Is This Our Best Lake for May Bass?
September 24, 2010
Abundant forage and rich vegetation qualify Millwood Lake for Arkansas' fertile crescent of bass fishing.
Photo by Ron Sinfelt
By Jason Sealock
Ask any avid bass fisherman about post-spawn fishing, and they'll generally respond with moans and groans. That is unless you're speaking with the fishermen on Millwood Lake near Ashdown in southwest Arkansas. In most lakes, the post-spawn period can be the toughest period of the fishing year. But that's not usually the case on Millwood.
While many anglers find Millwood's bass in the post-spawn pattern, local guide and tournament angler, Mike Siefert said anglers can find the bass in all three stages of the spawn in May, depending on which end of the lake you fish. Siefert owns and operates Millwood Guide Service and has been fishing the lake for more than 12 years now.
Some fish will still be actively feeding much as they would in a pre-spawn mode. While it's uncommon to still find pre-spawn bass in May, anglers should keep in mind that not all bass in a lake spawn. A large population of bass doesn't spawn at all each year and will remain catchable throughout the spring.
The four rivers - Little, Rolling Fork, Cossatot and Saline - merge to form Millwood Lake. More than 29,000 acres of flooded timber and stumps covered in grass makes for some of the most fertile water in the state. To add to the mix, biologists introduced Florida-strain largemouth bass to the fishery in 1988, and those mature predators account for more bass over 9 pounds than Siefert can remember or count.
According to Les Claybrook, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission fisheries biologist, the lake is full of 2- to 3-pound bass. Nevertheless, he characterized the lake's bass fishery as one with relatively few but larger fish. With a 16-inch minimum and three fish creel in place, the Florida-strain bass flourish in this southern lake.
PATTERN MIXED STAGES "The typical spring patterns all work here in May," Siefert said. But he listed a few of his favorites for targeting bass during this time.
"I like to throw a spinnerbait with a silver Colorado blade and a gold willow-leaf blade," he said. According to Claybrook, threadfin and gizzard shad provide the primary food source for Millwood's May bass, and a spinnerbait closely resembles the baitfish. The shad roam the lake by the millions, and sometimes a subtle change in color can trigger strikes when a single-colored bait may not.
If the bass bury up in deeper grass, a red lipless or short-billed crankbait will usually coax them out. And a lot of times a heavier lipless bait will produce better strikes as it is ripped free of the grass. Be sure to fish the bait on heavy tackle, so that you can rip the bait free without tiring yourself during a full day of fishing.
A plastic lizard produces well fished either as a Carolina rig or as Texas rig. A Carolina-rigged lizard will catch bass when they are pre- and post-spawn, while a Texas-rigged or floating lizard will catch bass better off the beds. Again, you'll want to use heavy tackle to get the bass out of the thick cover.
"This lake is a flipper's and pitcher's dream lake," Siefert said. He recommends putting rattles in jigs and tubes to help the bass find your bait. The lake only averages 9 feet in depth, and sometimes the cover extends to the surface. Light-tackle fishermen need not apply here. This habitat calls for heavy action baitcasting rods and reels spooled with abrasion-resistant lines.
When the water temperature gets just right, Siefert often turns to a buzzbait for some exciting action. Generally speaking, that's when the water climbs into the high 50s or low 60s. White and chartreuse work well, but black often catches bass that others miss. "It's like they intercept a pass on the 20-yard line when they hit your bait," Siefert said.
Soft-plastic jerkbaits can draw some savage strikes from bass on the weedlines. Larger profile baits draw strikes here, and a 5/0 wide-gap hook will ensure good hookup-to-strike ratios.
PRODUCTIVE AREAS "Bagley Creek is a hot area in May," Siefert said. But it's also a well-known hotspot this time of year. "It looks like a boat show in there during the spring," he said. But if you're willing to fish in a crowd, the fruits of your labor will be well rewarded more often then not.
Cottonshed and Paraloma Pocket provide excellent May bass fishing as well. Not as many anglers will target these areas, but they can be just as productive. The bass cruise the shallow cover after the spawn at this time of year.
On the far southeast end of the lake - around the state park and Beards Bluff - anglers will likely still find bass on the beds in May. These areas generally spawn last, and shallow-water patterns often pull heavyweight bass from their nests. Even when beds aren't visible, fishermen target openings in the cover and other obvious areas that bass will use to make their beds.
Siefert admits there are pockets all up and down the lake that will hold bass in May. But if you want to run up one of the rivers, then Little River provides 30 or 40 miles of shallow cover and areas to fish. Several oxbows exist up this river as well as several shallow rocky shoals. Siefert has a handful of his favorites that he targets every year, but, he says, one oxbow may produce as well as the next at this time.
PRIMARY ACCESS Multiple access points on Millwood afford fishermen many alternatives for finding productive areas. The great thing about having so many access points is that Millwood isn't just a boat fisherman's lake. Bank anglers and even waders enjoy some quality bass fishing alongside the boats.
Siefert and his guides operate out of Yarborough Village off Highway 317 on the south end of the lake near Ashdown. Cabin rentals are available, but if you want to stay there in May, you'd better make arrangements six months in advance. Anglers can purchase bait and tackle at the marina and fish along the many campground areas.
Further west along Highway 32, anglers will find access to the state park. Utilities and a boat ramp are available for your convenience, and the fishing in May for bedding bass can be good for bank-anglers. Farther up the road, over the dam, is another boat ramp at Beard's Bluff.
On the opposite side, anglers will find access to the lake at Paraloma Landing off Highway 234. Anglers should note that a lot of time was spent sawing off standing trees to make boat lanes through the sea of timber. Workers removed the tops of the trees 3
feet below the surface at normal pool, and markers were driven into the lake's bottom to mark the various boat lanes.
FINAL THOUGHTS Millwood Lake is a tremendous bass fishery. Siefert summed up the May fishing like this: "If you don't have 25 to 30 pounds in a team tournament in the spring, you won't even be in the money." He and the fisheries biologists believe that the next state-record largemouth bass is alive and well in Millwood right now.
Claybrook also offered evidence as to the tremendous opportunities on the lake. "While electrofishing one night a few years ago, I saw what looked to be a state-record largemouth bass, but I couldn't get it out from the rootwad that it was in. I've seen several 10-pound bass from the shocking boat, but this fish was much larger than any 10-pounder I've ever seen."
If that's not enough to whet your appetite for Millwood bass action, think about this: Last September an angler wrestled a largemouth over 13 pounds from Millwood. Given another year to grow and the added weight of a belly full of roe, that fish could certainly weigh somewhere around 16 pounds this year! That's a big bass anywhere in the country. Where else could an Arkansas angler have the opportunity to break the state record of 16 pounds, 4 ounces?
For more information on Millwood Lake, contact Mike Siefert at (870) 772-6840 or online at www. millwoodguideservice.com.
There's an excellent topographic map of Millwood Lake available from Fishing Hot Spots. These maps are available from retailers near the lake or online at www. fishinghotspots.com.
Further information about Millwood can be obtained from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission at 1-800-364-4263.
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