Andy Fox of Claremont isn’t one to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially if it’s got fins, scales and a big mouth.
Fox, who runs Fishers of Men Guide Service, isn’t exactly sure what’s happened to the largemouth bass fishery at Lake Hickory over the past handful of years, but as long as he’s catching more and bigger fish than ever, he’s not going to ask too many questions, especially this month.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I don’t know what’s happened at Lake Hickory in the past three or four years, but it’s just exploded, especially for big fish.
“The fishing has really taken off; you can catch a lot more fish, and a lot more big fish.”
Fox (828-312-8771) said the bite has been good all winter, but it will really take off in March, as fish begin to make their first big move toward shallow water for the coming spawn.
“March should be a really, really good month,” he said. “A lot of fish will be staging, and by the end of the month, you’ll have some fish going on the bed. It depends on the weather exactly when it starts. Late March can be phenomenal, and mid-March and be really good if it starts to warm up.”
Fox said most of the action on the 4,223-acre Catawba River reservoir is confined to main-lake areas. A handful of major feeder creeks feed the lake, but he said there’s a huge population of bass that call main-lake areas home year-round, rarely leaving — even to spawn.
“I like to fish the main lake around mid-lake,” Fox said. “I like to get on main-channel riprap, especially the Alexander County (north) side of the lake, because of the way it breaks off into the channel; there are some deep drops. And you’ve got hundreds and hundreds of yards of riprap to fish.
“A lot of fish will spawn in the pockets off the main lake; they’ll spawn on the boat ramps at (NC) 127 and Oxford Dam. They will spawn in places you wouldn’t believe, and some of them will go up at the end of March, especially if we have a quick warm-up.”
Fox searches for concentrations of bait with a Strike King KVD Slash 300 jerkbait in Sexy shad color. When he feels like he’s in the right area, he’ll slow down and fish either a jig or a shaky head jig with a Zoom Big Critter Craw.
“I’ll catch ‘em right in the (riprap) rocks,” he said. “You’ll get hung up a lot with a jig or a shaky head, but it’s worth it; they’ll catch big fish.”
Fox said a bonus has been the appearance of a healthy population of spotted bass on the lower end of the lake.
“It’s nothing to catch four or five every day between 2 1/2 and 3 pounds, fishing a shaky head in brush about 20 feet deep off points and rocky banks,” he said.