New England Bass Trips In May

With the bass in shallow water, May is a great time to hit these fisheries!

With the bass in shallow water, May is a great time to hit these fisheries!

May is arguably the best bassin' month of the year in New England. Fish are hanging in transition areas near shore, making big bass easier to find. Bass are also putting on the feedbag in preparation for hungry days during the upcoming spawn, which makes them more vulnerable to a number of baits and presentations.

Luckily for New England bass anglers, experts in every state are generous souls willing to share some prime locations and best-bet bassin' tips to help 2011 be the bass fishing season you'll never forget.

Dustin Edwards is a tournament bass angler with a Master's degree in fisheries. His top pick for fine May bass fishing in Connecticut is Crystal Lake in Ellington and Stafford.

"It's a very deep, clear-water lake stocked with rainbow and brown trout," he said. Following spring stocking, "bass are feeding up on those stocked trout."

Crystal spans 183 acres, with a maximum depth of 45 feet and an average of 25 feet. The lake holds largemouth and smallmouth bass.

"Clarity is 15 to 20 feet on a sunny day," Edwards said. "Only two little coves have vegetation. One is on the far north shore; one the far south shore. The rest of the lake is relatively vegetation free."

Primary structures are rocky shorelines and depth changes.

"It goes from shallow to really deep quickly, so most fish will hold on those significant depth changes," he said. The lack of vegetation "is another thing that makes the lake easier to catch big fish on. With no vegetation there's no place to hide. Fish are out cruising, and more susceptible to the baits you're throwing."

Edwards said May is the month when water temperatures change the most, requiring different tactics early on than later when waters have warmed. Early on, try large jerkbaits, slower-moving reaction-style baits, big rainbow trout swimbaits, suspending deepwater jerkbaits or a jig dragged along bottom.

"As it warms up, fish are preparing to spawn, get a lot more active and start feeding up, so I throw more moving baits -- spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and again the swimbaits on topwater," he said.

"May is the best month to come into contact with the biggest fish in the lake," Edwards said. "Most big fish live deep almost year-round. More or less every big fish in the lake has to come shallow to spawn, which makes the target zone much smaller and the odds of catching that big fish much better!"

There is a state-owned boat launch on the western shore. Access is off Route 30. Check DeLorme's Connecticut/Rhode Island Atlas and Gazetteer, map 54.

Tim Obrey, a fisheries biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, said May bass fishing can be tricky in parts of the Pine Tree State because ice goes out so late and waters stay cold.

"Brann's Mill Pond in Dover-Foxcroft is shallow and tannic stained," Obrey said. "Because of the shallow, dark water, this pond is the first in the Moosehead region to open up in the spring and therefore spawning activity occurs earlier here, sometimes as early as late May."

Brann's Mill has a maximum depth of 15 feet with an average of 4 feet. The shoreline has plenty of woody debris and aquatic vegetation, and several areas of rock and boulder that serve as good spawning grounds for bronzebacks.

"Anglers can expect to catch quality largemouth and smallmouth bass from 12 to 16 inches with a few even larger," Obrey said. "Forage fish include white and yellow perch. Rapalas and other fish-shaped crankbaits are very good at Brann's Mill. Weedless rubber baits can also be productive."

There's a boat launch on Notch Road off Bear Hill Road. Check DeLorme's Maine Atlas and Gazetteer, map 32.

Todd Matera lives in Palmer, but travels at every opportunity to fish for bass. His name has come up more than once in the state's Sportfish Awards Program; in 2005 he was named Angler of the Year.

"For largemouth bass in May, I would recommend the Quabbin Reservoir," Matera said. "It's outstanding. There's access at gates 43, 8 and 31, but for largemouth bass fishing Gate 43 is the best bet."

Bass grow big here feeding on various species of shiners, smelts and panfish.

"If you see panfish, the bass are usually not too far away," Matera said.

Quabbin's 25,000 acres are relatively clear, with the most stained pools found near Gate 43.

"There are a lot of stumps," he said. "The rotting wood browns the water a little. It's shallower here and the feeder arms heat up quicker so largemouth bass congregate here. Within site of the boat launch I have caught 5- and 6-pound largemouth bass. It's not like you have to go 20 miles. You can row within site of the boat launch and be into as good a fishing as the place has to offer."

Matera advised fishing near sunnier banks that heat up quicker and around boulders early in the month, and using a slow presentation with live baits, stickbaits or swimbaits that resemble forage fish.

"My personal best is a 7-pound-class largemouth bass," Matera said. "With the right presentation, anglers have a shot at some very nice fish. Don't be surprised if while using lures for bass you catch huge crappies or lake trout. I've caught lake trout up to 8 pounds while fishing for bass. You have a shot at anything. It's fun knowing that stuff is in there, makes it a little more interesting. If the bass aren't biting, the day could be saved by an incidental catch of this other species that could be a trophy fish."

Many special regulations apply to the reservoir, which supplies drinking water to the Boston area. Check current MassWildlife fishing regulations before heading out. Access to Gate 43 is off Route 32A north of Hardwick. Check DeLorme's Massachusetts Atlas and Gazetteer, map 36.

Andrew Schafermeyer, a fisheries biologist with New Hampshire Fish and Game, selec

ted Umbagog as the Granite State's best-bet spring smallmouth bass water.

"At 7,856 acres, Umbagog Lake is New Hampshire's second largest and one of only a few premier bass fishing destinations in the state's extreme north," he said.

Umbagog is relatively shallow, with an average depth of only 12 feet. The lack of depth and dark, tinted water allow the lake to warm quickly each spring, which Schafermeyer said is "an advantage in what would otherwise be a very short growing season for bass."

Bronzebacks were illegally introduced into Umbagog in the early 1990s. Umbagog has plenty of rocks and boulders, and several rivers enter and exit the lake. Having such ideal habitat allowed smallmouths to thrive.

"Smallmouth bass begin to spawn in Umbagog between mid-May and mid-June depending on water temperatures," Schafermeyer said. "The dark water makes it difficult to see bass nests but they are present at depths of 8 to 15 feet. Bass are fierce defenders of their nests and will strike at almost any unwanted intruder. Those fish not on nests will be occupying similar depths in the spring and it is a great time to fish with jigs and tube baits. I like to Carolina-rig crayfish imitations and small lizards fished very slowly."

Schafermeyer is a fan of topwater fishing regardless of the time of year.

"Golden shiners are a common forage fish in Umbagog and a walk-the-dog or fluttering retrieve of similar shaped and colored bait can induce violent strikes," he said. "I have also had a lot of luck with suspended jerkbaits in a yellow perch color.

"Smallmouth fishing on Umbagog Lake can be fast," Schafermeyer continued. "Fish between 8 and 14 inches in length seem to be common and very competitive. I have had less luck locating trophy fish over the last few seasons, but a 50-fish day is not uncommon."

Access is via Umbagog Lake State Park off Route 26. Check DeLorme's New Hampshire Atlas and Gazetteer, map 51.

Phil Edwards, a fisheries biologist with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, said Watchaug Pond in Burlingame State Park would be his first pick for a May bass water.

"It has smallmouth and largemouth bass," Edwards said. "The physical features of the pond provide for a variety of fishing techniques. There are a lot of shallow coves and flats and there's also a lot of deep water with extruding points. In spring anglers have pretty good luck fishing the flats."

Edwards said that undeveloped shoreline provides good cover along the flats, while the coves offer plenty of lily pads and vegetation. Forage fish include pumpkinseeds, bluegills, golden shiners, white and yellow perch and alewives.

"Fish shallow waters with spinnerbaits, soft plastic lizards and worms, and fish deep water with crankbaits or jigs with plastic crayfish or grubs," he advised. "Yellow seems to be a very popular choice, as are greens and browns and blacks for tube bait jigs."

Ample public access, the campground, boat ramp and docks make this a popular destination for bass anglers.

"There is no boat limit on the pond, so that's another attraction," Edwards said. "This is slower fishing for trophy-sized smallmouth bass, and largemouth bass over 5 pounds. We only have very few lakes that have smallmouth bass, but Watchaug is one of them, and some are over 3 pounds."

Access is off Route 1. Check DeLorme's Connecticut/Rhode Island Atlas and Gazetteer, map 74.

When picking only one destination for May bass in the Green Mountain State, it has got to be Lake Champlain. New York and Vermont regulations apply on this 278,400-acre lake, so be sure to check both before heading out.

Habitats vary greatly throughout the lake. Gilbert Gagner, a 20-year veteran fishing guide and owner of Bronzeback Guide Service, provided a few pointers about fishing Champlain north of the Missisquoi Bay Bridge.

"You are going to find most fish in May in less than 4 feet of water," Gagner said. Largemouth bass congregate in several of the northern bays, including Goose, Gander and Shad.

"Any of the bays that have some old vegetation from the prior year will hold largemouth bass," he said. "A multitude of lures will work -- sinking worms, spinnerbaits, topwaters, a tube jib or a floating frog."

Smallmouth bass can be found on the Maquam shoreline from Swanson to St. Albans on any of the points this month, Gagner said. "From mid-May on they'll be in 8 feet of water or less, scattered along the shorelines. In early May you want a tube jig or stickbait. You've got to be slow and methodical. By mid-May to the end of May you can start using topwater lures and have a little more success."

Check DeLorme's Vermont Atlas and Gazetteer, map 50.

Champlain, south of the bridge at Crown Point, is narrower and more shallow than much of the lake, according to Shawn Good, a fisheries biologist with Vermont Fish and Wildlife. The lake narrows increasingly, becoming almost riverine from Benson Landing south.

Good recommended fishing out of the Larrabees Point or Benson Landing access areas this month.

"There are about 15 miles of lake from Benson south to Whitehall where the shoreline is very marshy with cattails and bulrushes," Good said. "The bottom is soft and mushy but there are some notable locations where you can find rock areas. The first place I would check is just south of Benson on the Vermont side. The rock walls are a half-mile high piece of ledge. The shoreline is 50 to 60 feet high and drops down into the lake. It's fairly deep close to those ledges, with little cuts and bays. Fish get up and sit on the rocks to catch the sun and are fairly vulnerable and easy to catch in those areas."

Other areas to check are Peters Bay, Red Rock Bay and Horton Marsh because the entrances that separate these areas from the main lake are also ledge.

"All three are important spawning areas for bass so you see bass in large numbers in the springtime," Good said. "The ledges are kind of prime areas for bass to be staging on before the bays stabilize for the spawn."

Check DeLorme's VTAG, maps 32 and 28.

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