Andy Fox of Fishers of Men Guide Service changes tactics during April as largemouth bass transition from staging areas to their spawning grounds on North Carolina’s Lake Hickory. In either phase, Fox (828-312-8711) said plenty of bass from 4 to 7 pounds will be caught this month.
“This is the time the big female bass move in to stage,” said Fox, who is from Claremont, N.C. “It’s the best chance a fisherman has for catching a trophy fish.”
In early April, with water temperatures ranging from the mid-40s to the lower 50s, bass are staging near the closest spawning grounds. Fox looks for fish in 3 to 8 feet of water halfway back in cuts, along riprap banks and bridges and around docks.
“My favorite way to catch staging fish is with suspending jerkbaits,” said Fox, who will also fish swimbaits, square-billed crankbaits and Alabama rigs.
When the water temperature rises into the upper 50s and the lower 60s, usually around mid-April, bass move to their spawning grounds. The spawning period may linger into early May.
“Lake Hickory bass spawn all over the lake,” Fox said. “There’s no one particular place that’s better than others.”
Fox said bass make their beds in shallow cuts, little pockets, the backs of coves, mid-lake flats and shell-laden bottoms in water 3 feet deep or less on Hickory, which covers 4,223 acres on the Catawba River upstream from Lookout Shoals Lake and downstream from Lake Rhodhiss.
“That’s when I put on my polarized glasses to sight-fish for bass,” said Fox. “Sight-fishing is popular with most local fishermen.”
Fox said Hickory’s a good sight-fishing lake because its waters are usually clear in the spring, except where pollen has fallen falls on the lake’s surface, giving the water a slightly stained or tinted appearance.
“The first thing I do is make a few casts into the nest to determine if the bass is locked on and ready to defend its territory,” said Fox. “If the fish continually swims off, I’ll look for another bedding bass. I don’t spend an hour or so trying to coax a bass to strike.”
Unlike some fishermen who opt for spinning gear to taunt bedding bass with a variety of plastics, floating worms and jigs, Fox sticks to baitcasting gear, using a medium-heavy rod and a Lew’s high-speed reel spooled with 15-pound fluorocarbon. The reel has an 8.3:1 gear ratio to move a fish from its bed with authority.
While many fishermen think of Hickory as a striped bass lake, the largemouth bass fishery has been booming since 2013, according to Fox.