Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation events, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series,Â Bassmaster High School Series presented by Carhartt, Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by Diet Mountain Dew and GoPro.