May is time for topwater lures

Floating worms with a lot of color are good lure choices during May because fish will be aggressive now.

There are few months when you can actually say bass fishing can be easy for the average guy, but May is one of them.

It’s probably the most fun to fish for your average recreational fishermen, because you’ve got a lot of fish on the bank, a majority of the fish still shallow, and it’s a great time to catch fish on a topwater bait. And you know the old saying: “It’s more fun to catch one fish on topwater than five on a worm.”

The reason you’ve got so many fish close to the bank that will readily hit a topwater lure is that, across most of South Carolina, you’re talking about post-spawn fish — bass that have finished spawning, are in the process of recovering from the effort, and starting to feed back up before they move into deep water for the summer.

A lot of fishermen don’t like to fish post-spawn, but I’m not one of them. I think you can catch the same fish in May that you did in April; they’re just a little skinnier. The five-fish limit that weighed 20 or 21 pounds before the spawn might weigh 17 or 18 pounds afterwards. But the fishing is still good, and it’s exciting.

When fish enter the post-spawn period, they do one of two things. A lot of male fish stay right on the bank, in the spawning coves, guarding the fry that hatch. Some female fish will guard, sort of, and some will move out to the corners of spawning pockets or to flats at the mouth of those pockets.

They’ll still be in fairly shallow water, and for a few days to a week or two after the spawn, they won’t be feeling too well. But because they’ve been in that guarding mode, they’re looking upward, toward the surface, and they’ll still strike a lure — even if they don’t mean to eat it. Once they start feeling better, they really start to feed again.

Fish are aggressive and looking at the surface, so you can draw strikes using topwater lures. The key to the whole deal may be figuring out where the spawn took place, and where fish are likely to go afterwards. Some of them won’t move very far from the beds; some will move to the first available piece of cover.

At Santee Cooper, they’ll probably be oriented near cypress trees; at Lake Wateree or Lake Wylie, that means boat docks. You can really key on cover like that, and willow and buck bushes are great if you’ve got them. You find the right kind of cover and it’s almost easy.

Besides finding the cover, the other key is deciding what the fish will be doing in certain areas of the lake you’re fishing. If fish are spawning at the upper end of a lake, they’re likely to be coming off the post-spawn at the lower end. You need to almost be able to follow the spawn as it moves up a lake, dropping in behind it to fish for those aggressive post-spawn fish that are striking out at lures.

You need to find where the fish are in transition when they’re moving from the spawning areas toward the deep places where they’ll spend the summer.

It’s during this time that popping-type baits are really good, floating worms are good, a 1/4- or 3/8-ounce buzzbait can be good, and prop baits such as an old BangOLure can be great. There are a lot of fish on the bank, and you can catch a lot of them.

If you find a spawning area, fish will move to the first deep cover that’s close by. You’ll do a lot better if you spend more time at that cover than beating the back of a spawning cove.

If you can find stumps at a corner, docks at a corner, the flat at the mouth of a pocket, those places will hold fish, especially as you get two or three weeks past the spawn.

One thing I’ve noticed is color can really play a big role in success. Bass seem to be more aggressive to certain colors.

I like bright colors: pinks and whites and things like that. I think fish that are in a protection mode will get fired up by bright colors, especially when you’re fishing a floating worm.

I like a white, pink or yellow floating worm, a chartreuse or black buzzbait, a frog or shad-colored Zara Spook. But you need to try them out every day, because they’ll change from day to day.

If you have a partner in the back of your boat, by all means, fish different colors and don’t be afraid to change one way of the other if one of you catches two or three in a row using a different color.

Another thing about fishing topwater baits in shallow water this month is you need a follow baitfish. By that, I mean a lure you can cast into a spot after a fish slaps at your topwater lure.

You’re going to get a lot of fish that are hitting a bait just to kill it or drive it away from their fry — not to eat it. They’ll slap at it and knock it out of the way.

When that happens, you pick up another rod you’ve got rigged with a bait that you can cast to the fish and let it sink slowly in front — that’ll draw a second strike an awful lot of the time.

My favorite follow-up bait is a Berkley Sinking Minnow, which is a Senko-type bait. I’ve done the best with a green-pumpkin color, and I rig it wacky-style with a straight-shank, 3/0 Owner worm hook.

You cast it in there, it sinks in on the fish, and because he’s already charged up from striking at your buzzbait or Spook or floating worm, he slams it when it falls down in front of him.

Most of the time when I’m fishing topwater baits, I’ll use a medium-action All-Star baitcasting rod. When I fish a follow-up bait, I move to a medium-heavy action rod because you’re more likely to have the fish down in cover. Either way, I use 12- to 14-pound Trilene XT mono, and I fish it on a Pfleuger Presidential casting reel.

It’s so neat to get on a good topwater, postspawn bite, because if you get in the right area, you can catch a good limit real quick — whether you’re a pro or just a weekend bank-beater.

This is really a good time to beat the bank.

 

Davy Hite is a 40-year-old native of Saluda, who now resides at Ninety- Six. 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 won the 1999 Bassmasters Classic and 1998 FLW Tour Championship. His sponsors include Triton boats, Evinrude outboards, All-Star rods, Pfleuger reels, Pure Fishing (Berkley), Owner hooks and Solar Bat sunglasses.

About Davy Hite 174 Articles
Davy Hite is a native of Saluda, S.C., who now resides in Ninety Six, S.C. He began fishing professionally in 1993, when he qualified for his first Bassmaster Classic. He was the BASS Angler of the Year in 1997 and 2002, and he won the 1999 Bassmaster Classic and the 1998 FLW Tour Championship.

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