There’s no greater thrill in bass fishing than watching a calm surface suddenly explode and your topwater lure instantly vanish.
This scene will be played out many times this month as the waters become warm enough to activate bass into feeding on top. May has always been a prime topwater time for me on my home impoundment, the Lake of the Ozarks. My favorite springtime topwater lure is the Heddon Zara Spook, but I’ve also caught plenty of bass on the surface with topwater chuggers and propeller baits.
A number of factors stimulate bass into striking at objects on the surface during late spring. Mike Kruse, MDC fisheries biologist, suggests this time of year, particularly in a bass’ post spawn stage, is a period of heavy feeding when water temperatures are optimum for largemouth bass and food is abundant. “It’s just an overall period of optimum conditions for growth and feeding when bass’ metabolisms are running full bore and they are looking for food,” the biologist says.
Bass might be looking toward the surface during this time because a lot of terrestrial insects, such as locusts and grasshoppers, fall in the water, Kruse says. But probably the main reason why male bass key in on the surface during May is to protect their fry. “A lot of times the fry hover just under the surface, so the adult males tend to be fairly close to the surface anyway,” says Kruse.
These fish also tend to be extremely aggressive and strike at anything that approaches them along the surface. The speed at which you work a topwater lure during this time of year depends on the water temperature. Typically, the cooler the water, the slower the retrieve.
A multitude of boat docks makes Lake of the Ozarks an ideal place to fish topwater lures in May. Bass use these floating structures for cover throughout the spawning cycle.
Bass tend to congregate at the back ends of docks in the first half of the month, depending on the spawning conditions. During the post-spawn later in the month, some bass can still be found behind the docks, but others tend to move out to the sides or even the front of the floating structures where they suspend over sunken brush piles or under the dock’s foam. When fishing behind the docks, throw your topwater lures on braided line to cut down on line breakage if you hook a fish next to the dock’s cables.
In early May, the water temperature is usually in the upper 50s to low 60s so slowly retrieve topwater chuggers, such as Rebel Pop-R’s or Storm Lures Rattlin’ Chug Bugs. You can also catch sluggish bass by slowly swimming or twitching a floating minnow across the surface. By the end of the month switch to Zara Spooks, buzz baits and topwater propeller plugs that he works at a faster pace since the water has warmed into the 70-degree range.
The backs of pockets and coves are productive topwater areas. Look for dark-color bottoms which tend to hold heat better and warm the water faster. Most bass gather on the pea-gravel banks during the spawn and then move to the chunk rock banks during the post-spawn. Areas close to deep water are best. Even when fishing in coves, concentrate on the areas where there is 15 to 18 feet of water in the back end. In addition to targeting docks, you can also throw your topwater lures around any lay-downs or any brush piles he sees along the shoreline.
The lake’s size allows you to move from one area to another and enjoy prime topwater fishing for three weeks to a month. The best areas for topwater fishing are in the clear-water mid and lower sections of the lake.
For information on lodging and other facilities at the Lake of the Ozarks or to receive a free vacation guide, call the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-FUN-LAKE or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitors Bureau website at www.funlake.com.
Copies of John Neporadny’s book, “THE Lake of the Ozarks Fishing Guide” are available by calling 573/365-4296 or visiting the web site www.jnoutdoors.com.