The calendar shouted “Happy New Year”, but the water-temperature display on the screen of Carson Orellana’s Lowrence depth finder said 61.7 degrees.
Orellana, a college bass-fishing wizard from Mooresville, was easing his bass boat around a pocket in the back of a creek off the main body of Lake Norman late last week, and he was obviously having a good time.
Thanks to the second big rain in two weeks, the lake was brimming full and the surface temperature in the 32,500-acre lake had risen four degrees since Orellana returned from a Texas deer hunt the day after Christmas, and he took advantage of it on back-to-back days, catching almost 50 largemouth and spotted bass in water so shallow that he could have gone wading and not gotten wet above the knees.
“The water is the highest I’ve seen it in the seven years I’ve lived on the lake,” said Orellana, 20. “The bass are right on the bank, and you can probably catch them on just about anything.”
Orellana did most of his damage with a half-ounce, green pumpkin True South jig with a Zoom Big Salty Chunk trailer and a Megabass 100 jerkbait, while a No. 9 Shad Rap used by another fishermen in his boat produced a few fish. Their five biggest bass — which included a 4 1/2-pound largemouth and a 3 1/4-pound spotted bass — weighed around 14 pounds, a great weight for any page of the calendar, and especially for early winter.
“When the water came up, they rolled up on the bank,” he said. “Most of the fish have been about a foot or two off the bank.”
Orellana caught most of his fish off rocky banks or pier pilings closest to the bank in water that was very clear, so clear that he occasionally saw bass cruising the bank.
“The fishing is really like it’s early fall,” he said. “They’re on bait and crawfish, and you could probably catch them on just about anything. You’ve just got to cover a lot of water as much as the lake has come up in the last four days.”
Orellana said bigger numbers of bass are being caught on the lower end of the lake, especially in the Ramsey Creek area, but he believes the chances of catching bigger fish are better up the lake, closer to the NC 150 bridge. He concentrated on main-lake pockets and the backs of small feeder creeks.
“It’s like that almost any time of the year,” he said.