The forecast called for temperatures in the mid-90s, typical for North Carolina’s southern piedmont in July. At 8:30 a.m. the thermometer had already hit 87 and Maynard Edwards was warming his engine for a day of fishing.
“I used to prefer High Rock Lake,” said Edwards, 64, who operates Yadkin Lakes Guide Service and Extreme Fishing Concepts. “But, Randleman is only 20 minutes from my house in Lexington. If you like catching bass, this is the place.”
While fishing High Rock is free, Edwards had purchased a $120 pass for Randleman Lake, allowing him to fish 15 times.
“The daily fee is $15,” he said. “So, the pass saves money. But, the fee shouldn’t deter anyone who likes to fish for bass.”
Never miss a local story.
Thirty trailers were in the parking lot, their owners having already slipped boats into the water. Edward cruised across Randleman in his 21-foot Stratos. Powered by a 250-horsepowerMercury outboard, it was capable of speeds much higher than the posted limit of 25 mph.
“Randleman has rules other lakes don’t,” he said. “Your boat can’t touch the shoreline and you can’t get on the bank. Jet Skis or water skis are not allowed.”
Randleman Regional Reservoir is the lake’s official name. The Piedmont Triangle Regional Water Authority operates it as a water supply. Construction began in 2001, and it began filling 2007. It opened for fishing in 2010. It covers 3,007 acres and was created by a dam across Deep River.
The state’s newest reservoir, Randleman opened with fanfare. Anglers hoped to catch plentiful 10-pound largemouth bass within a few years. However, as with most new lakes, the largemouth bass initially grew rapidly because of an expanding forage base. After that, the bass population reached equilibrium with prey populations. The few 10-pounders anglers have caught were likely fish that lived in farm ponds before the lake covered them.
Still, Randleman’s bass are growing fatter, faster, when compared to older lakes and that means some 10-pound bass from the original fish stockings conducted by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission may still be on the horizon. As of now, the originally stocked fish grown to as much as 5 to 7 pounds.
“It is the best lake for catching fat 3- to 4-pounders,” Edwards said. “There are so many of that size, we catch 20 to 40 a day. Randleman has everything a bass could need – standing timber, rocky shorelines, bridges and underwater humps. The only thing it doesn’t have is boat docks.”
Heading for a bridge, he made a few passes among skeletons of dead trees poking from the water. Always, he kept an eye on his depthfinder screen. One of his lures caught a snag.
“See that tree down there?” he asked. “If you aren’t fishing where there are snags, you aren’t fishing in the right spot.”
Edwards was looking for baitfish, which the echo returns marked as red clouds. Smaller orange marks indicated game fish.
Suddenly, his rod bent when he set the hook. The fish struck a Road Runner spinner. Long and silver, the fish churned the surface before making a spectacular leap.
“It’s a bass,” he said. “It’s a nice one, too!”
He landed the fish and released it. He kept moving until he caught another. Then, another bass struck, but jumped free of the hook.
“We are going to move to my best honey holes,” he said. “I really like fishing the underwater humps along the main channel when the sun is higher. The water is deeper and cooler, and the humps have rocks and stumps where bass like to hide.”
He picked up a rod with a Carolina-rigged soft plastic lure. A Carolina rig consists of a bullet sinker sliding on the line above a swivel. To the other end of the swivel is tied an 18-inch leader with a hook that holds a soft plastic lure.
“It’s a Zoom Brush Hog,” he said. “My favorite color is Green Pumpkin.”
Dangling it, he made sure the hook point passed through the plastic creature’s body with its tip reinserted slightly. The hook point would not snag an underwater obstruction, but when Edwards felt a strike and set the hook, the point would become exposed and bury to the barb in the bass’s clenched jaw.
Edwards told a story about two anglers who could not get the hang of setting the hook. They could not get used to feeling the tapping or pulling sensation when a fish struck the lure then hauling the rod hard and fast.
“They could have caught 20 bass,” he said. “I even caught a couple of fish to show them how to do it.”
He used the trolling motor to ease on top of the hump, which had been a mountain peak prior to the lake covering it. He dragged the lure through the rocks, where it would hang for a moment until he gave it a slight pull to pop it free.
“I am knocking right on the bass’s front door,” he said. “Where is he?”
Another tap, a lightning fast hook set, and a largemouth bass rose through 15 feet of dull green water, bursting into the sunlight and throwing water everywhere. After a short fight, the fish tired, and Edwards held it by the lip with his thumb. Removing the hook with his other hand, he admired the biggest bass of the day, which he estimated to weigh 4 pounds. Then he gently returned it to the water.
For more information, visit ptrwa.org.