MLF NOW! analyst (and North Carolina native) Marty Stone advises anglers to have these three baits ready to go this week in Raleigh: a crankbait, a spinnerbait and a jig. Photo by Joel Shangle

TULSA, Okla. – When the 80 anglers arrived in Raleigh, North Carolina for practice for Stage Three of the Bass Pro Tour, they were faced with three lakes (Falls Lake, Jordan Lake, and Shearon Harris Reservoir) that many of had never laid eyes on.

If ever MLF NOW! analyst Marty Stone wishes he was in the field of 80, it’s this week: the North Carolina native has had years of experience fishing these bodies of water, and knows exactly what the pros will need to succeed come competition days (March 26-31).

While the three lakes are close to each other in proximity (all within about 20 miles of downtown Raleigh), Stone says they offer two different challenges.

“Falls and Jordan are traditional, dirty south, stained water fishing,” Stone said. “The anglers will need to go fish what looks good when they’re there during the Shotgun, Elimination and Knockout Rounds. Shearon Harris is a little clearer and has some grass, primrose and milfoil, so it fishes differently.”

Carry a Crankbait

Stone says that the first must-have for the Shotgun and Elimination Rounds on Falls and Jordan is a crankbait.

“I’m going to call it a ‘squarebill’ but it’s really any 0- to 6-foot crankbait,” Stone detailed. “You have to have a crankbait in your box on these first two lakes. You can argue that North Carolina is home to the crankbait fisherman.”

What these two lakes lack in vegetation they make up for in the type of hard structure that crankbaits are made for.

“You need a crankbait because there’s a lot of riprap and natural rock on these lakes,” Stone said. “These fish love to pull up in early spring on the rocks. They’re feeding on shad, bluegill, and crawfish, and that’s what these anglers need to capitalize on.”

Spinnerbait/Vibrating Jig Combo

Another point Stone makes is for the anglers not to overthink these lakes, but instead to follow their instincts. For some, those instincts may tell them they need to go old school, something Stone agrees with.

“It’s old school Spinnerbait 101,” Stone said with conviction. “An old school ½-ounce double Colorado or Colorado/willow is going to be hard to beat, and you better have that in your box.”

Stone says that water clarity will also affect whether the pros choose a spinnerbait or a vibrating jig.

“When they’re fishing Falls and Jordan, these guys are going to run into muddier water than where a vibrating jig would work,” Stone predicted. “At Shearon Harris, the water should be clearer and it might be a touch too clear for spinnerbait, so you’ll need a vibrating jig. It’s going to catch the same fish, with shad coming up to the shallows and just starting to move around.”

Gettin’ Jiggy With It

During their time at Falls and Jordan, Stone suggests the anglers spend some time flipping a jig. In his experience with these lakes, Stone knows that the pros better not be too attached to their bait because they might not get it back.

“They’re going to flip that thing in the water willow, the willow trees, and the buckbrush,” Stone outlined. “Some guys may flip that jig in there and they won’t get it back because those big fish are going to smoke it, tackle it and take it away from them.”

When it comes to what type of jig, Stone has a specific jighead and trailer in mind with some specific characteristics.

“You better have a ½-ounce Texas Craw that’s black and blue or green pumpkin in color,” Stone advised. “It needs to be something with a lead head and a big hook in it. The jig will produce some monster bites.”