Calling Panther near Crystal Springs is a fairly new lake that holds numbers of big bass, timber, lily pads and other structure.
And May is the month when the bass start leaving the shallows at the lake and moving to deep-water structure where they plan to spend the summer.
The first two weeks in May
You’ll be fishing for bass that recently have spawned. Although some of the post-spawners will be moving out to summer structure, other bass still will be in shallow water, holding close to the beds of bluegill that will start spawning during the first half of May. Use your trolling motor to look for bedding panfish.
Two tactics will catch bass holding close to the bluegill beds.
I like to use topwater baits like a Zara Spook or a chugger bait or swim a jig. I prefer a Mann’s 3/8-ounce Stone Jig in the black-and-blue color, with either a black-and-blue or a green-pumpkin crawfish trailer.
I’ll cast the jig past the bluegill beds. If the bluegills are bedding right next to the bank, I’ll cast the jig onto the bank, drag it into the water and swim it through the bluegill bed.
I’ll shake the rod as I swim the jig to imitate a swimming bluegill, and bass will attack viciously.
One of the hardest strikes you’ll get all year long is when you swim a jig around or through a bluegill bed during May.
I swim the jig on 30-pound-test Berkley Trilene braided line. I’ll be retrieving the line with 6.4:1 Pinnacle reel, using a heavy-action 7-foot Pinnacle rod.
When I’m fishing topwater lures like the Zara Spook or a chugger bait, I want to land those lures as close to the bank as I possibly can. I’ll chug the bait as fast as I can back to the boat.
On the topwater lure, I want to use a faster reel, like a 7.3:1 Pinnacle Baitcasting reel and a medium-action 6-foot, 6-inch Pinnacle graphite rod.
When the bass decide to feed on the bluegills, they’ll attempt to herd the bluegills into a tight, shallow spot to make them go in all directions to dodge the oncoming charge of bass.
Once the bluegills leave the shallow water in panic, they leave wakes and cause commotion. So I’ll chug the bait seven or eight times quickly, before I stop it. On the next cast, I’ll chug the bait all the way back to the boat without stopping it.
If I’m fishing the Zara Spook, I’ll cast it as close as possible to the bank. Then, I’ll twitch my rod as fast as I can to get the Spook to dart from side to side quickly, as I reel it back to the boat.
Once you throw one of these topwater lures in close to or over the top of a bluegill bed, you’ll get a reaction strike from the cruising bass.
Creating this type of commotion close to the bluegill beds means you often can catch two or three bass out of the same spot. The bass that hold close to the bluegill beds usually will be some of the bigger bass in the lake.
The last two weeks of May
By this time, most of the bass will have moved away from the shoreline out to their deepwater summer homes.
Look for the humps out in the middle of the lake and long underwater points. Calling Panther has a number of coves with points at their mouths; these points are the first stop-offs where bass will hold as they move out to deeper water.
I like to start off fishing the points with a Mann’s C4 crankbait close to the bank and all the way out to deep water.
I’ll have a Mann’s 15+ to fish the middle and a Mann’s 20+ to fish the deeper depths of the points — with the lures rigged on two other rods because there’s no guarantee where the bass will be holding on those points.
You won’t have to fish many points before you establish the water depth bass want to hold in on the day you’re fishing.
Bass will move up and down on these points at different times of the day. So, the only way you can pinpoint the depths where they’re feeding is to fish all three crankbaits during the day.
When I’m crankbait fishing, I’ll be using a 5.5:1 Pinnacle Baitcasting reel with 12-pound-test Trilene 100 Percent Fluorocarbon line and a 7 ½-foot cranking action Pinnacle rod.
I’ll fish as many points as I can in a day. Once you discover a point that has a good school of bass holding on it, you usually can catch several bass on that one point.
When the bass quit hitting the crankbait, I’ll switch to a black-and-blue jig and swim it through the water depth where I’ve caught the bass on the crankbait.
Next, I’ll attack the point with a Carolina-rigged soft plastic lizard and work it slowly across the points.
On a good day, I expect to catch 20 bass at Calling Panther, with maybe four bass that I catch and release that may weigh from 4 to 8 pounds or bigger.
Remember: When those big spawning bass leave the bed and start staging on the points, they’re hungry and want to feed heavily before they move out to their deep water summer homes.