- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 18, 2007

HUNTERSVILLE, N.C.

On a day when the people of Oswego County, N.Y., wallowed in more than 11 feet of snow, Tom Sobkowski left a small town near Syracuse to join his brother, Mike, for a little fishing — in North Carolina. Tom had seen enough of the white stuff. He needed to hold a fishing rod, not a snow shovel.

When he arrived in Carolina, he helped launch Mike’s bass boat in snow-free, 20,000-acre Lake Norman, which can be found just northwest of Charlotte, in Mecklenburg County. The Sobkowski brothers wasted little time locating rock ledges and deep-water ditches that might hide a bass or two. The water temperature was in the high 40s, the sun shone brightly, and in time the two caught bass on Rat-L-Trap lures that normally produce fish in shallow spring and summer waters. For some reason the North Carolina largemouths that day swam up into lake spots that were less than six and seven feet deep.

Although the Carolina weather wasn’t exactly in a Florida mode, it was a hundred times better than that found in Oswego County. So while upstate New Yorkers might have cursed their monster snow, the Carolina boaters’ only oaths were directed at a bass, crappie or landlocked striper that, now and then, would shake a lure hook and dive back into safe, dark lake depths.

As the Sobkowskis enjoyed the fishing in this nuclear power station lake, Terry Bolick of Granite Falls, N.C., was busy getting his Castle Bridge Team Trail bass tournament off to a good start. Bolick and his associates supervised the launching of 54 boats and wished everybody good luck — but the moment the competitors left Lake Norman’s Pinnacle boat ramp on State Road 150, Bolick went crappie fishing.

“I use a 1-inch Panfish Assassin to lure the crappies,” he said. “We pour our own 1/16-ounce ball-head jig hooks, attach a weed guard and add garlic scent. The crappies love it.”

To underscore the point, Bolick reached into his bass boat’s live-well and pulled several healthy crappies from it that were fooled by the little Panfish Assassins. In one fell swoop, I forgot all about bass fishing and quickly discovered that the garlic-scented wonders indeed can deliver the goods.

Cast from light spinning outfits with reels containing 6-pound monofilament line, the rubbery fakes proved irresistible to the speckled fish. They inhaled them around one particular lake area that simply showed sunken piles of stones along a water ledge that fell from four feet to 15 feet or more.

Meanwhile, some of the local bass tournament participants returned to the weigh stand with members of the bass family known as Kentucky spotted bass, but the majority of the catches were standard largemouth bass. The spotted bass, if you’ve never caught one, fight quite a bit harder than their usually bigger largemouthed cousins.

In the end it didn’t matter whether the fishermen came down to the cool but sun-drenched waters of Lake Norman to hunt for bass, crappies or stripers. Very few people retire to the North because the call of the South is oh so strong any time of the year, but especially powerful when Oswego’s houses are hidden under so much snow you’d have a tough time seeing second-floor windows.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]


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