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Bass By Month Series: How to Catch Bass in May

May is often a transitional month in bass fishing. For obvious reasons, the spawn happens later the farther north you travel, but in many places throughout the country, you’d be hard-pressed to find a lot of spawning fish by the change of the month. 

The post-spawn period can come with a lot of variety. Tournaments can be won offshore while second place never fished in more than two feet of water. It’s a period of flux where the bass’ transition toward summertime patterns begins, but it can follow a very different process lake by lake, area by area, and bass by bass. 

Lake Conroe, Texas. April 2017. 

Edwin Evers takes an early lead on day one of the Bassmaster Classic catching a quick limit on a shad spawn bite. Mid-morning, Mike Laconelli surges toward the front throwing a shaky head in 10 foot of water. Brent Ehler catches a nine-pounder in one foot of water and leads after day one. Jordan Lee sacks 25 pounds on the final day on a main lake point and wins. The number of different patterns that can put an angler in contention in the post-spawn makes it one of the most intriguing times of year. 

Immediate post-spawn

When bass first wrap up the spawning process, usually in late April to early May, they often relocate to nearby shallow cover. Some fish will stay around that shallow cover for a long time, while others will leave quicker, and some may bug out of the spawning area almost instantly. It can be fish dependent, so it’s hard to actually predict, but generally speaking, larger abundances of shallow cover will keep fish shallow longer. 

How long you can actually catch quality fish up shallow will depend on how the temperature progresses, the abundance of cover, the abundance of shallow forage, and even how the water level fluctuates. I’ve found big offshore schools before May and struggled to find them until late May. This is a time of year to pay close attention to those factors, because things like spiking water temperatures and changing water levels can cause dramatic fish movement. 

Shad and Bream 

The shad spawn typically coincides with the very end of the bass spawn, usually when the water is in the mid-to-low 70s. It’s really the only time of year when large populations of shad will get to the bank, and bass generally support this initiative. The shad will prefer to spawn on rocky, clean banks during only the low-light periods of the day, and the bass will gladly accept an incredibly easy meal. 

For anglers, it’s a morning deal only. The sun will wipe it out, but those bass often remain in those areas, where they’ll sink into nearby laydowns or other forms of cover. Shad imitating baits like a spinnerbait or a chatterbait are staples for active shad spawn fish. You can still catch the bass in these areas after the sun rises, but slowing with a jig or a flipping bait is often necessary. 

It’s around this time that bream beds start to pop up as well. Bream, which are bluegills, sunfish, etc. will spawn in large groups, and according to a spokesperson for the largemouth bass, the bass will also support this initiative. Something about a ton of food gathering in one area and then not leaving. 

Bream beds are typically found in protected water, often not far from where the bass spawn. Flat areas in the back third of pockets are great places to start your search. Shallow forage like this will keep larger populations of post-spawn bass shallow for longer. 

Wacky worms and topwaters such as a popper, prop bait, or frog are generally top choices for targeting bream beds. The bass tend to just hang around these flats where the bream bed and pick them off when they decide it’s time, and these baits imitate easy meals. 

Later post-spawn

As May progresses, the percentage of bass in shallow water will decrease as the larger populations head for deeper water. May is almost always the month where this migration is the strongest. These fish can sometimes be finicky and scattered, but other times, it can be some of the best fishing of the year. 

Offshore areas that are spawning-pocket adjacent can be dynamite. As the fish pull out of the shallow water, they start to get into groups, and they’ll condense on offshore areas like points and humps. Finding these groups is a matter of following the migration patterns of the fish until you run into them, and that can vary. In major creeks, that may be a long move with tons of possible stopping points along creek channels. In small, main-lake pockets, it can be exactly one move to the point on the outside.

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