Winter bass action remains hot on NC’s Belews Lake

A drop-shot rig is a great way to catch winter bass on North Carolina’s Belews Lake.
A drop-shot rig is a great way to catch winter bass on North Carolina’s Belews Lake.

Pro angler knows this lake well

Joel Richardson of Kernersville, N.C., guides on a handful of reservoirs across North Carolina, but the one he knows most intimately is Belews Lake, the 3,863-acre fishing hole north of Winston-Salem and Greensboro, N.C.

“(A lot of) the land beneath the lake was once my family’s farm before the lake was impounded in 1973,” said Richardson. “I grew up fishing Belews.”

Over the years, Richardson has seen the bass fishing at Belews peak, fall and rejuvenate. But it’s still a great winter destination because of the hot-water discharge related to the Duke Energy power plant on the lake.

“The lake doesn’t get as warm as it used to because of changes in the way the water is recirculated through the power plant,” said Richardson ( “The water temperature stays in the 50s during the winter, but it doesn’t approach the 70s like it used to.”

Spots haven’t helped, but bass fishing remains excellent

The influx of spotted bass has also changed things.

“Spots were placed in the lake without the (N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s) knowledge, and their numbers have increased,” said Richardson. “The fish population is about 60/40, with the larger percentage being spots.”

Despite these changes, Richardson said Belews remains an excellent winter fishing hole.

“You can catch spots and largemouth shallow and deep,” said Richardson, who defines shallow as 20 feet or less.

Spinnerbaits, crankbaits, floating worms and shaky head jigs take fish from laydowns, shallow cover and long points.

“Belews is a clear lake where the fish scare easily in shallow water, though it’s somewhat dingier this year because of all of the rain we’ve had,” said Richardson. “I use spinning tackle and 10-pound line or less.”

Richardson said most fish favor deep, open-water.

“They’re not structure-oriented, just roaming freely after an easy meal,” said Richardson. “They can be caught as deep as 50 feet.”

Anglers skilled with electronics “video-fish” for suspended bass by vertically dropping small jigs, spoons, tailspinners or drop-shot rigs in front of the fish after viewing them on their units.

Spots run from 3/4 to 2 pounds; largemouth from 21/2 to 3 pounds.

“Find the forage and you can catch 10 or more fish in a hurry; if you can’t find the forage, you can go hours without a bite,” said Richardson.