Catching hybrids on Lake Norman

Guide Gus Gustafson displays a quality hybrid caught on Lake Norman.

Catch more Lake Norman hybrids with this bait

Gus Gustafson of Lake Norman Ventures flexes his “mussels” whenever he guides for hybrid bass at Lake Norman.

Gustafson said local fishermen have figured out how to catch hybrids.

“Until recently, most anglers fished for hybrids the same way they used to fish for stripers,” said the veteran guide. “Though they caught some hybrids, they didn’t realize they were overlooking the best bait for hybrids. While hybrids will hit spoons, jigs, swimbaits, lures and live shad, either cast or trolled, hybrids crave mussels which thrive at Norman.

”Mussels are inexpensive and packages of them are available at Food Lion and Walmart,” said Gustafson. “You don’t have to waste fishing time catching them with a net like you do with shad and then have to worry about keeping them alive.”

Mussel fishing has some downsides

“A mussel is very delicate and comes off a hook easily when cast. So vertical presentations work best,” said Gustafson. “You’ll also get nuisance bites from white perch, which also feed on mussels.”

For mussel fishing, Gustafson uses a light medium-action 7-foot spinning rod and reel. The reel is spooled with 10-pound test line holding a weight and bead. The line is connected to an 8-foot, 20-pound leader holding a No. 1/0, 1 or 2 bait hook. It’s basically a downsized Carolina rig.

“The leader is required because hybrids are spirited fighters that can snap light line with their antics,” said Gustafson.

Besides the C-rig, Gustafson may vertically fish a Texas rig or drop shot rig.

Whichever rig he chooses, he keeps the bait at least a foot off the bottom.

Gustafson locates hybrids by employing his electronics, by looking for birds and surface disturbances, or by noting boats bunched in one area.

Once he finds a school, he gives a spot 15 to 30 minutes to produce, then moves on.

During March, Gustafson said hybrids school in 25 to 50 feet of water, but will occasionally bust the surface, which is why he always has a topwater bait ready to throw.

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