More and more tournament fishermen are cashing in on the upriver bite at High Rock Lake. Some say it’s hard to beat.

“If there’s no current along the main lake, the fellows fishing the main body have a difficult time beating the fishermen who are fishing upriver,” said Winston-Salem’s Paul Tsiolkas, who placed third at the Sept. 14-15 Bassmaster Weekend Series at High Rock with 31.14 pounds and took the big-fish award with a 5.81-pound bass. “Anglers catching bass from piers usually can’t match the size of the bass upriver.”

Tsiolkas visits High Rock Lake frequently and fishes the upper reaches most of the time. His fishing strategy begins before he gets to the lake. First, he checks the Alcoa Power Generating Inc. Yadkin Division web site for water-release data. If the lake is being pulled, he anticipates a strong bite up the lake. If not, he still fishes upriver but alters his approach. APGI rarely pulls High Rock on weekends, so he expects a slower bite on Saturdays and Sundays.

Next, he checks the water level because running the river can be treacherous, if not impossible, under low-water conditions. 

“Motoring upriver is tricky, because after a major rain or flood, the river channel changes,” he said. “I hug the Davidson County side of the lake once I get beyond Swearing Creek. I’ve run the river with the water down six to seven feet by trimming my engine and following set directions. 

“The upper river can also be reached by hugging the Rowan County side of the lake. Never travel up the middle of the river. Fishermen unfamiliar with the river should get to know it before they zoom off. They can get stuck on mud flats or damage their lower units.”

Once High Rock drops two or three feet, fishermen should exercise care running the river and use their electronics – or go with experienced fishermen.

If there’s current, Tsiolkas fishes from Swearing Creek on up, targeting bushes and laydowns under high-water conditions. However, High Rock is now being lowered. As of Wednesday, it was down 1.8 feet.

“With the lake down, the bushes are out of the water, so I’ll fish rocks and laydowns,” said Tsiolkas. “I avoid fishing spots fished by others. I know many of the High Rock regulars and where they fish. I try to find my own spots. I also mix it up and fish different places each time because I can wear a place out fishing it too often.”

The first two hours on the lake, Tsiolkas tosses a buzzbait; thereafter, he fishes jigs and spinnerbaits. Most of the lures are of his own making.

If the lake is not being pulled, Tsiolkas makes a critical adjustment.

“I’ll stay upriver, but I’ll fish much slower,” he said.