This month on High Rock Lake, local anglers follow the golden rule. If the water is in the buttonwood bushes, fish the bushes.
Fishing the bushes for bass is best when the lake is near full pool. If fishermen can barely get their vessels under the bridges at the mouths of Abbotts and Flat Swamp creeks, there will be enough water in the bushes to hold bass.
Early in May, a good number of bass are still bedding. Though high water usually means muddy water — making sight-fishing difficult — fishermen shouldn’t become discouraged. Just because they can’t see the fish in the bushes doesn’t mean they aren’t there.
With extensive lakeside development at High Rock, buttonwood bushes have become a scarce commodity. Most can be found at the far reaches of major creeks, the “One Bush” area, Black’s Bottom, up the river and in Buck’s Branch, a tributary of Flat Swamp Creek.
Most fishermen flip the bushes with plastics and jigs, with each angler using his own “confidence bait.” James Blankenship of Siler City favors the Zoom Brush Hog; Brad Staley of Pleasant Garden likes the Missile D Bomb, and Shane Floyd of Lexington employs a Zoom lizard. Color choices include green pumpkin, black and watermelon.
Others probe the bushes with a combination of spinnerbaits, shaky head jigs and standard jigs, depending upon water clarity.
Anglers use two approaches for probing the bushes. They either fish the edges first to avoid snagging and disturbing the bush and the fish, or they go for broke and pitch their baits right in the thickest part of the bush.
Heavy baitcasting gear and 14- to 17-pound monofilament or fluorocarbon is recommended for getting bass out of the bushes.
By mid-May, the fish start moving off the beds. Maynard Edwards of Yadkin Lakes Guide Service (336-249-6782) places this movement around Mother’s Day, given typical weather conditions.
Then, fishermen experience about a one-week lull period in bites because the bass are stressed from spawning and need recovery time before they begin feeding. Once they recover, they eat in earnest.
With clear, low-water conditions in early May, sight-fishing for bedding bass comes into play. Once the fish complete spawning, they move to corners and secondary points. Piers and rock veins at these places attract fish. Small crankbaits, jigs and downsized Carolina rigs draw strikes.
The end of May triggers a topwater bite, especially around bass protecting fry. Cast a Pop-R or Splash It near bass fry, and a guarding bass will clobber the lure.