May is a numbers month for bass in the Carolinas

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The spawn is almost gone in most areas of the Carolinas, and May dawns on plenty of hungry fish just waiting for a bait to cross their paths.

In the Carolinas, bass fishing in May is a treat to which many anglers look forward. 

It’s the first month with typically stable weather, which goes a long way in making it a great month for catching bass.

Bass pro Bradford Beavers of Summerville, S.C., said it’s the weather in May to which he and many others look forward.

“The big rains, the long strings of windy days and the huge temperature swings are usually gone by May,” he said. “And the stable weather patterns really help to make the fish more predictable than they have been in months. May is one of the better bass fishing months of the year.”

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Beavers loves fishing on blueback herring lakes this time of year, when he can catch plenty of fish in open water with topwater lures. (Photo by Bradford Beavers)

Most bass in the Carolinas are either finished spawning or just finishing up their spawning efforts. That leaves a lot of fish hungry and worn out. Eating becomes their No. 1 goal as they recover from the physical toll they’ve undergone the past few months.

Most Carolina bass are in recovery mode

“Even in some of South Carolina’s Upstate lakes and a few of the North Carolina lakes, I’d say 80% or better of the fish are finishing up the spawn,” he said. “You’ll still catch a few late-spawners. But for the most part, the majority of bass in the Carolinas are recovering from the spawn.

“The fish are looking to feed to recover from the spawn. And no matter where you are in the Carolinas this month, you’ll see either a shad spawn, a bream spawn or a blueback herring spawn,” he said.

To take advantage of these factors, Beavers likes to fish close to the areas where bass spawned and close to where the forage fish are beginning their spawning cycles. No matter what lure he’s using, he likes to stick with color patterns that mimic shad, bream or herring. That depends on the dominant forage in the body of water he’s fishing.

Early in the month, many bass are ready to eat, but not yet very aggressive. For those fish, he relies on finesse lures.

Lure choices are important this month

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Bradford Beavers said most of his efforts in May are targeting post-spawn bass that have recovered and are ready to feed again. (Photo by Bradford Beavers)

“A Senko is really good for those lazy bass that are worn out and not expending a lot of energy to feed,” he said. “Finesse-style baits like that are good. That’s because by this time of year, the fish have seen so many lures. So when bass aren’t actively feeding yet, this is a good choice and will catch a lot of fish.”

When the fish really turn on and start feeding heavily, Beavers said it’s time to match the hatch.

“If you have herring where you’re fishing, May is a great time to fish topwater lures. In shad-based lakes, I throw spinnerbaits and also topwater lures. And in lakes with lots of bluegill, I throw a lot of topwater frogs around vegetation,” he said.

For herring and shad lakes, no matter what lure he is throwing, it will be silver, chrome, white or a combination of those colors. On bluegill lakes, he likes to throw black frogs or poppers in any bluegill colors.

One thing Beavers does not concern himself with is moon phase. It is an important factor through April. But he said it’s just not the case in May, except for the few late-spawning bass.

May is a good month for racking up numbers of fish

“After April, I just don’t concern myself with it,” he said.” There might be something to it when it comes to the late spawners on the full moon in May. But for the most part, I just don’t pay attention to it. May is just a good all-around time to fish, and it’s mainly because the fish are feeding up to recover from the spawn.”

Beavers said May is a really good month for numbers of fish, although it’s not the best month for big bass. But he said the chance of catching one of those late spawners, coupled with the numbers of fish anglers can expect, makes it one of his favorite months.

Don’t stray far from coves and pockets where bass spawned. The post-spawn fish won’t have moved very far away.

“If you catch a 20-pound stringer in May, that same stringer would have probably weighed 26 pounds in February,” he said. “But they’ve spawned out now, so they aren’t as big. January through March is probably the best time for catching big bass. But May is a time to catch big numbers of bass and still have a shot at a late spawner that might be the biggest bass that some anglers have ever caught.”

Cover lots of water

Beavers said May is not a month to waste time in unproductive spots. With so many hungry fish on the prowl, he said covering ground is key. 

“This time of year, it’s obvious where the fish have been spawning. So I’ll throw a lure in that general area, work it around whatever cover is there,” he said. “And I’ll make sure to cover the area the fish should be. If I don’t get bit, I’ll move on to another area. Like if I’m fishing around cypress trees, I’ll make a cast at the base of one, work the lure long enough to give a fish a shot at it, then go to the next tree. I’ll spend two minutes on a cypress tree this time of year. But I’m not going to spend 20 minutes on a tree.”

Lure Choices

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Zara Spook

Bass pro Bradford Beavers breaks down his lure choices for May into three categories, depending on the main forage of the body of water he’s fishing. 

“If it’s a blueback herring lake, I walk the dog with Spooks. If it’s a shad lake, I’ll throw a combination of walk-the-dog lures, spinnerbaits, and topwater popping lures,”: he said. “On a bluegill lake, especially one with grass or other surface vegetation, I’ll have a topwater frog on one rod and a Senko on the other.”

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Senko

When using topwater frogs, Beavers likes the BOOYAH Pad Crasher.

Hit the water as often as possible this month

“It’s an inexpensive frog, so you can really stock up on them. But I also like it because they don’t fill up with water like most other frogs do,” he said.

Booyah Pad Crasher

When fishing Senkos, Beavers said anglers should just let the lure sink, give it a couple of twitches, then reel it in and move on if you don’t get bit.

“Senkos are really good this time of year, but you have to work them slowly, but in a quick manner,” he said. “I make a cast, let it sink, give it two or three twitches, then reel it in. There’s no reason to waste time working it all the way back to the boat. Let it sink and do its thing right where the fish should be, then move on.

“May is a really good month for bass. It’s a month that you want to be on the water as often as possible because the bass are feeding and the weather is usually cooperative.”

 

About Brian Cope 2800 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of Carolina Sportsman. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at brianc@carolinasportsman.com.

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