If there’s one month when just about every angler with a piscatorial preference can find something he or she likes, it would be May.
A wide diversity of species is on a strong bite, and anglers can have their choice of good fishing. The best action includes bedding bream as well as bedding shellcracker — especially after a cold winter. The striper action is great on Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie, largemouths roam the shallows looking for something to devour and big catfish are caught in all depths of water. The crappie action is sensational, with a strong pattern developing on the deeper brush again.
Kevin Davis, the owner and guide at Blacks Camp, said May ranks as one of his favorite months in terms of a diversity of species willing to cooperate.
“The striper fishing on the lower end of Lake Marion and (all over) Lake Moultrie is sensational,” said Davis (843-753-2231). “Most of the action is live-bait fishing with herring, and throughout the month, striper action can be so good anglers go through several dozen herring in just a few hours. Plus, there’s some schooling action, but when guiding, I rely on the live-bait bite, and it’s plenty productive. At this time of the year, the striper schooling is sporadic, but it can happen, so keep a bucktail handy.”
Davis said the crappie fishing on both lakes improves tremendously this month, with crappie getting onto the deeper brush piles where they can be targeted.
“I’m using jigs and grubs, with the Rockport Rattler being a very productive jighead at this time of year,” Davis said. “I’ll use different colors of jigs, but the blue/chartreuse and the red/yellow are both good color combinations. Live minnows will also produce good action, but I seem to catch larger fish on the jigs.”
Andy Pack at Packs Landing in upper Lake Marion said May is his favorite month for taking big bream and plenty of huge shellcrackers from the upper end of Lake Marion.
“May is usually the best bedding month overall for bream in the upper end of Lake Marion” said Pack (803-452-5514). “The weather has stabilized, and the water temperature is ideal for spawning. Also, after such a cold winter, there will be plenty of shellcrackers still bedding in May. In fact, May was the most productive month for shellcrackers last year because of colder-than-normal water temperature — although shellcrackers typically bed a little earlier than bream.
“Every year during May, we see limits of huge shellcrackers, a few individual fish weighing 3 pounds and more, but a lot in the 1- to 2-pound class,” he said. “The bream fishing is great whether the moon is full or not; there’s still plenty of fish in the shallow water cover. The shellcrackers prefer worms and the bream prefer crickets if you are targeting a specific species, but both are caught on either bait.”
“The stripers are now making their way back down the river in postspawn mode, and the fishing at this time of year is usually best using live herring,” he said.
Guide Inky Davis said May is generally a postspawn situation for largemouth bass, but they are abundant around shallow water cover.
“The fish still relate to shallow cover and are usually found a slightly deeper than during April,” Davis said. “Bass are still very object- and cover-oriented, and in addition to worms, spinnerbaits and crankbaits, we’ll usually enjoy some very good topwater action, especially early and late in the day.
“We’ll see a lot of big fish caught in water less than 6 feet deep during May. I like to begin the early morning fishing with topwater lures, then switch to lures I can work heavy cover with, in slightly deeper water, usually 4 to 6 feet of water are the most productive.”
Davis (803-478-7289) primarily fishes Lake Marion but guides on both lakes.
“The largemouth action is excellent on both Marion and Moultrie so I check different places and go where I find the strongest patterns,” he said. “The trick is to keep working a variety of shallow cover with different lures until you hit the pattern for the day.”
Catfish action is also great across both lakes, and guide Buster Rush will be fishing for catfish and crappie this month.
“The catfish action is very good for large fish, and there will still be some shallow-water action on the windy banks, especially during early part of May,” Rush said. “However, the fish will begin to transition to deeper water, and the bite will be good for both blue and flathead catfish.
“I’ll work the stump flats in lower Lake Marion and also look for fish holding along the drops and ledges as well as humps,” he said. “Overall, the catfish during May will begin to steadily move toward deeper water as a rule.”
Rush (803-432-5010) said the best baits will be cut herring or shad for blues and live herring for flatheads.
Rush said some crappie in the lower end of Lake Marion may still be caught in shallow cover, but the deeper brush and woody cover begins to become very productive during May.
“Many will be caught in the 10- to 18-foot depth range, and we’ll usually catch them by tightlining minnows or small jigs around the woody cover,” Rush said. “I’ll usually fish vertically with a long rod and feel the cover and work in and around it.
“The fish are not stacked up like they are when the summer pattern sets up, but the fishing is typically very good. Sometimes we’ll have to fish a few different places to find a hot spot loaded with crappie, but May is a good time to catch a limit of slab crappie from Lake Marion.”