The Toyota Series Eastern Division will wrap up its season this week at Lake Norman. Hosted by Visit Lake Norman, Charlotte & Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation, the three-day tournament will feature the region’s best bass-fishing pros and co-anglers casting for a top prize of up to $65,000, plus a $35,000 bonus if the winner is a qualified Phoenix Boat owner.
Leading the way in the Eastern Division, Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit pro David Williams has made back-to-back top 10s and has a slim lead for Strike King Angler of the Year. Tied for second by points, Cody Pike and Todd Walters are both four points behind Williams heading into the final event.
Takeoff: 7:00 a.m. ET
Weigh-in: 3:00 p.m. ET
What to expect
With highs forecasted to be in the low 70s and high 60s, it’s going to feel like fall in the Carolinas. MLF Bass Pro Tour angler Bryan Thrift has two Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit wins on Norman and thinks it’s going to be a good derby.
“Everyone is going to catch a lot of fish and this is going to be a good tournament,” says Thrift. “It’s supposed to cool off considerably. That’s going to get them moving and make the shallow bite turn on real good.
“That’s what makes Norman such a fun tournament lake, though, is guys can catch them on pretty much anything that they want to throw,” Thrift adds. “Shallow topwater is going to be strong – buzzbaits, walking baits – I’m going to have a Damiki Rambler tied on, and I’m sure that we’ll see lots of Whopper Ploppers – but plenty of guys will be catching them out deep with drop-shot rigs, as well. We’re going to have to run everything, and fish different stuff every day.”
Norman is one of the most prolific spotted bass fisheries in the country, but big largemouths are often a key factor in tournaments. The entire lake can also play, especially in the fall, when we’ve seen tournament success far up the Catawba River and right near takeoff at lower end of the lake.
As for weights, you can expect a tight event, with plenty of drama and not many huge bags.
“I think if you can catch 12½ to 14 pounds a day, you’ll be right there at the end,” Thrift says. “I think the winner will have something like 37 to 40 pounds. If you catch that and don’t win, you didn’t do anything wrong. You just got beat.”