Follow The Shad In May For Heavy Sacks Of Seminole Largemouths
From buzzbaits and blades early to flipping, cranking and buzzing grass later in the day, Seminole can be magical in May.
Lake Seminole has long been known as one of the best bass fishing lakes in the country, not just for quantities of fish, but also huge tournament bags. During the postspawn feed-up on Lake Seminole, you can bet you’re going to need an average of more than 6 pounds per fish just to be in the top-three. But, you don’t have to be a tournament angler to enjoy the bass fishing on Lake Seminole because May just happens to be one of the easiest months of the year to catch bass.
Tournament angler Clint Brown, of Recovery, lives within a few minutes of Lake Seminole and frequents both Seminole and Florida’s Lake Talquin. For the past two years he’s won first place in points in the Media Bass division on Lake Seminole, and he even finished third against some of the top pro anglers in the country in the October 2010 B.A.S.S. Southern Open on Lake Seminole.
Clint, who has been tournament fishing for more than 15 years, said Seminole in May is the perfect time to catch a lot of fish that are keying on bait. The main thing he concentrates on in May is the spawning shad.
“Where ever it is you find the shad, you will find the big concentrations of big bass,” he said. “I start out always looking for topwater fish and fish that are feeding on shad. I usually search for outside hydrilla lines, especially the outside points. Current pushes the bait to the points, and that’s where the fish will be,” said Clint.
Clint likes to start out the morning throwing either a spinnerbait or buzzbait in natural shad colors. He lets the wind determine which of the two he’ll be throwing.
“If it’s windy, I will generally throw a spinnerbait, but if it’s slick with no wind, then I’ll throw a buzzbait,” said Clint.
White, black and silver are his go-to colors with both a Colorado and willowleaf blade, but he will change to a brighter chartreuse if the water is really muddy.
“Some guys will throw just Colorado blades when it’s muddy because it moves more water, but when you’re throwing through this thick grass, you really need a willowleaf blade to get through it,” he said.
Clint’s favorite spinnerbaits are Hildebrant Baits because the thin wire gives them more flexibility when coming through the grass. When it comes to buzzbaits, he said he wasn’t sure if any brand has a huge advantage over another, but Booyah and Strike King both make good baits.
Clint said it’s fairly easy to determine whether or not there is bait in the area when trying to find a good location to fish. If you aren’t seeing shad jumping around your bait as it’s coming through the grass and don’t see many other predator fish like gar in the area, then there probably isn’t a large enough population of shad in the area to sustain the concentrations of big bass tournament anglers are looking for.
“If there is a congregation of bait there, the bass will stay there day after day. They’ll hop grassbeds until they find enough bait to support them,” said Clint. “The current is continually pushing more bait into those outside points. That’s what makes the points such great places to fish.”
Clint explained that the shad will generally spawn all night long in the grass and first thing in the morning will remain in the thick grass. When the sun comes up, the shad move out to the deeper water.
“The bass will feed on the shad all morning long until the shad move into deeper water,” Clint said. “After the shad move out, the bass will either bury up in the grass or suspend. The toughest bass in the world to catch are suspended bass, so everyone goes to the thicker grass and starts flipping.”
Clint said just because the morning bite is over, he doesn’t necessarily cease topwater fishing altogether. While fishing tournaments with a partner, he said one angler will work the trolling motor holding the boat just off the grasslines while the other angler stands right next to him flipping to the deep-water grass.
“You need to parallel the edge of the boat up tight to the edges of those grasslines,” he said. “The grass won’t be right at the surface anymore, but you’ll have the boat in 14 or 15 feet of water directly over the deep hydrilla edges,” said Clint.
While holding the boat parallel to the grass, the lead angler will throw a shad-colored buzzbait way ahead of the boat while the other angler will flip the deep grass just ahead of the boat.
“It’s important for both anglers to fish ahead of the boat because the boat shadow can really spook some of the bigger fish,” said Clint.
When it comes to a flipping bait, Clint said he always turns to Big Bite Baits. He flips either a Fighting Frog or a Yo Mama soft plastic on a Gamakatsu wide gap flipping hook with a Tru-Tungsten flipping weight. He said he really likes the action of those two baits, and they just flat out catch fish.
Tilapia is the main color Clint uses for both the Fighting Frog and Yo Mama, but if the water is muddy he will sometimes go to a black and blue.
“Most of your bites will come on your initial drop when it breaks through the mat,” he said. “You want the bait to fall on slack line. You will know about how long it takes to hit the bottom after a few casts. If it stops before it’s supposed to, you want to set the hook. You’ll always want to set the hook as soon as they bite, because chances are if a big one gets you down in that grass, you won’t be able to get him out of it.”
Clint said most of the bass will be just inside the grass within 2 or 3 inches from the top of the matted grass. Because of that, if he doesn’t get a bite on the initial fall, he’ll let it fall all the way to the bottom. Then he’ll let it sit there for a second before he reels it all the way to the top of the mat and jigs it up and down a few times.
“If I don’t get a bite after that, I’ll pull it out and make another flip,” he said.
As the day goes on and the water continues to warm, the flipping angler will probably be the main fish-catcher on the boat, but Clint says you aren’t looking for a ton of bites on topwater during the day.
“You may only get two or three bites on topwater all day, but you can bet that it’s going to be a good one,” he said. “We aren’t out there trying to catch every fish in the lake, we just need five good ones.”
Another strategy that has helped Clint stay in the money on Seminole tournaments is something every angler should already be doing: trailer hooks. Clint uses trailer hooks on both his spinnerbaits and buzzbaits because of how the fish seem to strike shorter as the day goes on.
“We always use a trailer hook on everything we’re throwing. If they are still striking short even with a trailer hook, I sometimes put a trailer hook on a trailer hook on another trailer hook. That’s three trailer hooks on one bait if that’s what it takes to get the fish in the boat,” said Clint.
As you work those grass lines, you’ll find there will be places in between really thick lines that the grass becomes thinner. For those areas, Clint has another trick up his sleeve. He likes to throw a shallow-running crankbait.
“We’ll throw the crankbaits in areas where the grass is real sporadic and submerged,” said Clint. “We’ll just reel it until it hits the grass, then rip it out of there really fast for a reaction bite.”
The shallow-running crankbait Clint turns to most often is a Strike King 2.5 in any shad patterns. The color he was using on our trip to Lake Seminole was chartreuse sexy shad.
While bedding bass aren’t on many people’s radars on Seminole in May, Clint said it’s still possible to find a few good ones.
“It’s not something we go out there set on doing in May, but there are still a few out there,” said Clint.
He said while the moon will have a lot of influence on the bream bedding in May, the bass seem to do the opposite.
“The bream will bed right before and right after the full and new moons,” he said. “Since the bass will concentrate on feeding on the bedding bream, they seem to bed whenever the bream aren’t. And if they occasionally do bed the same time as bream, you can bet it won’t be anywhere close to a bream bed. The bream will just eat the eggs right off the bass bed.”
Clint suggested to forget about all of the backwater ponds and sloughs when looking for bedding bass in May. All of those fish in those locations will have already spawned. He said to concentrate your efforts on sandbars and shallow areas adjacent to the main lake and main river channel. Those are the locations that will still hold spawning fish in May.
You can expect to catch 15 or 20 fish per outing using these tactics and a lot more than that if you stay the entire day and hit the feeding fish again in the evening.
“The shad will start the whole spawning process over again right before dark, so the bass will start feeding heavy on them again,” Clint said. “You can go out there right before dark and catch them just as good as you can in the morning using the same spinnerbait and buzzbait techniques.”
Clint thanked his sponsor Outdoor Pursuits of Tallahassee, Fla., for allowing him to pursue his tournament fishing.
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