South Carolina bass anglers know it’s prime time for hawgs in the Palmetto State. Here are the lakes you need to hit now.
May is bass fishing time in Carolina and the fishing is excellent.
It would be a lot more difficult to find a lake, river or pond in South Carolina that doesn’t produce good bass fishing in May than to name those providing quality fishing opportunities.
But some lakes always seem to produce consistently excellent action and we’ve highlighted several to help you gear up for some great bass fishing.
Here are some choice spots to consider for great spring bass fishing — and odds are that one or more of these lakes are close to you.
Lake Moultrie largemouth typically spawn earlier than bass in most lakes across the state, usually in March with some bedding extending into April. By May the spawn is essentially complete, but the shallow-water bass fishing is still excellent. Anglers simply have to take a step back into just slightly deeper water.
The post-spawn pattern is in place and bass fishing is still primarily a shallow water affair because of the abundance of shallow-water cover in the form of weeds, cypress and gum trees, logs, stumps and depressions in shallow flats.
The fishing simply shifts from ultra-shallow water bedding areas to just slightly deeper cover, often similar to where the bass staged in pre-spawn.
But contrary to the pre-spawn in late February and March, the weather is now much more stable, which means productive patterns can extend much longer.
Kevin Davis, owner and guide out of Blacks Camp on the Diversion Canal, said that big bass are still a realistic goal in May.
“We’ll see good numbers of 8-pound fish and the occasional bass over 10 pounds,” he said. “The numbers of the big fish are not as high as during the spawn, but this is an excellent time for both quality and quantity of fish on Lake Moultrie.”
Examples of places to find quality and quantity fish will be around stumps, logs or trees along shallow creek channels or ditches coursing through large flats. Depressions with cover about 3- to 5-feet deep also hold a lot of fish .
Davis (843-312-3080) says among the more productive baits for this period on Lake Moultrie include plastic worms and a variety of topwater lures such as soft frogs worked through the pads and weedbeds as well as the Zara Spook, Zoom Horny Toad. The Skinny Dipper will produce as well as the Senko worm and buzzbaits.
Davis says to target edges where trees or weeds are found in 4 and 5 feet of water. Accurate casting is linked to productivity because bass now hold tight to cover but not always in a predictable spot. The key is to consistently cast lures next to the tree, logs, stump or grassline edge.
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Trees are a good May pattern and repetitive casts to a target, dropping the bait right in front of a bass, is occasionally required. Working completely around a cypress tree, looking for the one sweet spot where a bass is holding, is a good tactic to use both to catch fish and establish a pattern.
If you keep putting the right lure 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. Often a big bass will instantly boil on the lure when it falls at the base of the tree.
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Lake Murray has demonstrated the strength of the bass fishery through strong results in tournaments, including national events. And May is certainly a time for most bass anglers to enjoy excellent success at Lake Murray.
The largemouth fishing is typically a mix of shallow-water fishing early in the month, with objects and cover primary targets. Focus on docks, weeds, logs and rocks in relatively shallow water in late-April and into mid-May.
But this shallow pattern begins to transition by mid-month to the more summerlike patterns if the lake is in its normal clear-water conditino typical of this time of the year. That means early and late in the day anglers will see shallow-water flurries, but during the rest of the day anglers will be looking for fish on deeper points, humps, and ledges.
But to begin, the universal truth from every expert we talked to is: Focus fishing efforts on areas where the shad or herring are found. Bass are in the relatively shallow water to eat, so forage in the area is a key.
Early May presents opportunities for shallow-water lures on points and flats near feeder creek drops.
Try lures such as tandem-bladed spinnerbaits and topwater lures including buzzbaits. Work back into cover-filled pockets in low-light conditions, where Zara Spooks and Pop R’s are typically productive. Shallow running spinnerbaits and crankbaits will also produce good action.
Once the sun begins to beat down on the clear water, bass typically retreat to deeper haunts for the remainder of the day. But they don’t go far. Most anglers switch to fishing Carolina or Texas rigged worms on points and stumpy flats that drop into slightly deeper water.
Color patterns are important here, with shad- and herring-colored crankbaits being good choices. Bright spinnerbaits are good during the early morning and often the darker plastic bottom bumpers are preferred when working the deeper water during mid-day.
Water clarity impacts the depth fish are located during May. With a wet April and May that produce dingy water, especially in the upper half of the lake, the shallow water pattern can remain consistently good throughout the month.
Lake Russell on the Savannah River has morphed from an excellent largemouth bass lake to a spotted bass factory over a number of years since spots entered the impoundment. While many bass anglers may not be happy with the spots now out-competing largemouth as the dominant black bass species, the fact is the lake is loaded with spotted bass.
And if you want to catch plenty of black bass in decent sizes, this is a hard place to pass up, especially during May.
Jerry Kotal guides for multiple species but is a bass fisherman first and foremost. His assessment is that while the largemouth fishing was great for a number of years after impoundment, the spotted bass now simply offer such outstanding fishing anglers should take advantage of this situation.
“We still catch reasonable numbers of largemouth during the spring and I’ll certainly target them,” Kotal said. “Some quality largemouth bass are taken; however, spotted bass offer sensational fishing and the opportunity to catch a lot of fish, many chunky 2- to 3-pound fish, and catching some larger fish in the 4- to 5-pound class is extremely realistic.”
Kotal says the largemouth bass fishing patterns during late April and May are primarily linked to shallow water.
He said April is typically largemouth spawning time at Lake Russell and bass will be spawning in shallow water. Spawning activity often carries over into early May. The largemouth don’t all spawn at once, so ample shallow water fishing exists for an extended period.
Multiple lures are productive. One is a 6-inch Zoom lizard with no slip weight on the rig — just a swivel and a hook provide plenty of weight. This enables the rig to fall slowly when cast into the shallow water. The Carolina rig, Texas rig and crankbaits are all good shallow-water lures as well.
He says multiple scenarios exist for taking spotted bass at this time of year.
Kotal says one mode for targeting spotted bass is working main-lake rocky points. One pattern is keeping the boat over water about 15 to 20 feet deep working the shoreline back to the boat. He uses various combinations of bottom-bumping rigs, including the Texas or Carolina worm rigs and a jig and grub combination. When the fish are shallow, he runs crankbaits and spinnerbaits.
“One of the really good things about spotted bass is often when you find one, you’ll find several,” he said. “Even at this time of year, they’ll group together well in the same general area. I like late-April and May for quality and quantity of black bass at Lake Russell. We’ll still catch good largemouth, but for fun and excitement it’s hard to pass up spotted bass. Together they make a good combination.”
Pro Tip: Bass in the Grass
Lake Wylie is productive for springtime black bass action, in part due to an abundance of shallow water cover. Largemouths are the primary black bass species and it’s primarily a shallow water fishing experience throughout much of the spring.
Largemouth bass anglers focus their efforts on the major creeks during the spring, targeting shallow points with stumps and logs, slightly deeper rocky banks with woody and rocky cover and the myriad of boat docks. Many will key on specific targets including points, pockets, shallow flats, humps and also docks and sunken brushpiles.
Among the best lures for the month of May will be bottom-bumpers.
Both Texas and Carolina rigs are good choices, with 6-inch worms or lizards being very effective. Color patterns that work well include pumpkinseed, junebug, purple with a yellow curly tail and watermelon.
With shallow water and cover key targets, spinnerbaits and crankbaits are also good choices, especially once you find an area holding fish.
One tactic that works well for larger bass is to work spinnerbaits in the 3/8 ounce and larger varieties to probe deeper off points, down ledges and around slightly deeper docks.
Another Lake Wylie pattern is crankbaits worked off shallow sloping points that drop into secondary creek channels and along dock edges. Swimming minnow-type cranks are excellent for taking bass around scattered stumps, logs and “crappie” brushpiles on some of the shallow flats near creek channels.
One often overlooked technique is flipping the docks with worms and jig and plastic trailers. A strong dock pattern can develop and if you can effectively flip or skip you can cover a lot of potentially good bass holding cover quickly and effectively. The most productive docks can be learned over time, but check out a Lake Wylie topographic map and work the docks located on steep shorelines or that are close to channels or ditches.
Lake Monticello is an often overlooked bass fishing resource during the warmer months because of its extremely clear water. But the lake does offer very good bass fishing.
Although both largemouth and smallmouth are caught here, the warm weather fishing is typically much stronger for largemouth. The occasional good smallmouth is a possibility every month of the year, however.
Even early and late in the day when successful shallow-water anglers have learned that long-distance casts increase bites in this ultra-clear water. Topwaters such as buzzbaits and poppers, along with crankbaits, work well early and late.
Most of the mid-day fishing is a deep-water affair — or anglers simply fish at night.
Andy Wicker, a tournament angler who calls Lake Monticello home, said riprap areas are good year around in Monticello and are prime targets for early and late fishing during May.
“The rip-rap and other steep rock bank areas make the shallow to deep water connection and are ideal places to find big bass at first light,” he said. “I like topwater lures such as buzzbaits and I’ll also work long points that drop into deep water.”
Wicker says he also begins to probe the offshore areas during mid-day during May and this continues to be a strong summertime pattern throughout June through September.
Wicker uses his electronics to search the points and humps, looking for the combination of forage and fish. One thing that helps his confidence is the knowledge that when he finds bright, sizable marks on the graph indicative of bass, odds are good he’s looking at black bass, because Lake Monticello has no stripers.
“On Lake Murray smaller stripers and largemouth can be difficult to distinguish, but on Monticello when I see those marks on humps, associated with baitfish, odds are good they are black bass.”
Typical of May and through the summer anglers can find bass stacked up on these areas and can catch multiple bass from a single spot. But you may have to check multiple spots before finding that situation.
During May, night fishing is good on the humps and points but typically the fish will be shallower than during the day. Also some anglers prefer working the shallow with big crankbaits and 1/2-ounce or larger spinnerbait, both effective big bass baits at night.
In summary, May is one of the all-around top months for excellent black bass fishing in South Carolina. These lakes are certainly productive but most lakes in the state will produce as well as the rivers and ponds.
Grab your bass gear and go now!