Ross Barnett’s May post-spawn bass

Although most of the bass you catch will weigh less than 2 pounds in May, you may get into some chunky bass like this one.

In May, the bass at Ross Barnett will be over the spawn, and you can catch large numbers of them. At the first of May, droves of bass will move toward the river channel onto the shallow ledges and the stumpy humps in front of the lily pad spawning areas. These places are primarily on the lake’s eastern side with its numbers of lily pads and an abundance of shallow water between the Highway 43 bridge and Ross Barnett Dam. You must be careful handling your boat to avoid the big stumps and underwater islands. Some bass also will remain in the lily pads.

The importance of electronics 

I recommend you use your electronics to go into search mode. When you find these humps with stumps on them, more than likely you’ll catch more bass off each hump. I’ll use my Garmin depth finders to locate the humps and then my Garmin LiveScope to see any bass holding on the stumps. Also with the LiveScope, I can spot bluegill beds and balls of bait like shad. While I’m idling, looking for humps, I’ll use my side scan to help locate more humps and stumps. 

The dropshot rig allows you to put a soft plastic lure on the hook and the jig stands up on the bottom. When you shake it, the dropshot rig resembles a critter feeding on the bottom.

Early May patterns

• Crankbaits: I’ll fish a bluegill colored C4 crankbait and a Mann’s grey ghost (shad) colored Mann’s 15+. In May, the bass will feed on bluegills and shad. Bluegills start bedding in May in the stumpy humps, and you’ll often catch bass around those beds. Be careful when reeling in these spots, since getting your crankbait hung up is very easy in this type of cover. Most anglers won’t even try to run a crankbait through these stumpy humps, so, that’s why I do.

I’ll retrieve those crankbaits with a medium retrieve on a 7’1” FX custom cranking rod with a 6.2:1 ELS Bruin reel and 14-pound test White Peacock fluorocarbon line. You need to be able to feel the crankbaits as they work through the stumps. Although several stumps may be on a hump, all the bass may be holding on a specific stump.

• Dropshot with a SpringR Worm and a Shaky Head Jig with a Jellybug: When I get aggravated with hanging up, I’ll change lures and tactics. I’ll rig the dropshot and the shaky head jig Texas style (weedless) and fish them on a spinning reel with 15-pound bass braid and a 10-pound test, 8-10 foot fluorocarbon leader. My rod will be a 7’4” medium action FX custom spinning rod. 

On the dropshot, I’ll put a ¼-ounce weight on my line’s bottom and attach a wacky rigged Junebug colored SpringR worm with a No. 1/0 Gamakatsu weedless wacky hook. Although the water’s fairly shallow on the tops of the humps, I want my hook about 12 inches above the weight. By rigging like this, when I move the dropshot, the SpringR worm will wiggle down to the bottom, and the bass can’t resist it.

I’ll fish a shaky head jig with a Jellybug green pumpkin with purple and black flakes. I’ll dye its tail chartreuse. I’ll move the dropshot and the shaky head very slowly across the bottom at Ross Barnett and through the stumps. When you set the hook on the bass with these rigs, most of the time in this shallow water, the bass will jump. As soon as they come out of the water, keep reeling to keep the bass from getting their heads back down in the cover.

Mid to late May

I’ll fish the western side of the lake and its river ledges, underwater road beds, blown out bridges and deeper structure after mid-May. 

• 20+ Crankbait: I’ll start off fishing a grey ghost colored 20+ crankbait on 14-pound fluorocarbon, an ELS 6.2:1 reel and a 7’6” medium heavy FX cranking rod. The river ledges will be at 8-12 feet deep on their tops and then drop off to 18-20 feet.

At the end of May, the bass will be congregated in bigger schools than you’ll find when fishing stumpy humps at the beginning of May. You’ll see numbers of bass chasing bait on the surface. Instead of swimming the crankbait, I’ll burn this crankbait very fast.

• Stone Jig: Once the bass quit biting the 20+, I’ll fish a ½-ounce black and blue Stone Jig with a blue crawfish trailer on 19-pound fluorocarbon, a 7’3” heavy action FX custom rod and a 7.3:1 ELS Bruin reel. I’ll bump and jump the jig through the cover and/or rocks on the river ledges. Often at the end of May, I’ll snatch the jig off the bottom and let it fall back.

Bass fishing Ross Barnett in May means you’ll catch numbers of bass — perhaps 30 — but not necessarily large bass. Although I think the bigger Ross Barnett bass will be caught at the first of May, you’re likely to catch an 8-9 pound bass at any time of the year there.

About Paul Elias 183 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.

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