Lake Norman has "turned over", and not in the traditional sense that anglers talk about when observing the fall "turnover" of a lake that occurs after water temperature changes.

Norman's turnover is that it's changed from a striped-bass fishery to one dominated by spotted bass and flathead catfish.

Guide Craig Price of Denver said most of his fishing trips now are centered around an unusual lure choice - Sabiki rigs.

"The summer pattern I use now is mostly spotted bass, perch, mostly flathead catfish, occasional big bass, crappie and a few stripers we catch by putting Sabiki rigs on the bottom," he said.


Price (704-996-0946) cuts a standard Sabiki rig, which has 10 to 12 tiny hooks and small plastic starburst-type skirts, in half.


"I take a Tackle Town jigging spoon and tie it to the bottom (of the Sabiki), then we go to places I know and drop it down and start jigging," he said.


Price said anglers at Norman are likely to catch any of those species.


"Most of the bass we catch are spotted bass because they've mostly taken over the lake," Price said. "We usually end up first catching perch, because they're everywhere in schools and very aggressive.


"A lot of the time we might catch a perch, then a bass - a spot or a largemouth - might hit the perch. Flathead catfish also may hit a caught perch, but sometimes bass or perch or flatheads will hit the Sabikis. So it all starts with Sabikis."


He said more largemouths might hit the lures in summer "if you find a place where the largemouth bass are laying around."


Spotted bass have interbred with largemouth bass all over the lake, however, which is affecting spotted bass sizes and genetics of both species.


"It's like that guy who not too long ago thought he'd caught the new state-record spot and it turned out to be a hybrid (spot/largemouth) when they checked the genetics," Price said. "(Largemouths and spots) are getting so intermingled; the largemouth strain may be losing out at Norman."


A half-day's fishing trip might result in a handful or 20 to 30 spotted bass, he said, ranging from 1 to 4 pounds.With a Sabiki rig, anglers might pull up "five spots or two spots and three perch or a channel cat," Price said.

"Whenever one of my clients fells a tap-tap on his line and sets the hook, I tell them to let the rig stay on the bottom because they may catch four or five more fish, or a big fish might eat one of the fish they already have got on."

Flathead catfish range from 6 to 10 pounds, typically, but it's not unusual to land a 20- or 30-pounder.


"The flatheads love those perch," he said.


A few blue cats are caught on Sabiki rigs, but most are caught by fishermen dragging prepared or cut baits along the bottom.


"They find the blue cats in the backs of coves or off long points," Price said. "Blue cats don't follow perch schools like the flatheads."