Picking Up Post-Spawn Largemouth
June 16, 2016
Of course, plenty of large private potholes are strewn around the state, and those still are easier to cover than most public waters. That's because a small two-man boat or a float tube will permit you to fish every inch of them effectively and quickly.
There's another reason to give some serious thought to making the smallest of Kansas bass waters your focus this month, and it involves safety. May brings with it the heart of tornado season in the Sunflower State. You'll often have strong, potentially dangerous storms seemingly sneak up on you out of nowhere.
If you're on a small lake in a boat -- or if you're fishing a farm pond or small public impoundment from shore -- you can get to cover more easily and more quickly than if you were on a major impoundment with a fairly long run back to the boat ramp and your vehicle.
Of course, many anglers over the years have simply run to shore and sought shelter as best they could when a storm blew in unexpectedly. But that doesn't make it the best bet for you. This definitely is a month when you should err on the side of safety and be prepared for the worst.
With that in mind, one of the most important accessories you can have along on any May fishing trip is a radio that receives National Weather Service broadcasts. Technology in weather monitoring and forecasting has advanced to such levels today that we get more lead time than ever before when a potentially dangerous storm builds.
Having the ability to hear of storm watches and warnings as they're posted will help you to stay as safe as possible while enjoying some great bass fishing -- as long as you heed the warnings when they're issued, that is. Weather may not be your friend this month, and you'll need to be prepared for the worst every time you head out in your boat.
Regardless of the weather, and regardless of the size of water you plan to fish, May is a month during which you also should be prepared to be as deliberate and thorough as you can with your tactics and approach. This is not something that will appeal to some anglers -- those "Type A" bass fans who live by the spinnerbait and/or crankbait. But there may be a way to make this post-spawn fishing tolerable even for them.
You may be surprised to hear this, but the No. 1 bait for post-spawn fishing just might be a Carolina rig. And for me, going to a light-line "finesse" rig -- precisely the rig that led to the amazing day of bass fishing on the strip pits that I mentioned earlier -- is probably the best bet for consistent success.
That day I used a 6-foot light-action rod fitted with a reel spooled up with fresh new 8-pound line. My Carolina rig consisted of a couple of large split-shot weights about 18 inches up the line from a light wire, size 1/0 worm hook. My bait of choice was a 4-inch plastic worm -- no specific design or color.
One of the reasons for that day of fishing's being so memorable is that I caught bass on every small plastic worm I had along -- curlytails, straight tails, colors of the rainbow. It was amazing.
Some undoubtedly are thinking that it was just the particular place I was fishing, not the technique or tackle. That might be true -- except that this day unfolded on the waters of several different strip pits, not just on one. And the action was consistent on every one of them. That's what made it so surprising and wonderful.
Indeed, this was an approach that proved effective on bass no matter where I fished. And since that day, this approach has continued to produce better than any other for me during May.
There isn't even some kind of magical retrieve or special action involved. There is, however, a need to understand what's going on with post-spawn bass to make the most of this kind of fishing.
Remember that (as was noted earlier) bass coming out of the spawn are going to be fairly lethargic; they're weak, in recovery mode. In general terms, they'll have moved back out of the shallowest of water to slightly deeper structure that will provide cover and the ability to ambush an easy meal.
Feed em' Softly
I use the phrase "in general terms" because you'll still find some bass fairly shallow. They most likely will be males, and they likely are going to be fairly active. Let this fact dictate how you fish a given area.
Personally, I like to find places where a shallow cut, bay or cove has a nearby dropoff into deeper water -- say, a break that goes from just a few feet of water into 8 or 10 feet. Unless you're fishing a strip pit or farm pond, this kind of a spot is really attractive because it's going to hold bass, and it may hold them at multiple depths.
The best approach is to cast to the shallow area and work the bait back to the break; then, let it tumble down the structure into deep water before slowly continuing to work it back to the boat.
In the pits or farm ponds, you'll mostly be casting to the shore and letting the bait fall down a fairly steep drop into the deeper water. They generally don't have the kind of shallow/deep break described; they're more like bowls, which is OK.
In every case, however, you can expect many of the strikes to come as the bait falls. Fortunately, even though bass are not as aggressive immediately following the spawn as they are at other times of the year, they'll still hit hard now. For that reason, most strikes won't be subtle.
Let's say that you make a cast, the bait falls to the deep water, and you don't get a strike. Just begin a slow but consistent retrieve back to the boat or shore. Doing this will cause the split shot to create some commotion on the bottom, and bass will spy your bait swimming along right there. It's a really good tactic for post-spawn bass.
This kind of retrieve also will feel better to those fast-paced anglers who'd rather be chunking a spinnerbait or crankbait just now. It's not nearly as fast, but it does permit them to cover water with a lure they'll be casting and retrieving. It's not what they'd prefer, of course, but it's a pretty good solution that will hold their interest -- especially because they'll be catching bass.
Tips Towards the Top
There also is another way you'll be able to catch a lot of bass this month -- even the most sluggish of post-spawn bass. The bass themselves revealed this to me on the strip pit outing that produced such consistent action on the finesse Carolina rig.
Just as the shadows started lengthening with the approach of evening, I happened to spy a fish swirl on the outside edge of some shoreline weeds. On a hunch, I switched from the Carolina rig I was throwing to a topwater popper -- in this case, the smaller-sized Rebel Pop-R.
I have no doubt that just about any other topwater bait would work as well; I just happen to have the most confidence in Pop-R baits because I've used them more than any other.
From the first cast I made with the bait until it was too dark to see where I was throwing, the topwater action was nonstop. And everywhere I thought there ought to be a bass, there was one. I didn't believe anything could top the action I'd enjoyed earlier in the day with the Carolina rig, but I was wrong.
Since that fateful afternoon and evening, I've enjoyed similar bass-fishing fun with topwaters during the post-spawn on lakes varying in size from the smallest of farm ponds to the largest of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers impoundments. And one aspect of this approach has remained remarkably consistent.
In my case, topwaters always work best on post-spawn bass late in the day. I suppose it could be psychological, but it's true for me nonetheless. If you're one of those Type A anglers mentioned earlier, maybe you'll be better off if you wait until about 4 or 5 p.m. to start your bassin', and concentrate your efforts on topwater fishing. Certainly, the action would suit you.
No matter where you fish for bass in Kansas this month, these tips should help you enjoy some of the best post-spawn bass action you've ever had.