Four Baits For A Target-Rich Lake Blackshear In May

Red-hot Stren Series points leader Clint Brownlee says you only need these four baits to catch bass at Blackshear in May.

Brad Bailey | April 29, 2008

Clint Brownlee with a Blackshear keeper that hit a Senko .. one of four baits that Clint says are all you need to catch Blackshear bass in May.

More than most Georgia lakes, Lake Blackshear is what a bass fisherman would call a “target-rich” environment. Everywhere there are grassbeds, cypress trees, logs, stumps and docks that all look like they hold bass.

Fishing cypress trees is the basic pattern at Blackshear in the spring, according to Clint Brownlee of Tifton, a tournament angler who calls Blackshear his home lake.

“Early in the spring the bass move up to spawn, and they will be on the cypress trees,” said Clint. “But in May they will be on grass. I still hate to pass up a good cypress tree. A lot of times the bass will just hang around the trees, but in May the primary pattern for bigger, postspawn bass is fishing grassbeds.”

On Blackshear in May, Clint’s approach to the lake is relatively simple: he uses a small number of baits and targets grassbeds and the irresistible cypress trees.

Clint picks four baits as all you need to catch plenty of bass on Blackshear in May. The baits are a Senko, a Zoom Speed Worm, a Stanley Ribbit frog and a Mini-Me spinnerbait. You can leave the rest of your tackle at home, and you’ll still catch plenty of bass, he says.

I fished with Clint on April 10 and our first stop was a bank just south of Collins Branch. Clint’s first bass of the day hit a watermelon Senko. He had underhanded the fat worm to the base of a cypress tree and let the worm settle into the roots before quickly setting the hook.

“This time of year you will go through a lot of these,” he said, as he unhooked the short fish. “At the last Ernie’s (the Blackshear Buddies tournaments run by Ernie Broughton) we caught about 20 of these. You just keep casting away, and you will hit a big one eventually.”

Catching big fish is something Clint and his fishing partner Jerry Gray of Sylvester have often figured out. They are regulars at the Ernie’s tournaments on Blackshear and are considered one of the teams to beat. In early March they came in with a 21-lb. bag of fish — only to be edged by Ernie himself who had a 23-lb. limit that was likely the heaviest five-bass limit caught in a tournament on the lake.

Clint enjoys the competition of tournaments. Last year he fished the BFL circuit and qualified to fish the FLW Outdoors Stren Series this year. In early February, Clint won the Stren Series tournament on Seminole and $25,000 with a four-day catch that weighed 45.04 pounds. In March he came in sixth at the Stren Series on Eufaula with a four-day catch that weighed 55.79 pounds. At presstime, after three of four Stren Series tournaments, Clint is the points leader.

Clint’s attitude about fishing tournaments remains laid-back.

“If the fish bite, great. But if the big one gets away, well, that’s fishing,” he said.
After unhooking the short fish, Clint pulled a new Senko out and re-rigged.

“Senkos are so soft it doesn’t take much to tear one up,” he said. “If you catch a fish, they are pretty much gone.”

Clint fishes a Senko with a 4/0 wide-gap Owner hook with a light weight, either a 1/16-oz. weight or a 1/32-oz. if the water is very clear.

“If the fish are there, the slower the fall the better. If it falls too fast I think they just watch it go by.”

A great combination: new emergent green grass coming off the bank and a pair of cypress trees in deeper water. These are places Clint expects to find bass in May.

Clint fired the worm back to another cypress tree trunk. The worm bumped off the trunk and fell softly into the water. He twitched the worm slowly through the roots, then quickly retrieved the worm and made another cast to another tree.

“If the fish are going to eat it, they will eat it in the first few feet from the tree,” he said. “I fish it slow with a little tension on the line so I can feel it while it’s in the right spot, then I go ahead and retrieve it to make another cast.”

Clint alternated between hitting cypress trees with a Senko and working the grassbeds with another May favorite, a Zoom Speed Worm. Both were watermelon colored. He often fished the Speed Worm like a jerkbait, popping his rod tip much like you’d fish a Super Spook to make the worm dart and make the paddle-tail flutter.

“I’m trying to get a reaction bite,” he said. “Sometimes when it jerks and darts they can’t stand it. But you never know, some days they want it to sit still. You have to experiment. A Speed Worm works well around the trees, too.”

Clint fishes the Speed Worm with a 1/8-oz. weight, and it comes through the grassbeds well.

Here’s all you need to catch May bass at Blackshear. (Top to bottom) a Ribbit frog, a Senko, a speedworm and a spinnerbait.

Our fifth bass, a dark, farm-pond-green largemouth that weighed about 2 pounds, hit a Senko that Clint had flipped far under the outspread branches of a cypress tree. Accuracy counts for this kind of fishing. If you can’t make an accurate underhanded pitch to shoot your bait low to the water and under the cypress-tree branches, and you are fishing with someone who can, you are about to get whipped in the bass-catching department.

“Trees are a more important structure than logs or stumps, and the shade is the key,” said Clint. “The fish like to get in the shade under the trees.”

According to Clint, by the end of May as the water temperature rises, Blackshear bass will gradually ease out of the pockets to stage on main-lake points and hold in grassbeds and around trees nearer deep water. As June progresses, the fish move deeper and the fishing becomes more difficult.

“You can catch a few fish around docks, but a lot of people hate this lake in the summer. That’s why we usually go up the river to fish moving water.”

Clint’s baitcasters are spooled with 15-lb. P-Line that he likes for the strength and castability. Stout line can come in handy. Clint held the lake record for largemouths recently with an 11-lb., 5-oz. monster he caught on a lizard during a Tuesday night tournament.

“The grass is getting greener,” said Clint as we fished toward a point with green grass coming through the surface. “The bigger postspawn bass just seem to like to hang around the grass.”

The day we fished was overcast most of the morning with a slight breeze. That’s just right conditions for another of Clint’s favorite May baits, a Stanley Ribbit frog in watermelon with red-flake. The grass at Blackshear was just beginning to emerge through the surface, and the plastic frog with its paddling legs sputtering across the surface through the grass is often way too enticing for the bass.

“A frog is great when the water warms up in May,” said Clint. “On a cloudy day you can fish it all day. I catch some big fish on a frog, and usually unexpectedly, like during the middle of the day.”

Two fish boiled on the frog on one cast to a grassbed, but neither took the bait. All the while, Clint kept the frog paddling steadily along.

“You hear a lot of grumbling about fishing a frog because people miss the fish,” he said. “You have to make yourself wait until you feel the fish. You keep it coming, and if they miss they will sometimes come back for it.”

By 10 a.m. we had put 14 bass in the boat and missed hooking a few more.
Clint called the shot for bass No. 15. We came around a point and a solitary cypress tree came into view standing well off the bank. Clint passed up a nondescript bank and headed directly for the single tree.

“There will be a bass on that tree,” he said. “They like a single tree.”

When the tree was in range, Clint sidearmed a Senko that slapped the tree trunk and slipped quietly into the water. “That ought to get him,” he said as he lifted his rod tip to maintain contact with the sinking worm, then: “He’s on…” and he set the hook. A solid 2 1/2-pounder boiled to the surface.

After releasing the fish, Clint sat in his boat and clipped the hook from the line and re-tied.

“The line was a little nicked. The next one might be a 5-pounder, so I want everything to be right.”

The little things count for Clint.

Bass No. 17 came on the standard-issue bait for Blackshear in May: a spinnerbait. Clint had cast beyond a grassbed that barely reached above the surface of the lake and retrieved the blade with a steady retrieve. The spinning blades flashed as the bait swam though the grass stalks — then got hammered by a trailing bass.

A blade can be pitched to the base of trees, and it comes through the grassbeds well, said Clint. He said he has been pleased with the Mini-Me spinnerbait.

“They sell them around Lake Lanier,” he said. “It’s built so the weight is behind the head — it’s a great spinnerbait. At the Eufaula Stren, 90 percent of my fish came on that spinnerbait.”

The one Clint was using on Blackshear had double nickel willowleaf blades and a white skirt.

“I like to fish the 1/2-oz. size because it stays down better,” he said.

In half a day of fishing, Clint and I caught 22 bass. Clint expects this postspawn pattern of four baits on grassbeds and trees to hold up throughout May before warmer water temperatures drive the fish into deeper water, and they will become more difficult to catch.

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