April means warmer water, submerged primrose, shallow bass and full livewells at Shearon Harris. Get in on the action now! (April 2007)
Photo by Ron Sinfelt
The aquatic grass that gets the most credit for helping turn Shearon Harris Lake into a crackerjack bass-fishing lake is hydrilla.
However, the aquatic grass that will have the biggest impact on anglers' success this month is a viney, leafy mess called "primrose" that grows along the bank.
And to top it off, most of the primrose won't even be alive -- but it still attracts a great many big bass that are staging before the spawn.
"April is a good month; the best fishing really gets started in late February and March, but in April, they're going to be looking to spawn, and by the end of the month, they'll be in full spawn," said guide Phil Cable of Holly Springs.
"It's typically a shallow bite, and there are not many times when fishermen can throw just about anything they want to and catch fish. There aren't a lot of stumps; it's pretty much the old vine.
"The primrose will be greening up, but you can fish through it. They'll stage on the outside edge of the old vines, but they can be anywhere up underneath it."
Cable, whose Web Site is at PhilCableGuideService.com, said that fishing the primrose is one of two main patterns he likes to run in April on Shearon Harris. He's still partial to working a deep-diving crankbait on drops in the 8- to 10-foot range, looking for those pre-spawn fish that have not moved into the shallows. Harris is a bit of an unusual lake in that there aren't too many true "transition" sections -- a bass can go from 10 feet deep to 4 feet deep in a single move toward the shallows.
"Years ago, the early spring was when I was throwing a deep-diving crankbait and catching so many fish," said Cable, who once used a crankbait to win a spring team tournament on Harris with 10 bass that pushed the 60-pound mark -- not long before Dennis Reedy of Sanford and his partner won another tournament with a gargantuan 10-fish, 72-pound catch. "It's good to take a look for some of those fish; I wouldn't discount that bite. I look for it when I go, regardless of how good the shallow bite is. But I'm not in real deep water -- more like 8 to 10 feet."
Cable's favorite deep-diving plugs are Poe's Series 300 and 400 in the popular "homer" color -- chartreuse with a green back. But he's not nearly as likely to be filling out a big limit of bass these days with a lure that dives too deeply. Most of the time, he's probing water no deeper than 4 or 5 feet -- and often, much shallower. He fishes a spinnerbait in the vines and a shallow-running crankbait, lipless crankbait, jerkbait or Senko-type bait along the outside edges.
"I like to fish a Berkley Gulp Sinking Minnow in and around those old primrose vines, and a spinnerbait will also work real good," Cable said. "You can still fish a spinnerbait through and around the primrose. I just work it through the vines. I let it get down in there -- I don't work it on the surface. At that time of the year, all you'll have there are the (plant) stalks anyway."
Cable favors a 1/2-ounce or larger Zone spinnerbait with tandem willow-leaf blades in sizes 4 and 4 1/2.
"A shallow-running crankbait is good, and a Rat-L-Trap-type bait, and there will probably be a decent jerkbait bite along with those," he said. "You can throw a lot of things. I throw a Lucky Craft Pointer 78 in natural colors, in golds and shads. I'll position my boat right up almost to the edge of the grass and cast parallel."
Cable said that the primrose will just be starting to leaf out in April; the vines will be spread out enough that it's not difficult to cast a spinnerbait back into the vines and get a good retrieve.
"You can fish through the primrose in April -- a month later, it will be too thick and you'll have to fish the edges; but in April, it be will be right through those old vines. And it's not a bad time to fish a frog, either."
Cable said that the primrose will rarely grow out in water that isn't shallow. Typically, he said, the primrose will start growing just off the bank and grow out to about 5 to 6 feet deep. When the hydrilla comes alive in the summer, it takes over in deeper water.
"Bass will stage on the outside edges of the primrose, but they can be all through it," he said. "There are enough vines that they can lie in there among them for protection, and they give them a good ambush spot -- but you can still fish a spinnerbait through the vines.
"When I'm fishing a Gulp minnow, I'll usually fish out in front of the grass with it. I will throw it in the primrose, but most of the time, I work it along the edge, casting parallel. I do like to work it on clear banks, too. The primrose isn't everywhere; it's in a lot of the pockets on the main creeks, but you can fish bare banks."
Cable said that Harris is small enough that fish don't stage at different times in different areas of the lake. He has seen many a spring in one area of the lake where the bite started earlier and was strong all spring, while other areas lagged.
"There have been springs where one end of the lake is better than the other -- but it's not always the same area every spring," he said. "I don't think it has to do with the water temperature -- there are just some areas that turn on earlier.
"What you'll find are stretches of bank that are real good. You can't go to any bank and expect to catch fish, but if you find a stretch of bank that's holding fish -- if you catch several fish on several hundred yards of a bank -- that bank will be good the whole spring."
Cable said that Shearon Harris is so full of bass that fish almost have to move shallow and spawn in different stages, even in the same area. Once a group of fish moves up, a second group will take its place out on the end of the flat in that 8- to 10-foot range. Then a group of fish will spawn, the deeper fish will move to the edges of the primrose, and another group of fish will pull up on the deep flats.
"They don't spawn all at once -- there will be fish caught over a period of several weeks," Cable said.
"You go to main-lake pockets, short pockets back off the creeks. You'll see (beds) where the primrose
hasn't grown in solid, and you'll see them right up against the bank where there isn't any primrose."
Just about all of the lake's creeks can produce some very nice fish. Cable likes to fish Tomjack, White Oak and Buckhorn creeks and Cary Branch.
Harris has received quite a bit of attention -- and fishing pressure -- over the past 15 years, in part because of some of the enormous catches of bass. The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission several years ago removed Harris from the list of reservoirs managed with a 14-inch size minimum. Biologists recommended, and the commission voted for, a 16- to 20-inch slot limit. Fishermen cannot creel or remove fish from the lake that measure between 16 and 20 inches long.
The aim was to identify Harris as a trophy fishery and hope that fishermen would understand that catch and release of mature largemouths would have nothing if not a positive effect on the fishery.
"The slot has done a lot for this lake -- guys can't haul them off," Cable said. "You can catch a 5-pound fish that isn't 20 inches long.
"You see a lot of fish between 16 and 20 inches. I believe the biologists say that that's the best size range for spawning -- those 3- and 4- and 5-pound fish," he said. "And the best thing is, people have to put most of those fish back.
"The last couple of years, I've started to see a lot of fish in that range, and you can still catch big fish. You go to a comparable lake, and you'll have guys catching a lot of 1- and 2-pound fish. At Harris, those same fish are 3s, 4s and 5s."
Cable said that despite many local tournament circuits and bass clubs avoiding Harris because of the slot limit, fishing pressure is still pretty tough on the reservoir. "It's so much smaller than Jordan or Falls (of Neuse), and it comes with a huge amount of pressure," he said. "But the fishing is still great. You can really have some big days on Harris."