Shearon Harris Lake, a 4,100-acre North Carolina impoundment about evenly divided between Chatham and Wake counties, is unlike any Piedmont reservoir.
Even during the heat of August, anglers can catch bass on the surface with topwater lures or deeper with Texas-rigged soft plastics. It all depends on the time of day and where you fish.
“The topwater bite can be incredible for two or three hours after daylight,” said guide Jeff Thomas of Broadway, N.C. “If it’s cloudy, the topwater bite can last even longer.”
Most schooling bass will be in small coves with deep channels on the southwestern side of the lake.
“I use the big engine to go to the mouth of a cove, and shut it off and look for bass bustin’ on top,” said Thomas (919-770-4654). “When I see explosions on top, I drop the trolling motor and ease in there, because you don’t want to spook fish with a lot of engine noise.”
Summer bass are targeting tiny shad, from 1½ to 2 inches long. They corral them in deeper water and force them to the surface.
“The bite is intermittent but it’s steady,” Thomas said. “If you can find a cove, look for secondary points. The shad stack up there, and that draws the bass. Once the bass attack them, they scatter, go deep and so do the bass. And the whole thing starts over again.”
Most schooling bass are from 1 ½ to 3 ½ pounds, but anglers catch larger fish, according to Thomas, whose favorite lures at Zara Spooks, Spook Juniors and Pop-Rs.
“But I often throw a buzzbait,” he said.
Bigger bass hang out below topwater melees, waiting for injured baitfish to fall. Thomas throws a Flutter spoon and jigs it back to his boat to trick big bass. He prefers 71/2-foot, fast-action baitcasting rods, reels with a 6:2-to-1 gear ratio spooled with 14-pound fluorocarbon.
Josh Hooks, a top angler from Raleigh, N.C., said a big reason for the great topwater fishing on Harris is the thermocline.
“In August, the water is so hot the thermocline starts to set in, pushing bass shallower,” Hooks said. “They can’t breathe below the thermocline. The thermocline is only 10 to 12 feet deep.
Hooks, a former member of N.C. State’s BassPacka, said hydrilla points and big flats where shad spend time at the surface are top spots in August.
“That’s when I throw 10-inch greenpumpkin or watermelon-red Texas-rigged worms,” he said.