May offers multiple fishing options for the Santee Cooper lakes with largemouth bass, crappie, stripers, and catfish all on a strong bite. But the landings throughout both lakes fill up with panfish anglers this month because the bream “bedding” bite has begun.
Depending on weather, productive bream fishing often occurs during the latter part of April. But rest assured, bream anglers will be out in full force by May. The water temperature at Santee Cooper warms quickly compared to many other lakes in the Carolinas. And bream fishing throughout May is typically on fire.
Bream will be on the beds this month and will continue to bed throughout the summer months. As a bonus, shellcrackers are typically bedding well during April and continue that trend in May too. So panfish in the shallows is the theme of the month at Santee Cooper. Anglers commonly catch limits with bluegills and shellcrackers contributing to the catch.
Old or High-Tech
Many bream fishermen find beds the old-fashioned way, they hunt and peck around the shallow water where sandy and gravel bottoms exist until they locate a bed.
The process is to simply work the shoreline, coves and flats using light spinning, or spin-cast rigs, by casting ahead of the boat. Use a cricket or worm beneath a cork and move along slowly until hitting a hotspot.
Another highly popular rig for fishing the heavy cover typical for bream bedding is a 10- to 12-foot pole often referred to as a bream buster.
Most anglers use 8-pound test line with a small bobber allowing quick depth changes, many opting for a slip-float rig. The length of line should be the length of the pole and rigged with a No. 4 or No. 6 wire hook about 8 inches below a small splitshot.
Most bream anglers use live crickets, but redworms work great and improve odds of hooking more shellcrackers. Drop a bait near a bedding panfish in May and you’d best be prepared to do battle.
Advantages exist to using the long pole over spinning or spin-cast tackle. One is stealth. By using a swinging motion to control this rig, an angler can nestle the bait next to trees, weeds, logs, and brush quietly and delicately. It’s ideal for fishing around and under the unforgiving snags such as low, overhanging cypress limbs.
Spinning or spin-cast (push-button) rigs work well for most fishing situations, but you’ll need a little casting room. Side-arm casts are effective when fishing tight to woody objects.
Another method to locate bream beds is to employ the new-tech tactic of side-scan sonar to literally identify beds prior to fishing. Slow-motor around an area with the right depth and bottom substrate, and mark bream beds. Then catch fish.
This is a highly effective method but does require some time, and ability, with the side-scan unit to locate the beds.
Beds away from the shoreline or cypress tree clusters are more likely to be located via this method. Plus, with the right bottom substrate, beds deeper than typically found can be located, often as deep as 8 feet or more.
Where to find ‘em
The biggest problem for many anglers on Santee Cooper when bream fishing is targeting the right spot. That’s because much of the shallow areas look ideal.
Find an area where multiple boats are fishing tight against the trees and weeds. Be respectful. Don’t try to get too close to others. Odds are high plenty of beds are available so go find your own.
Generally, some of the better areas are the upper end of Lake Marion like the Packs Flats area, along with the target-rich environment around Low Falls and down to Jacks Creek all prime areas. The lower end of Lake Marion has Eutaw, Mill, Taw Caw, Potato and Wyboo creeks that are loaded with bream beds. The flats around Rocks Pond produce bumper catches of bream.
Lake Moultrie has amazing bream fishing around the shallow ring of the lake, back in the coves and sloughs specifically. The area around Blacks Camp is legendary as a bream-bed haven and the Hatchery is renowned for monster bream. The Bonneau Beach and areas near the Rediversion Canal have coves and pockets offering prime bream bed targets.
May is an ideal time to focus on finding bull bream in shallow water throughout Santee Cooper. Go now and enjoy some of the Carolina’s finest shallow water panfish action.
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