In his last report FLW angler Bryan New said that heavily stained conditions had pushed a lot of Lake Wylie bass up shallow, and that shallow cranking deal was probably the best thing going. While there is certainly still stained water to be found there are also plenty of clear areas, and for the first time this winter water conditions have been pretty stable for the last couple of weeks – hovering around 97.5% of full pool (currently 97.4). With water temperatures on much of the lake in a pretty normal late winter range of the mid- to upper-40s, that all means that right now bass are in a typical late winter pattern.
Bryan says that even though the bite isn’t outstanding there are a number of ways to catch fish, including quality fish, but this late in the winter his normal go-to pattern is to chase birds. This is a good way to catch big fish, but also a good way to get numbers. Bryan says that any time anglers see gulls diving that is a sign that they are feeding on shad which have been pushed up to the surface. Sometimes that means that loons have pushed the bait up to the surface, but much of the time it’s a giveaway that bass are feeding. According to Bryan this is a pretty much a “riding down the lake pattern,” and once you see birds you need to get over there pretty quick to look for fish. The hottest action is often found over deep water in the main channel or the creek channel, but they could be anywhere including up on a shallow point. When Bryan locates these fish he generally throws a jerkbait and an Alabama rig.
More generally, with cold temperatures and clear water in many places it is still a good time to throw an Alabama rig around long main lake points, channel swings and even creek channel swings. Again, finding bait is more important than the locations. As always, Bryan finds that Shane’s Baits 9-arm Alabama rigs like the Blades of Glory Upper will seriously outfish other Alabama rigs that only have five arms.
An additional pattern that has been effective for Bryan is to throw a jig around docks in the 3-20 foot range. Look for docks that have good brush around them. Even though the water is not particularly high Duke has been pulling a lot of water through the lake, and so there has been good current. This generally makes the fish set up well on specific targets instead of just roaming around.
Finally, in stained areas throwing a shallow running crankbait or a square-bill is a good option. As noted in previous reports Bryan believes that bass in the Carolinas seem to stay shallower in the winter than in other parts of the country, and this is particularly true when there has been a warming trend – especially with March approaching. Fish will usually be around rocks, a boat ramp or something else that holds heat. Since fish in this depth range are feeding on crawfish Bryan favors baits in crawfish colors, and he says that a number of crankbaits such as #7 Shad Raps will work.