MLF analyst Marty Stone with some chunky Falls Lake largemouth caught the same time of year that the MLF Bass Pro Tour will compete on this Raleigh-area lake. (Photo courtesy of Marty Stone)
By Joel Shangle - December 21, 2018
When the 80 anglers fishing the Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour arrive in Raleigh, North Carolina March 24-25 for their official practice days of the third event on the 2019 schedule, almost all of them will be surveying new water.
MLF’s announcement of Jordan Lake, Falls Lake, and Shearon Harris Reservoir as Stage 3 of the 2019 Bass Pro Tour brought into play three fisheries that have never hosted a tour-level event. And because none of the field of 80 reside in North Carolina, that announcement sent them on a mass research mission to learn some basic details about this trio of Tar Heel State gems.
According to longtime MLF analyst and former pro Marty Stone, they’re going to like what they find.
“We’re hitting these lakes at a time that should be picture-perfect to showcase the best that North Carolina has to offer,” said Stone, who lives 65 miles south of Raleigh in Fayetteville. “Falls and Jordan are the kind of lakes that you can show up in the springtime and catch 25- to 30-pound five-fish limits. Shearon Harris had a couple of local team tournaments two years ago where the best five weighed over 40 pounds. North Carolina doesn’t have the big-fish street cred of Texas or Florida or California, but I promise you, if you get bit in any of these lakes, it’s worth the price of admission.”
Shotgun Rounds on Jordan
Jordan Lake, the site of the two 40-angler Shotgun Rounds (March 26-27), is a 13,940-acre reservoir located due east of Raleigh. It produced two 9-plus-pound
“On the right day, Jordan Lake is one of the best lakes you’ll ever fish for largemouth,” Stone said. “It has a lot of both manmade and natural rock structure, and all kinds of laydowns. It’s a typical, good-old-fashioned Southern lake with good baitfish populations and stained water. And it’s a place where I’m going to go to catch a big fish.”
Falls Lake hosts Elimination, Knockout Rounds
When competition moves into the Elimination and Knockout rounds (March 28-30), the field will encounter similar rock structure and water clarity at Falls Lake, plus more prolific numbers of fish than Jordan. This 12,410-acre impoundment of the Neuse River 45 minutes north of Raleigh produced multiple 7- to 8-pounders during local and regional tournaments in 2018.
“I learned how to flip in Falls Lake,” Stone said. “It has the better population of bass in my opinion, but there’s still plenty of big ones there, too. It’s a lake that matured over time into a really high-quality fishery. It’s definitely one of North Carolina’s premier lakes.”
Shearon Harris provides a Championship curveball
Although it’s by far the smallest of the three competition lakes at only 4,100 acres, Sharon Harris Reservoir has the Championship Sunday potential to produce the heaviest pre-spawn SCORETRACKER™ numbers of the entire 2019 schedule.
In early March of 2017, it produced five-fish bags of 41.93 and 46.89 pounds on back-to-back weekends for the husband-and-wife team of Shane and Bonnie Burns (an average of nearly 9 pounds per fish).
This impoundment of Buckhorn Creek is the site of Harris Nuclear Plant and a recently recycling crop of submerged cover, both of which contribute to the fishery’s proliferation of 7-plus-pound largemouth.
“Shearon Harris is a power-plant lake, but that’s not important in the way that most people think it is,” Stone said. “Yes, it has some warm water, but that’s not really the big deal. The main thing that nuclear plant provides is non-navigable waters that serve as nurseries for fish to grow. It has more grass then Jordan and Falls, but it used to have a lot more milfoil and hydrilla, so that population of big fish that had all that grass to hide in is now exposed more than ever.
“It’ll fish completely different than Falls and Jordan, but it’s loaded with big fish. We should hit it in the pre-spawn, and if we get the right warming trend when we’re in Raleigh, Shearon Harris will break every record (MLF) has ever had.”