Work ledges for Lake Norman’s winter cats

Stock up on bait for Lake Norman blues

Kevin Custer of Statesville, N.C. is a consistent winner on the N.C. Catfish Association Tournament Series. And he begins his quest for big Lake Norman blue catfish at High Rock Lake.

Custer goes to High Rock to fill his bait tank, throwing a cast net.

“I go to High Rock to catch shad,” said Custer. “Catching bait is easier there than at Norman.”

After he gets about two dozen shad, he drives to the Pinnacle Access at Norman. Then he motors to the lower end of the lake to fish Reeds and Work creeks. These two creeks provide hot action for winter hefty blues.

With his electronics, he finds drop-offs and ledges in 25 to 30 feet of water. Then he anchors nearby in 10 to 15 feet of water. He casts his Santee-rigged baits down the sides of the ledges into deep water. He may cast a few baits in shallow water on the tops of the ledges and high spots.

Wind determines whereabouts of bait, and where Custer drops anchor

“If the wind is blowing against the ledge, bait will pile up against the ledges and drops, and the blues will follow,” Custer said. “I’ll anchor in a position that allows me to cast my baits against the ledges and drops.”

Winter on Lake Norman usually means excellent catches of quality blue catsfish.

Custer’s Santee rig is composed of a 3/8-ounce egg sinker slid on to  his main line consisting of 30- to 35-pound monofilament. A  swivel connects the main line to a doubled 24-inch leader with a 3-inch in-line float placed a short distance from a No. 8/0 Gamakatsu Octopus circle hook.

“I use a 30-pound monofilament leader that’s doubled for strength and that’s abrasion resistant,” he said. “I usually fish rocky terrain that’s rough on line; plus, big blue cats are notorious for rolling and cutting your line.”

Custer’s stout gear consists of a 9-foot-6 Shimano TDR trolling rod that has plenty of backbone and an Ambassadeur 6500 reel. He sets out six to eight rods in rod holders.

Custer cuts fresh shad into three pieces — head, center and tail — and discards the tail pieces.

“The tail pieces aren’t bloody enough to attract many cats,” he said.

Custer said the colder the weather, the better the fishing. He likes the water temperature to be around 42 degrees because that’s when the big fish become active.

“I’ve caught many 40- to 50-pound blue cats at Norman in cold weather, so bundle up accordingly,” Custer said.

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