But I think that a lot of fishermen stay on the bank too long, and the month of May is a perfect example. Across South Carolina, most of our bass have finished spawning, most of them have recovered from the effort they put into the spawn, and they're ready to start feeding heavily and putting their weight back on.
And most of the time, they aren't doing that on the bank.
You can definitely still fish the bank for most of the month of May and catch fish, but you're going to be stuck catching a lot of 1- and 2-pound buck bass that are still shallow because they've been guarding the fry. If you're just going out to have fun, especially if you're taking a kid fishing, that's fine.
Sometimes, there are so many smaller bass on the bank, it almost feels like it's too easy. But if you're looking to catch bigger fish, you need to be off the bank especially after Mother's Day.
The main deal to me, the main pattern to fish, is those first ledges where the big female fish move after the postspawn. There are a lot more big female fish that have already moved out. They will suspend for a while, but then they'll settle down on the first drop, the first good contour line, outside their spawning area. And they'll really group up and feed heavily to put back what they lost during the spawn.
Their metabolism is good, and the water temperature is usually still in the
mid- to upper-70s, and they can feed very heavily. This is the time when you can really catch a lot of those nice 3- to 6-pound bass out on those first drops. Lake Wateree is a lake that I think about first when it comes to this kind of fishing.
How do you find these fish? I take a good look at my topo maps, and if I've fished good spots and have them programmed in my Lowrance GPS unit, I go to them. But if you're just starting out, trying to find the kinds of places where these big females will congregate, you need to look on for the first good contour line outside areas that bass have used to spawn. Most of the fish will still be in the creeks, and you'll be looking for secondary points and banks with good drops outside of the pockets that have held a lot of spawning fish.
Normally, you're looking in the 6- to 10-foot depth range, depending on what lake you're fishing and how that lake's contours line up. But they won't move to the really deep places they spend the summer until they've gone to these in-between places to feed and get their strength back.
Finding fish on this kind of pattern is a lot like hunting. You're going to cover a lot of ground with a crankbait or a Carolina rig, looking. You've got to get an idea of what kind of bottom the fish are holding on, and figure out what kind of cover there is brush, stumps or even rocks. You can fish a crankbait a little faster, but you can probably feel the bottom better with a Carolina rig if you're not an expert crankbait fisherman.
Normally, I'll be fishing different colors on my crankbaits from the colors I fished when bass were prespawn, the reds and crawfish. Now, I'm going to be fishing mostly shad and bluegill colors. I like to fish a Rapala DT-10 crankbait, because most of the fish you'll be catching will be in that 6- to 10-foot range. And for a Carolina rig, I like a Berkley Power Worm.
One of the reasons you're covering a lot of water and hunting with those two baits is that when the female bass migrate out of the shallow water and set up to feed, they gang up. This is the time when you can catch a lot of fish without moving your boat, because they'll be schooled up on very small places sometimes just as big as your truck or the hood of your truck.
If you catch a fish, don't move. There will almost always be more fish around. You may not find the mother lode, a school with 30 big fish, on one spot, but very seldom will you just catch a loner.
One of the things I like to do is keep a marker buoy, ready to go, on the front deck with me. If I hook a bass, I kick it over the side almost immediately. You might think that when you hook a bass and play him for a while and then put him in the boat, you won't have moved very far, but a lot of times you might have drifted off your spot a good ways. So when you make your next cast, you're casting 30 feet from where you caught the fish, and there's nothing there. Putting out a marker buoy will allow you to come back to the same spot where you hooked the fish and help you put your bait right back where the first fish hit it.
And when you find a spot like that and catch three or four fish in a half-dozen or a dozen casts, that's when you save the spot in your GPS unit for future use. There is something just right about the drop or the structure or the cover that attracted that school of bass, and those kinds of places will produce year after year.
If I'm practicing for a tournament and I catch one or two, that's all. I leave that place and come back during the tournament. If I'm just fishing to have a good time and catch a lot of fish, or if I'm in a tournament, I'll stay and work that place over real well. Normally, I'll go back and forth around it with a crankbait and a Carolina rig to try and catch every fish I can.
Typically, this kind of pattern will work for two or three weeks on most of the lakes across South Carolina. You can almost run this pattern the same way you run a prespawn pattern, trying to stay ahead of the spawn. You just go in the opposite direction. If you know where the first fish spawned, you know those will be the first female fish that move out on these postspawn ledges. Then you go to your next fish, then your next fish, and you can fish this kind of pattern on into early June. After that, those bass will slowly slide out into deeper water, and you'll have to start looking all over again.
Davy Hite is a 40-year-old native of Saluda, S.C., who now resides in Ninety Six, S.C. He has fished professionally since 1993, when he qualified for his first Bassmasters Classic. He was the BASS Angler of the Year in 1997 and 2002, and he has won the 1999 Bassmasters Classic and the 1998 FLW Tour Championship. He is sponsored by Triton boats, Evinrude outboards, All-Star rods, Pfleuger reels, Pure Fishing (Berkeley), Owner hooks and Solar-Bat sunglasses.