For anglers who ply their craft with skill, the lake offers good prospects for largemouth bass, including some lunkers. Several years ago, I had a 6 1/2-pound largemouth in my livewell, and when I returned to the landing to meet my buddies, my fish wasn't even the third largest.
The lake straddles the North Carolina-South Carolina border, wedged between Charlotte and Gastonia (N.C.) and Rock Hill (S.C.). Interstate 85 crosses the upper end of Lake Wylie and
I-77 parallels the west shoreline.
With nearly 13, 500 surface acres and 325 miles of shoreline, this lake presents ample opportunities for largemouth anglers.
Fish the Top
"It's a lake that's very topwater friendly," said Clyde Osborne of Charlotte, who has fished at Lake Wylie for many years. "My favorite lure for Wylie topwater action is a Rattlin' Rogue. I swear by the gold with black back for Wylie largemouth.
"I work the Rogue just twitching it at the surface. Three twitches, pause, three twitches, pause.
"To be successful, you have to experiment with the twitches and pauses. Maybe more twitches or fewer, longer or shorter pauses. You have to vary until you find out what works on a given day."
Osborne, who has fished from Alabama to Ontario and throughout the Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia, is one of the best topwater anglers in the region.
Another topwater approach he recommended is a floating worm. Of course, this approach doesn't really utilize worms that float but ones that sink slowly.
Osborne used floating worms to have an excellent day at Lake Wylie during a recent June. He used white worms, rigged weedless, casting them toward the shoreline and allowing them to sink, rolling left and right.
That day the water at Lake Wylie was dingy and that proved to trigger a major bass strike. As the floating worms sank out of sight, lines would tighten and battles would begin. Key spots were at banks that dropped off to 4 or 5feet of water near woody debris.
"Actually, my favorite colors for floating worms are pink and merthiolate," Osborne said.
Dale Hester, who lives in Belmont and fishes Wylie often because it is close to his home (and because he catches lots of largemouth there), also recommends topwater lures for Wylie bass during the postspawn period.
"I've got lots of favorite topwater (lures)," he said. "I carry seven rods, so during the course of a day, I'll throw all kinds of topwaters.
"One of my favorites at Wylie is a buzzbait. I like the ones with a clacker, the little do-hicky that the rotating blade hits with each revolution. White or white-and-chartreuse skirts are my usual preference."
Hester said he also has a few other favorite topwater lures for the lake, including a chrome Spook Junior, chrome and blue Crazy Shad, and bone-colored Pop-R. But even with those lures, there's one other factor that Hester takes into account when fishing for Wylie's postspawn lunkers.
"For the prime topwater action, I'm on the water early," he said.
Hester, like Osborne, also relies on floating worms.
"I like the floating worm because you can skip it up under piers and boathouses," he said. "After the sun gets up a little, the largemouth retreat to the shady areas under (that type of structure)."
Skipping floating worms or tube grubs under shady piers and boathouses has worked well for many anglers at Wylie.
A couple of summers ago, while skipping a floating worm underneath a Wylie dock, one of the worms seemed stuck on the foam used to float the structure. Wiggling it wouldn't allow it to work loose. But then I noticed the line moving off to the side and, when I set the hook, a 6-pound-plus largemouth came out of the water.
No doubt about it, in my case a favorite color for floating worms and tube grubs is white. A good way to rig floating worms is with a single, light wire hook. The tubes I rig with a light leadhead stuffed into the cavity of the tube.
Fish the Middle
After the sun rises and things begin to heat up, Wylie largemouth may move away from the topwater bite. But they're nonetheless still around.
Osborne recommended concentrating at boathouses and piers.
"Around boathouses (using) the Rogue works," he said. "Cast as close as possible to the pilings, then twitch it back.
"Near the boathouses and piers I also use a Texas-rigged lizard with as light a weight as I can. My favorite is a Yum green pumpkin or pumpkinseed."
When moving to deeper water, Hester heads for the rip rap adjacent to causeways.
"The best spots, at least for me, are the rip rap at Wither's Cove, at Seven Oaks, or down along the Buster Boyd Bridge," he said. "I fish as close to the rocks as possible with a topwater, the same topwaters I use at other spots."
Other mid-depth spots Hester hits at Wylie are main channel points.
"One of the best is the point at Mill Creek," he said.
"On the points or where a flat drops off to the channel, where I can mark fish on the depth-finder, I can usually catch them with a Carolina rig," he said.
For the Carolina rig, Hester uses a relatively long leader below his weight. He said he doesn't chose the leader length for any scientific reason; he uses a leader long enough that the weight is near the rod tip and the hook close to the reel.
"For about five years now I have used a Zoom lemon pumpkin with a Carolina rig," Hester said. "I don't know as it's a secret, but when I fish a Carolina rig, I don't drag it along the bottom like most do. I raise it up so the weight comes off the bottom, then let it drop back to the bottom. I like the lizard to move up and down. So I bounce the weight along the bottom. Sometimes I count before I move it again to be sure I don't fish too fast. Maintaining contact with the bottom is key."
Hester, comparable to what Osborne does, also fishes at piers and boathouses.
"I run the buzzbait along the pilings," he said. "And I look for brush piles at the deep end of piers. The brush piles I fish with the Texas rig."
Hester said when the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society Classic came to Lake Wylie three years ago, many of the pros fished fallen trees above the Interstate 85 bridge.
"Some of those guys fished shallow-running crankbaits up there, right through the trees," he said. "I've tried it some and I want to get so I can do it."
A desire to experiment is one reason Hester is a top-notch largemouth angler - he's always trying to learn more about his pastime.
During the last few summers, I've spent most of my Lake Wylie time at the upper reaches of the lake, the spots Hester mentioned. Spinnerbaits and Texas-rigged lizards have worked best.
Although many Lake Wylie anglers call fishing this area "no news," the upper portions of the lake are well worth anyone's attention. One reason is noticeable current, fewer anglers and fewer recreational boaters.
Fish the Bottom
Mike Goodman drives a fairly long distance from his Nebo home to fish Lake Wylie. During the postspawn period, he fishes holes and humps at the old Catawba River channel. Humps are raised sections of bottom.
"Fish beyond the humps, toward deep water," he said. "The best days for fishing the humps in summer are the bright, sunny, bluebird sky days. On cloudy days, perhaps piers and boathouses will be more productive."
Goodman relies heavily on a 1-ounce Spot, one of the variety of lipless crankbaits. He drills a hole on the underside of the Spot, removes the old lead weight and inserts new and heavier weight, then re-seals the hole with epoxy. The revitalized Spot is much heavier and plummets to the bottom.
"Now the head of my Spot drops," he said. "Fish it like a Texas-rig. Lift and drop, lift and drop. The lure stays right at the bottom.
"When you get a hit, they'll jerk your arm right off."
Goodman has a special retrieve method that makes this technique effective.
"Make a long cast and feed line," he said. "If you don't feed line, the lure will swing back toward the boat. As soon as the lure hits bottom, jerk it off the bottom. Then crank three or four times and let the lure drop. Watch the line like a hawk. Lots of strikes will just be a slight twitch of the line."
Goodman said he doesn't fish an entire hump when he locates one.
"Fish ahead of the current," he said. "Current could be caused by wind or pulling water through the lake. If you see fish on the depth-finder, fish for them for about 10 minutes. If you catch them, great. If not, move on to the next hump. And work for the fish on the bottom. Suspended fish can be caught but not as readily as those on the bottom."
Goodman also fishes the humps with a large Hopkins Spoon, lifting and dropping this lure at humps where he sees fish. Goodman also anchors sometimes to fish the humps.
"They'll be on a spot as big - or as small - as the front of this boat," he said. "You need to put your lure right in the same spot, time after time. If the wind is up, you just about have to anchor to do this right."
Several years ago at Wylie, I fished channel-edge humps with deep-diving crankbaits and light monofilament. Once we located bass at a hump, my companion and I made long casts with Deep N crankbaits and let out line as we moved the boat across the hump with the trolling motor. Once we were 50-feet beyond the hump, we began to reel.
With the long lines out, lures had plenty of time to reach the depth where largemouths were holding. However, if anglers just make a cast, as the lure dives it also nears the boat. Chances are that type of retrieve will cause any deep-diving lure to track several feet above the fish that anglers so painstakingly worked to locate.
How to find such humps? Careful reading of a depth-finder is crucial.
With a good topographical map, follow the old Catawba River channel. Adjacent to the channel at intervals, anglers should note contour lines that form a circle or oval. Inside the contour lines will be a hump.
Among the best places to look are off the southern point of Mill Creek, near the River channel of the South Fork Catawba River, and off Paw Creek on both sides of the Catawba River channel. In fact, there are lots of such places.
Among my favorite ways to fish the deep-water humps is with a heavy, at least ¾-ounce, spinnerbait. Cast and feed out line until the spinnerbait hits the bottom. Then crawl the lure along the bottom.
The biggest Lake Wylie largemouth I caught using this technique weighed 6 1/2 pounds, and the fish hit as we were passing underneath the power lines that cross the main channel upstream from the South Fork.
While summer at Lake Wylie can get a bit hectic (water skiers, personal watercraft, sail-boaters and other pleasure crafts will turn the lake's surface choppy), the largemouth are still there.
The best advice is to fish during cloudy or rainy days and beat the piers and boathouses. During clear days, hit the deepwater humps and ledges.
Chances are good to catch a largemouth bass whose size will surprise anyone.