Bass fishing in North Carolina can’t get much better than this in April
The glory days of largemouth bass fishing at Jordan Lake are long gone.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed the dam to impound the Haw River and New Hope Creek in 1973, and it took until 1984 to get the lake to full pool. Bass fishing hit its zenith during the next half-dozen or so few years.
When Jordan first opened to the public, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission hadn’t thought much about creel and size limits, so anglers filled ice chests with football-shaped bucketmouths from two to 10 pounds. It wasn’t unusual to catch 100 fish in a day, especially on one spot, a flooded roadbed — the former Pea Ridge Road — that stretched about a half-mile from Vista Point to a point just east of the current New Hope Overlook boat launch.
A visitor could walk across the lake on watercraft — bass rockets, jonboats, pontoon boats — lined up on top on that roadbed, with anglers dropping Hopkins spoons into the ditches on either side of the submerged asphalt and waiting maybe 10 seconds before getting slammed by a Jordan chub.
The Commission finally imposed a creel limit in 1987, reducing the daily take to four fish, with a 16-inch size minimum.
At that point, Jordan became a “trophy” fishery and it’s remained pretty much that way the last quarter century.
Some Jordan regulars say they’d rather fish Falls of the Neuse Lake during the spring spawning season because, the theory goes, beavers chewed up most of Jordan’s flooded shoreline wood, especially the willow bushes that female “hawgs” like for spawning beds.
Well, believe what you want — Jordan’s still an ol’ gal who hides plenty of lunkers under her shoreline skirts in April. The spawn will be in high gear, and fish will be on the beds. Anglers can have a time catching all the male bass they want that are guarding fry. The occasional 10- to 12-pound female will gulp down a jig-and-pig or plastic lizard.
There’s really not much sight-fishing because the water’s usually dingy. If spring rains have soaked the land, the lake can be downright nasty-looking, making seeing beds almost impossible unless you’ve got Superman’s x-ray vision.
But not to worry. Long-time anglers know where Jordan’s lunkers are likely to be.
One of those experts is former bass pro Jeff Thomas of Broadway, a Jordan regular who has won his share of tournaments at the 13,900-acre lake, knows its coves like the floor of his Ranger; His business, CarolinaOutdoors.net offers guide trips on the lake.
Thomas agreed to show North Carolina Sportsman 10 of the Jordan’s best spring-time bass hotspots
1 — Ebenezer Bridge rip-rap
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It makes sense that Thomas starts his milk-run at the Ebenezer Church Bridg,e because that’s where he almost always launches his boat.
“The rip rap along the bridge meets the ‘Three Ps’ on this lake for me — it’s the most prominent, productive and profitable spot for me to win tournaments,” said Thomas, 50, who believes the wind is a big key to fishing this stretch of rip-rap in April.
“The best wind comes out of the north here,” he said. “That way, you have no trouble fishing the whole stretch.”
In early April, he’ll throw a Shad Rap or spinnerbait parallel to the rip-rap, dropping lures a foot or two from the rocks and retrieving steadily back to the boat.
“It’s a text-book, prespawn spot,” he said, “and it’ll warm up quick — but not on the north side — when the sun gets up. I still think the rocks, even on the north side, are warmer and draw shad, which draws bass.”
2 — Beaver Creek Osprey Nest
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Thomas’ second choice is just a few hundred yards from Ebenezer Bridge to the east — small pockets and points on the north side of Beaver Creek. A favorite landmark this side of the lake is a pine tree on a point that holds a large osprey nest near the water.
“I come back here in early April and throw a Custom Lures Unlimited Vortex lipless crankbait,” he said. “The water’s shallow, only two to three feet deep.”
He also tries a floating worm around some of the underwater structure, mostly stumps, that are inside these shallow coves, sometimes sitting off the points and casting to them.
“I like to use Danny Joe Humphrey’s custom floater back there,” he said. “I fish that worm wacky style with a TroKar drop-shot circle hook. You can cover a lot of water that way, and you’re fishing beds. When the water’s clear, you can see a lot of suspended bass in the shallow water.”
3 — Little Beaver Bridge blowout
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This spot is an old bridge blowout toward the back of Little Beaver Creek, a place where an old road once crossed the creek.
The mangled bridge supports are underwater, and a buoy marks the center. The bottom of the channel there is 16 feet deep.
“You can catch bass in the channel at the bridge, coming into the back of the creek in early April to spawn,” Thomas said. “In late April, you can catch ’em going back out.”
A stretch of standing timber at the mouth of Little Beaver is a “killer place in the prespawn, especially if the water level is up,” Thomas said.
Bass will spawn between the trees and the blowout, Thomas said.
4 — Back of Little Beaver Creek
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The back of Little Beaver Creek also is a good spot when the spawn is cranking hard.
“It’s a good spot because the creek channel runs along the left side, then cuts toward an osprey nest on the opposite side, then goes straight to the back,” Thomas said. “It’s a migration route. The back of Little Beaver sets up perfect, with the creek channel next to the spawning flat.”
Generally, Thomas flips a jig-and-pig at this spot when bass are moving.
“I like to throw to stuff (wood) that’s fallen over when they’re staging to move to the back,” he said. “But if the water’s up, they’ll stay in the timber.”
His favorite flippin’ lure is a Sweet Beaver 5/16th-ounce soft-plastic creature bait by Reaction Innovations, rigged on a Tro-Kar Lazer 3-0 flippin’ hook.
5 — Million Dollar Island
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Headed south toward the dam for a stretch, Thomas turns the bow of his Ranger toward the west shoreline where the Haw River arm joins the main lake and what he called “Million-Dollar Island.”
“It’s a great place in spring,” he said. “(The shallows) are covered in grass.”
When the water level is high, he flips jigs in the vegetation; when it’s low, he throws a spinnerbait.
“The big spawning flat behind it is great in the spring,” he said. “It’s the mouth of a spawning cove with the main channel in front, a textbook area.”
The long, narrow island is surrounded by aquatic grasses. Thomas said he wasn’t sure if the vegetation cleaned the normally dingy spring water, but “you can see 3½ or 4 feet down in the water, and you can’t do that any other place on the lake.”
Thomas said he’s won several tournaments with bass caught on this spot, thus his nickname, “Million-Dollar Island.”
6 — Kirk’s Creek roadbed
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At Jordan, fishing during the spawn often is about relatively shallow, underwater structure.
Thomas’ next spot is on the south side of Million-Dollar Island. It’s another roadbed, but this time, the old road has a bridge that apparently crossed a feeder creek into the Haw River and the Corps’ engineers didn’t bother demolishing it.
“It’s the Kirk’s Creek road bed,” Thomas said. “Normally during the spawn and prespawn, most people are beating the bank, but this is one place I don’t do that,” he said.
Thomas as a side-view depthfinder, a Lowrance Structure Scan, that helps him fish this (and similar) areas.
“You can see the culvert that goes under the road, and you can even see bass in the ditches on either side of the road,” he said. “I call it ‘Crack TV.’ When I first got it, I rode for days, just lookin’ at it.”
Thomas said the ditches along the roadbed are migration routes for bass.
“The bottom is 21 feet, but it comes up to nine feet real quick,” he said.
Thomas usually fishes the roadbed with a football jig and half-ounce Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Craw trailer.
7 — Robeson Creek
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One of Thomas’ favorite spring bass hangouts is Robeson Creek, a Haw River feeder stream off Gum Springs Church Road.
It’s a narrow creek about a half-mile long with downed trees and rocky banks on either side, leading to a boat ramp in the back.
“It warms up quicker than any creek on the whole lake,” Thomas said, “and it has a roadbed that runs down the left side (from the boat ramp).
“Bass love it in here, and it’s got more big fish than any creek. Tournaments releasing fish in here are enough to keep it populated with bass. They run jonboat tournaments out of here. It’s the most popular community (ole on the lake. FLW and BFL regional championships have been won in here. The N.C. State (Bass Pack) won tournaments here, too.”
Thomas said he fishes Robeson Creek with spinnerbaits — “a ¾-ounce double-willow leaf is good,” he said — lipless crankbaits and small crankbaits if the Haw River is still cold, usually during early April.
“The windier the better, because the wind can’t get to you,” he said. “It’s one of the few places you can throw a Shad Rap on the lake in spring when it’s windy.”
8 — US 64 Causeway
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The US 64 causeway that traverses Jordan Lake from west to east may be the single most-productive piece of structure on the impoundment.
Stretching across two sections of water — New Hope Creek on the east and Parker’s Creek on the west — it’s about three-quarters of a mile long and covered with rip-rap rock from end to end on both sides.
“Rip-rap is probably going to be the hottest spot if it’s still cold in early April,” Thomas said. “The sun warms up the rocks, that warms up the water and that pulls in baitfish, which means bass are gonna come runnin’.”
Some favorite rip-rap lures include 3/8ths-ounce gold Hawg Caller double-willowleaf spinnerbaits, shallow-running crankbaits or jerkbaits fished parallel to the rip rap.
9 — Back of White Oak Creek
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The back of White Oak is another outstanding place to fish when the spawn is going full blast and the water is a foot or two up in the willow bushes.
“You can sight-fish in April,” he said. “The bass will be at the bases of the willow trees, as long as the water isn’t falling real hard.”
If the Corps decides to flush water through the dam, this is a tough place.
“They’ll leave the trees quicker than anything when the water’s falling,” he said. “If it’s stable or rising, they’ll be there, and there’s no doubt that’s where I’m going.”
Thomas flips a blue/black jig-and-pig or a Sweet Beaver creature bait at sow bass lying around the bases of the willow trees if the water’s up.
“I think the Sweet Beaver catches more buck bass, but I’ll switch to a jig-and-pig if I’m going for a big fish,” he said.
One good aspect is the creek’s water usually is clear during spring.
“I think the (spring) BFL tournament was won here (in 2010) by someone who was sight fishing in White Oak,” Thomas said.
10 — Bush Creek
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Bush Creek can be another hawg heaven for April anglers.
A few days of warm weather at the end of March will push sow bass into the shallow coves along the east shoreline and into the spawning flat at the creek’s back.
“It’s not so much a sight-fishing creek most of the time, so you just cover the pockets,” Thomas said. “But Flash Butts caught 18 pounds of bass sight-fishing in Bush Creek in April (2011) and won a tournament.”
Sow bass will concentrate around flooded willow bushes, and a jig-and-pig will be the weapon of choice.
The only problem, especially during weekends, will be competition with crappie anglers. Bush Creek’s upper spawning flat and woody shoreline draws droves of slab hunters and spider riggers.
Jeffrey Thomas can be contacted at http://www.carolinaoutdoors.net/ or 919-770-4654.