Explaining how well a lure works in a situation is one thing. Demonstrating that is another. Alabama pro Jimmy Mason recently showed me what a Norman Middle N can do around rocks in highly convincing fashion.
Soon after we got on the water for an afternoon outing on Wilson Lake, I started asking Mason about a few of the lures he had tied on, including a Middle N.”
“That’s a fish-catcher this time of year,” he said with a smile that suggested memories of a few especially good catches flashing through his mind. “It has a wide wobble and a fairly steep dive that makes it perfect for working riprap late in the winter and early in the spring.”
At the time we were fishing grass edges and docks up a creek, and the Middle N rod remained on the deck. Late in the afternoon, though, when we pulled up on a riprap bank along the Tennessee River channel, Mason immediately picked up his Middle N, cast it tight to the rocks and cranked with the rod low so his crankbait banged the rocks like a rooting crawfish.
Three or four casts later, his rod buckled to the weight of a fish, and after several somewhat tense minutes, he slid his hand beneath the belly of a 4-pound smallmouth. A handful of casts later, the same thing happened, except the bass at the business end turned out to be a largemouth. We ended up fishing that stretch of riprap for a little less than an hour, and Mason caught seven bass, the best five of which would have weighed about 15 or 16 pounds.
Throwing another crankbait that dove to about the same depth and was similar in color and size to Mason’s Middle N, I failed to get bit. Mason offered me a Middle N to throw, but I stuck with what I was using, in part at least because I was fascinated by the contrast. Some difference likely stemmed from Mason’s casting and presentation skills, but I was left with no doubt about a Middle N’s effectiveness for the very situation Mason had described when I’d asked a bit earlier.
Mason favors chartreuse-heavy colors, often with browns in the mix, such Mountain Doo and Chartreuse Killer, for this approach both because the bass are relating to crawfish in the rocks and because the water commonly carries a fair amount of stain early in the year. He positions the boat close to the rocks and works ever crack or outcrop in the rocks from multiple angles with short pitches and sidearm casts.
“Accuracy is far more important than casting distance,” he said.
Mason keeps his rod low so the crankbait digs hard and bangs as many rocks as possible. The presentation speed is moderate to slow, without a lot of added jerks. He lets the Middle N’s natural dive and wide swing do the work, prompting strikes as the lure deflects off the rocks.
“The Middle N sometimes get overlooked, but it is one of my absolute favorite lures early in the year,” Mason said.