May is transition time for largemouth bass, which move from spawn to post-spawn. At many lakes, this means that the fish will be moving from shallow to deep water, and finding their exact position can be a problem for many anglers. But in the case of the following lakes, you can fish shallow water and catch fish in both phases of the transition.
When Cecil Wolfe cranked the big motor, I burrowed into the seat of his big bass rig, ready for a fast ride through the cypress trees and abundant natural vegetation around the perimeter of Lake Moultrie.
To my surprise, Wolfe idled only a few hundred yards at slow speed then shut the big motor down and dropped the trolling motor into the water and said, “It’s time to fish.”
With only one exception, that’s about as far as we traveled using the outboard motor all morning. Wolfe used it to slow-motor from one cove to the next, until we headed back to Blacks Camp around noon.
Wolfe (843-753-2231; www.blackscamp.com) guides out of Blacks Camp and fishes both lakes Marion and Moultrie regularly, but we stayed on Lake Moultrie on this day. The 47-year-old Wolfe says the largemouth fishing during May is a favorite time for him.
“To begin with, while most of the largemouth bass will be in a post-spawn phase, there is still some spawning activity as well, especially early in the month,” Wolfe said. “But the fishing action simply shifts from spawning sites to other shallow-water cover. Even in the post-spawn phase of our bass fishing the fishing is still excellent in shallow water. The key is transitioning from the shallow water spawning sites to just slightly deeper water and different types of cover and structure. The bass will move back to similar, and sometimes the same, areas they were found staging in pre-spawn periods.”
The morning we fished was everything I had hoped it would be: lots of fish and plenty of them were hefty largemouth. In fact, the routine became monotonous — but in a good way. Every few minutes I watched as my fishing partner in the front of the boat went on full alert, a tell-tale signal that yet another bass had bit the lure that he had cast tight to cover.
Typically, that cover was either a shallow-water cypress tree or patch of grass, weeds or pads in Lake Moultrie. One cast happened to be directed towards a cypress tree. Wolfe, who is a master of making accurate, almost silent casts, shot the soft plastic lure so that it seemed to graze the tree and slip silently into the water.
And once again, for the about the tenth time that morning, Wolfe set the hook into another big bass. This one was heavy, just like most of the others he’d caught, and he first worked it away from the tree and the submerged ‘cypress knees’, then maneuvered it around a patch of pads and into open water. There it jumped, wallowed, and then dove hard, trying to find something to wrap around on the bottom of this cover-laden lake.
But with Wolfe on the other end of the rig, the bass, this one about 7-pounds, was soon being lipped, photographed and gently released back into the lake: A prize Wolfe hoped to catch again when guiding or fishing a professional tournament.
Of the dozen fish Wolfe caught that morning, the smallest he boated was about 4 pounds.
The quality of the fishery was not an accident that day. Wolfe says that for fishermen who know what they’re doing, the resurgence of the largemouth bass fishery in both lakes Moultrie and Marion has been nothing short of phenomenal.
“The entire spring is excellent for largemouth fishing,” Wolfe said. “But during May, the fishing and the weather are both ideal. This is the month when there are still some bass bedding but a lot are now in the post-spawn mode. The good news is that fish in either stage are more than willing to bite, it’s just a matter of getting the tactics right.”
Wolfe says that examples of places to find fish will be in the shallow edges along creek channels or ditches, even if the channels are only slightly deeper than the surrounding water. Also depression with cover 3- to 5-feet deep.
“Some fishermen think that the big-fish season is over, but that’s certainly not the case,” Wolfe said. “Post-spawn fishing will produce a lot of heavy largemouth. For example, a tournament-fishing partner and I weighed in a five-fish limit weighing 39 pounds during a May tournament a couple of years ago. There’s no shortage of big fish to be taken during the May and June, fishermen just have to keep moving and searching until they locate a spot with big fish. Then work that area hard.”
Wolfe says that he will use a variety of lures, including a Senko, Zara Spook, as well as shallow crankbaits and a variety of bottom-bumping lures during May.
“During the past couple of years we’ve caught a lot of quality largemouth out of the eel grass that is now found in Lake Moultrie,” Wolfe said. “But the key is to stay on the move until you figure the pattern for the day.”
Wolfe notes that post-spawn fish will often only move slightly deeper after the spawn and if the fisherman will transition from the very shallow, heavy vegetative cover where fish prefer to spawn, to slightly deeper water, such as the edgelines where trees or weeds are in 5 feet of water instead of 2 or 3 feet, they may find plenty of post-spawn fish biting.
Wolfe says the great news for bass fishermen regarding Lake Moultrie is that once again there is a great deal of cover in the lake: grass and other vegetative growth as well as the cypress trees, logs and stumps. This gives fishermen a lot of options to consider.
Wolfe says that fishing close to the edges of weedlines as well as trees can be a key, but you have to really fish the cover to be successful. For example, you may have to work different sides of a tree to get a bite.
“When the bass are shallow, even during post-spawn, sometimes they will be holding tight to cover but not always in a predictable spot,” he said. “The key then is to consistently cast your lures next to the tree, logs, stump or grassline edge. You may have to make a couple dozen perfect casts to drop it in front of a bass, but if you keep putting it in the right place, eventually you’ll drop it in front of a fish and he’ll take it. Also, some fishermen have developed a good technique of skipping a plastic worm back under the cypress trees. It’s very effective in terms of getting the attention of a big bass as the lure skips over the top of the water, as well as dropping it right at the base of the tree. A lot of times a big bass will instantly boil on the lure as it settles into the water.”
Wolfe says that it’s also a great time for topwater fishing.
“Of all the lures you can enjoy, this is particularly good topwater fishing season,” he said. “Topwater lures, such as the Bang-O-Lure, Devils Horse and the buzzbaits will produce some exciting bass fishing action early and late in the day and it is an awesome way to start the day.”
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