It’s the time of year when bass can be in one foot of water or 40 feet of water. And nowhere is that more apparent than at the Toyota Series Eastern Division event on Lake Norman. Not only is tournament leader Michael Stephens of Gastonia, N.C., bouncing between shallow water docks and offshore humps, the rest of the top five pros are also in either really shallow water, really deep water or both. Here is a closer look at how anglers in the second through fifth place spots are fishing.
2. Martin Villa – Charlottesville, Va. – 11-11 (5)
Martin Villa is fishing Lake Norman for the first time, so he was pleasantly surprised with his runner-up catch on day one. In all, he estimates that he caught about 15 keepers on the day.
Like others, Villa is jumping back and forth between shallow docks or brush to offshore humps out deep.
“I started out on the offshore shoals catching schoolers,” he says. “I ran some other deep stuff and ended up with a limit by about 9 o’clock. After that, I went junk fishing up shallower to specific docks I had marked that had brush around them. I ended culling most of what I caught earlier in the morning.”
Villa, too, is employing Garmin LiveScope in his fishing, but says he is not using it to cast at exact fish he can see, but rather to get a better idea of the mood the fish are in overall.
“It’s pretty interesting because with that LiveScope, you can really see what the fish are doing as whole,” he explains. “Like, a lot of times you will see them all just swim away off the screen, like the presence of my boat or noise or something spooks them and they just leave. Other times they stay put and cooperate. It’s crazy because I can’t determine what makes them leave or what makes them stay.”
3. Alvin Shaw – Camden, S.C. – 11-9 (5)
Veteran pro Alvin Shaw says he’s fishing the Toyota Series this week to “keep his trigger finger happy.”
Shaw got to pull the trigger on seven keeper bass today. His limit included four spots and a kicker largemouth in the 3-pound range. He is doing most of his fishing up shallow, “beating the bank.”
“I’m not really hopping around to multiple spots,” he says. “I’ve got two big primary areas and I’m staying put. I’m running the trolling motor on high, just keeping the lure wet, hitting anything that looks good. It seems like if I can get it in front of one, it’ll bite pretty quick, so there is no need in slowing down to tease them into biting. The more targets I hit the better chance I have of catching one.”
4. Chris Baumgardner – Gastonia, N.C. – 11 – 7 (5)
When it comes to fishing shallow water in the Carolinas, there are few better at it than Chris Baumgardner. Today he put his shallow water prowess to work to catch about eight keepers on the day. His limit consisted of three spotted bass and two largemouths.
Baumgardner spent much of the day with a topwater lure in his hand. He targeted spotted bass earlier in the day and then ran to some largemouth water to finish his limit.
5. Bryan Thrift – Shelby, N.C. – 10 – 8 (5)
With two FLW Tour trophies from Lake Norman already on his mantle, Bryan Thrift is trying for a third one from the Toyota Series this week. He is on pace after the first day after catching a limit of spotted bass.
“I tried to come here with a fresh mind instead of running the same old stuff I always do,” Thrift says. “But I couldn’t find anything new or different. I only caught seven keepers on the day and they were all spotted bass.
“It takes a bonus big largemouth to win a tournament on this lake, but it’s like you can’t target largemouth here anymore,” he continues. “Everywhere I used to go to catch a largemouth has been taken over by spotted bass. Now largemouths are just random gifts that just show up: It’s like you’re catching spots and then out of nowhere, boom, you catch a largemouth. So I don’t know what to do to separate myself from the pack.”