May is time for topwater bassing in the Carolinas

Topwater baits really shine in May, when shad, herring and bluegill are shallow, spawning, and when some bass are still guarding fry, looking toward the surface. (Photo by Dan Kibler)

Topwater lures shine this month for bass anglers

I love fishing in May; there’s a lot going on. The bream will usually be bedding, the shellcrackers will start spawning, there will be bass protecting the fry, shad will be spawning. And if you’re fishing a lake that has blueback herring, they’ll be spawning.

That all adds up to some great topwater fishing for bass. May is my favorite month to fish topwaters. You just can’t beat a big bass blowing up on a bait that’s moving along the surface. It’s usually a violent strike, and it’s some of the most-exciting fishing you can do.

If the bream are spawning, you can usually find bream beds, and I like to fish topwater baits across the beds or just outside of them, where the bass will be lurking, looking to ambush something. Now if you have a shad spawn, find a bank where they’re spawning, usually the first few hours of the morning. If you have bluebacks in the lake you’re fishing, that changes everything, because bass will really key in on them.

Early in the year, you’re looking to fish steeper points, places where you can cast to the bank from 20 feet of water. Now, however, you’re looking for flatter points. If your lake has bluebacks, you need to spend more time fishing around flat points than anywhere else. They will be hanging around them. 

Yamamoto D Shad

Mix it up

I love to fish walking baits, sometimes maybe a frog or a buzzbait to mix it up, more because of fishing pressure than anything else. All of our lakes get fished so much, if everybody is throwing a topwater walking bait, and if a bass gets caught three times, he’ll get to be shy of it. My favorite is an X Rap Prop, especially if I’m fishing around bluegill beds more than shad or bluebacks. When I was a kid, I can remember everybody fishing a Devil’s Horse.

When you throw a prop bait, it’s very important to let the bait sit motionless after you make a cast and it hits the water. You need to let it sit and let the water settle back down before you start to work the bait back to you, very slowly, with a lot of jerks and pauses.

I also like to fish topwater with a soft-plastic jerkbait, something you don’t think of as a topwater bait. But the same way that lots of fishermen fish floating worms, I like to fish an unweighted soft jerkbait, like a Yamamoto D-Shad in shad or white, on a 4/0 VMC offset hook. Everybody knows that Yamamoto baits are heavy because they contain so much salt. And with that hook, they’re heavy enough to really cast a long ways, which is important.

I fish it on the surface, or within 2 or 3 inches of the surface. I work it fast. And I don’t pause it enough for it to sink. I’m working it the entire time —not super fast, but you’ve got to keep it moving to keep it up. And I’ll fish it on monofilament. If you fish it on fluorocarbon, it will tend to sink more. The way I fish it, I’ll see every strike.

topwater
Rapala X Rap Prop

Topwater tackle

I like to fish walking baits, prop baits and the soft-plastic jerkbait on the same rods, 13 Fishing Envy baitcasters, medium to medium-heavy action, between 7 feet and 7 1/2 feet. When you’re fishing flat points, it’s important to make really long casts, and you can do that with a longer rod. Also, I want to fish them with a baitcasting reel with a fast retrieve ratio, 7- or 8-to-1.

Here are a couple of other things. Early morning is actually better in May if you’re fishing around shad, herring or bluegills. Earlier in the year, say, in March, early morning is not as good, because you need to wait for the water to warm up. But the morning is the best time now. There’s a myth that early morning and late afternoon are the only times to fish a topwater. But in May, I’ll throw a D Shad or an X Rap Prop all day long.

Second, I really like throwing these baits on points that have something on them: button bushes, willows, sometimes a little grass, pads, stumps. Often, there’s no cover on points, but I like to find shallow points that have a little cover on them. I’m not really casting at targets, but I think scattered cover will hold fish.

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