Ross Barnett’s topwater bass

At Ross Barnett Reservoir in May, fish a buzzbait around rocks, pier posts and pilings, trying to draw a reaction strike from a postspawn bass.
At Ross Barnett Reservoir in May, fish a buzzbait around rocks, pier posts and pilings, trying to draw a reaction strike from a postspawn bass.

Postspawn brings out the best in surface baits

Ross Barnett is one of the best topwater lakes in Mississippi, especially in May. Bass will be in the postspawn mode on the 33,000-acre reservoir on the Pearl River in Madison and Rankin counties. Dividing this month in half, I fish shallow water the first two weeks and deep water the last two weeks.

First two weeks

Early in the month, I’ll be fishing down by the dam around the rock banks, piers and docks in that area with these top-water lures: a Pop-R, a Zara Spook, a buzzbait and a black Superfrog.

  • Pop-R. I’ll be fishing a shad-colored Pop-R on 20-pound White Peacock fluorocarbon, with a 6-foot-6, medium- action baitcasting rod and a 7:1 gear ratio reel. I’ll concentrate in the corners where the docks meet the rocks by casting against the bank and working the Pop-R out away from the bank. When the Pop-R hits the water, I’ll let it sit still for a few seconds, then give it two hard pops and let it to sit still again.
  • Zara Spook. I’ll fish a shad-colored Zara Spook in the same areas, without stopping the bait. I’ll keep it walking from the bank back to the boat, using the same rod, reel and line to fish that I used to fish the Pop-R.
  • Buzzbaits. I’ll fish buzzbaits by bumping them into rocks, posts and pilings around marinas. I’ll usually have different buzzbaits tied on two rods; one tuned to run to the right and the other to the left, ensuring a buzzbait will run into the pilings on the left or the right side of the marina or dock. Sometimes, on a cloudy day, the bass will like a black buzzbait, but on a bluebird day, they’ll usually prefer a white buzzbait. I fish the docks and rocks for the first two hours of daylight.
  • Mann’s Superfrog
    Mann’s Superfrog

    Superfrog. After I’ve caught bass on topwater lures near the dam, I’ll go across the lake to the east side and fish the lily pads with a black Mann’s Superfrog on a 7-foot, medium-heavy rod, 50-pound bass braid and a 7:1 reel. I’ll stop the frog in the openings in the pads. If a bass doesn’t blow up on the bait, I’ll continue to retrieve it through the pads, stopping on the pads’ edges, as bass will track the frog and take it once you stop it.

Last two weeks

The bass will leave shallow water and move out to the shallow ledges, 4 to 10 feet deep. I’ll fish these ledges with a Little George, a Carolina-rigged Jelly Bug and a 15+ crankbait.

  • The Little George. Using 2- pound fluorocarbon on a 7-foot, medium-action rod, I’ll fish the Little George on the river ledge and main-river bars where a ditch cuts through a sandbar. I’ll cast it a long way, let it go to the bottom, jerk it up and allow it to flutter down through the schools of bass.
  • Jelly Bug
    Jelly Bug

    Jelly Bug. I’ll fish a Carolina rig on 50-pound bass braid, using a 7-foot-6, medium-heavy rod with a 7:1 reel and 2 feet of 20-pound fluorocarbon leader. On the end of the leader, I’ll have a junebug-colored Jelly Bug.

When I’m fishing the Little George on ledges, often the bass will hit the blade as it’s falling and won’t get the hooks further up the body. If I get a couple of short strikes and don’t hook the bass, I’ll lay down the Little George, pick up the Carolina rig, cast to the same place and pull that Jelly Bug slowly across the bottom. Hopefully, the bass will pick it up.

  • Mann’s 15+ crankbait in grey ghost. At the end of the sandbars, where they start to taper off toward the river channel, I’ll fish this lure on 20-pound fluorocarbon with a 7-foot-6, medium-action rod. I’ll crank that bait on the ends of those sandbars where they drop off into deep water and on the underwater roadbeds about 10 to 12 feet deep.

I’ll concentrate my fishing where the bridges that were built to cross the underwater creeks and rivers were blown up before the lake was inundated. One of those is in the mouth of Pelahatchie Creek. On the west side of the lake, near the Natchez Trace, you’ll see another roadbed by using a lake map and your electronics.

June through August

The ledge pattern for bass that starts the last two weeks of May should be productive all the way through August.
The ledge pattern for bass that starts the last two weeks of May should be productive all the way through August.

From about May 15 to the end of August, ledge-fishing on Ross Barnett should be very productive. By fishing ledges, you might find a school of bass and catch 20 in one place.

Although most of the bass you catch in May will weigh 1½ to 3 pounds, I have caught 6- or 7-pounders with these techniques.

Paul Elias
About Paul Elias 144 Articles
Paul Elias, of Laurel, has fished 15 Bassmaster Classics with career winnings of over $1 million, including one Bassmaster Classic Championship. Elias also holds the current record for a four-day BASS tournament weigh-in with 132 pounds, 8 ounces, on Falcon Lake in Texas.