I have said many times before that as far as the chance to catch big bass across the Carolinas, March is probably the best month. But I’m just as sure that, overall, the best month to just go out and catch bass is May.

This is absolutely a great month to go fishing for just about any species. All of the gamefish that are in our lakes and rivers can be found and caught in shallow water, and normally, the weather is more consistent. We’re over all of our windy, rainy and cold-front weather, and there’s still not a great deal of recreational boat traffic — that won’t really start until toward the end of the month or into June. Whether you’re fishing for bluegill, crappie, largemouth bass or stripers, they can all be caught in fairly shallow water. It’s just a great time to get out and enjoy being on the lake.

I might be a little partial because my birthday is in May, but it’s just a great month to go fishing. I do like bass fishing — have made my living doing it for about 25 years — and May always has a really good shallow bite. You can catch them on just about anything you can throw. If you like to fish shallow-running crankbaits, you can catch ’em on baits like a DT-4 or DT-6, if you’ve got some shallow cover to throw at like stumps. Whereas April can be an iffy month for topwater fishing, May is a great month to take something like a walking bait, a popping bait or a buzzbait and catch fish. And you can take a soft-plastic bait like a 5-inch Senko, Texas-rigged with no weight, and throw it around docks, willows, any kind of brush, and you’ll catch fish.

The other reason that May is such a great month to fish for bass is that in our lakes that have blueback herring, they’re spawning, and in our other lakes, the threadfin shad are spawning. This keeps the bass and the other predator fish up in the shallow water, and it makes them very aggressive. It’s a big feeding opportunity for them, and they take advantage of it.

In some years, the herring and shad will start to spawn in late April, but even then, they’ll still be spawning the first part of May. Most years, May is the big spawning month of those baitfish. This is when I really like to fish a topwater bait, because all those fish will be shallow until the herring and shad spawn is over and those fish head out to deeper water. 

When you’re fishing the herring or shad spawn, the best time to fish is early in the morning, the first hour after daylight. But they stay in relatively shallow water, and the predator fish stay there, even when they’re not spawning. The bass will be more aggressive because all of those baitfish are shallow.

There are a lot of times of year when I prefer fishing baits that are crawfish colors or chartreuse, but this time of year, I’m only going to fish baits that are shad or blueback herring colors, from my hard baits to soft baits. Most every manufacturer has those colors in all of their bait lines, so they’re not difficult to find.

The only exception will be if I’m pitching a Senko back up under boat docks where there are no shad or herring spawning. I’ll fish green pumpkin then, because it’s really hard to beat any time.

I can’t stress to you how great the fishing can be in May, especially for bass. By the time May rolls around, you should have your limit of turkeys already tagged, so there’s no excuse not to make time to spend a day — or several days — on the water. It’s something you shouldn’t miss.