This month bass should have completed spawning, be moving out of the lily pads and toward their deepwater summer patterns, and schooling in and on the edges of the lily pads, as well as in open water.
The fish will be hitting topwater lures and baits that run just under the surface like the Mann’s Super Frog, a Reel N’ Shad, a FrankenToad, a Pop-R, a jig and a Zara Spook.
I’ll start off my day at Ross Barnett having a black and a white Mann’s Super Frog tied to the end of 50-pound-test braided line on two Pinnacle 7-foot, 6-inch flipping rods with Pinnacle 7.3:1 reels.
I’ll alternate casting with the black and the white to determine which color frog gets the most bites and the most hook-ups.
During early May, I’ll fish the frog around shallow-water pads and patches of reeds, starting just south of Highway 43 on the east side of the lake up to Fannin Landing. I’ll be looking for schooling bass on the edges of and up in the lily pads.
When bass begin schooling on Barnett, you might spot baitfish and bluegills getting knocked out of the water as the bass feed on them. Generally schools of bass won’t contain big bass, but you can catch good numbers of bassthat attack the frog in the lily pads or a Pop-R or a Zara Spook on the edges of or outside the pads.
Besides schooling bass, big fish also will be in the lily pads after the spawn to feed on bream that have started spawning.
When I reach open spots in the pads, I’ll swim a black-and-blue Stone Jig with a blue trailer to get bass bites. If the water’s clear enough to see the bluegill beds, I’ll cast that Stone Jig or the FrankenToad just past the beds, swim them just under the surface, over the beds and out past the beds on 50-pound-test line and the same Pinnacle setup.
These bass might try to jerk your rod out of your hand.
From the middle of May until the end of the month, the bass will start to move out of the pads toward the river channel. I like to fish above Highway 43 then.
Since I’ll see many schools of bass breaking the surface of the water, I’ll fish the Super Frog and the FrankenToad farther out in the lily pads toward the deep water. I can get 20 to 30 blowups on frog.
One of the most-difficult problems with frog fishing, which is one of the most exciting ways to bass fish, is to not set the hook on the strike — you have to wait until you’re sure the bass has the lure in its mouth before you set the hook.
Another tactic I’ll use is to steadily reel a watermelon red Mann’s Reel N’ Shad rigged weedless with a ¼-ounce jighead along the edges of the pads after casting parallel to them.
Basically, the Reel N’ Shad is a swimbait. I’ll use 20-pound-test White Peacock fluorocarbon line with a 7-foot, medium-heavy Pinnacle rod and a 7.3:1 reel.
I’ll wait for the bass to come out from under the pads and take the Reel N’ Shad. I’ll also fish the Reel N’ Shad around stumpy areas above Highway 43, generally just off the river channel.
When I’m fishing the edges of the pads in late May, I’m looking for bass schooling in open water. I’ll have a Pop-R and a Zara Spook already tied on to the lines of two, 6-foot 6-inch medium-action Pinnacle rods with 20-pound White Peacock fluorocarbon line on 6.4:1 gear ratio Pinnacle reels.
I’ll be searching for bass chasing bluegills, bass breaking the top of the water and schools of bass blowing up on shad and other baitfish.
I’ll work those two baits fairly fast back to the boat to make them look like bigger baits trying to get away from attacking bass.
You’ll also locate schooling bass in the mouths of creeks coming into the main river channel and in little pockets in the lily pads.
Once you pinpoint sandbars at the mouths of backwater sloughs and bays that empty into the main river, fish them with a Carolina-rigged Mann’s Freefall Worm or a 6-inch Mann’s Jelly Worm.
Ross Barnett holds many spotted bass, and these spots as well as largemouths will gang up on sandbars after pulling out of the backwater areas where they’ve spawned.
But the fish schooling on these sandbars might not come up and attack shad on the surface. If you spot bass that break the surface and then go down and quit feeding, throw that Carolina rig.
When I’m making a Carolina rig, I use 50-pound-test braided line as my main line, put a ¾-ounce weight up the line, an orange plastic bead under the weight and tie a barrel swivel onto the tag end of the main line.
Coming off the other end of the barrel swivel, I’ll tie 2 feet of 20-pound-test White Peacock fluorocarbon leader and a 5/0 Gamakatsu hook.
In late May, you can catch 20 to 30 bass — including some that weigh 2 to 3 pounds each, and possibly one or more bass weighing from 4 to 7 pounds — in a day at Ross Barnett.