Catch ‘em on any lure you like right now
May and June are two of my favorite months to fish, and they should be yours, too, because you can catch bass with just about anything you want to. Whatever you like to fish, have at it: topwater baits, jerkbaits, jigs, worms, spinnerbaits, crankbaits – just about anything you want to fish.
The only variable is where you’re fishing. Depending on where you’re fishing in the Carolinas, fish can be in all phases of the spawn in May, from lakes in South Carolina where bass have finished spawning, have recovered from the spawn and are starting to move out, to lakes like Buggs Island and Gaston on North Carolina’s border with Virginia where maybe only 50% of the bass have spawned.
You might go to a certain lake and hit it at a down time, an in-between time, when fish are still recovering from the spawn. But by the end of May, most everywhere you fish, bass will be starting to get over their sickly stuff related to the post-spawn.
That said, in general, most of our lakes will have a good topwater bite early and late in May. It could be a buzzbait, a walking-type bait, just any kind of moving bait that makes a racket. There are two reasons. First, bass will become real aggressive when they get totally recovered from the spawn, and they need to feed up and get their strength back. And second, there’s the blueback herring spawn. Many of our lakes now have blueback herring. And when they spawn, it kicks off a great bite on bass, particularly an early and late topwater bite.
I like to look for what we call “blow throughs” – places where you’ve got a little bit of current – man-made or wind – that’s running between two islands or a long point and an island. Bluebacks will get on those kinds of places in May. They get up on shallow flats, on long points, and they’re spawning. Find one of those places – and most of them will be holding bass – and you can catch 25 pounds on topwater early. You can actually catch a big bag all day if you can find them stacked up.
When I’m fishing this kind of situation, I really like to fish a General – Berkley’s version of the Senko. I’ll fish it with a 4/0 or 5/0 wide-gap hook, on 15-pound Trilene fluorocarbon. I like to rig it weedless. And a big key is, I like to push a little nail into the head of the bait about a half-inch below the hook, aiming toward the back. I’ll just use a little nail, like a finishing nail, and sometimes, I’ll break it in half. It probably won’t weigh more than 1/16 ounce. But it gives you just enough weight to be able to cast it easily. You can rig a General wacky-style, but it hangs up a lot more. And the way I rig it, you can catch multiple fish on one bait.
I’ll fish this if I run into a bedding fish – just throw it in the bed and fish it real slow. Most of the time, however, I’m casting it, letting it sink, then double-pumping it up and letting it sink again. I’ll make two little snatches of the rod and let it fall down again. It’s good because they can’t see that fluorocarbon, and you’ll usually have a little color in the water.
If I have gotten everything I can out of a topwater bite, I’m going to be looking for bass moving out, fish that have recovered from the spawn and are starting to feed again. That’s when a crankbait can be a deadly tool, anything from a No. 5 Frittside to a Dredger 14.5. When fish come off the beds, they’ll move out deeper than any other time of year. But they won’t feed when they’re out there. If you can’t reach ‘em with a Dredger 14.5, if they’re deeper than that, they won’t bite. You want the fish that have moved back up out of that deep water. When they do, they’re really aggressive; they’re ready for the buffet.
I’m going to be looking from mid-creek on out. The backs of the creeks are where the last spawning fish will be. If you want to catch spawning fish, go way back up in the creeks. Those fish you’ll catch from the mid-creek areas on out, they’re ready to bite. You might catch some in pockets on the main lake, shallow pockets, where they’ll be on the corners. When they start biting again, they’ll usually be in 5 or 6 feet of water. But depending on where you’re fishing, you might find some in 10 or 12 feet of water.
One thing to remember: fish still love rocks in May. That’s the main kind of structure they’ll be on. So keep an eye out for them on your electronics.
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