May is one of the most versatile months for bass anglers all over the U.S. We can head to a northern lake for the spawn bite or head south for a post-spawn bite. So, as anglers we must hone a few of our skills to adapt to any situation we might face during the month. While on tour I hear reporters and fans talk about an angler’s strengths. Although each of us has our strengths, we rely on our versatility with a variety of baits to compete.
Tube fishing has been around for some time now, and the baits continue to be one of the most versatile on the market. Tubes have been fished many ways and various incarnations of the bait are available, making them a mainstay in every angler’s tackle box. I fish a tube in the fall, spring or summer. But May is the time when most anglers’ first choice is the tube, simply for its fish-catching ability this time of year. It doesn’t matter if you are from the north or south, tubes are the way to go.
This time of year, northern waters are heating up to the ideal levels that will ignite the spawn, and southern lakes have passed that level, which signals a migration away from spawning beds. The further north you move the more likely you’ll be fishing in the backs of bays, hidden coves or protected areas where bass can get away. In the south, targeting main-lake structure yields the best results. A simple rocky point or rip-rap banks will hold spawning shad that post-spawn bass will be holding near to replenish their energy.
My favorite tube to use for northern lakes is a 4-inch Hollow Belly Tube with a ¼-ounce jig head. Exposing the jig head and fishing the Hollow Belly in open water is how I’ve had the best results. I use a translucent color like shad or hitch many times during this time of year. Another important feature to the set up is hook size. Bigger hooks lead to better hook ups and better hook penetration. I tie it all together using a basic Palomar knot, which gives me the strength needed to set the hook.I prefer a low-stretch line, like Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon for this technique, but anglers who are concerned with the low-stretch characteristic of a fluorocarbon can opt out for a nice sturdy monofilament. The spawning fish up North will have a few extra pounds on them, so spooling up with 10-pound Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon would be best. Spooled on a durable spinning reel like the Abu Garcia Soron and using a 6-foot, 6-inch medium action Fenwick Techna AV spinning rod, I throw the bait out and retrieve just like I would a swimbait.
In the early years of tube fishing, tubes used to be our flippin’ bait and swimbait. I like to vary my retrieve speeds until I get a consistent bite. At that point, I maintain the rate of retrieve and take note of the depth that I caught them. Cast the bait back out and do it all over again.
Down South, I like to fish the Hollow Belly much differently. The hollow design of the tube serves two purposes. On one hand, the hollow cavity allows for more positive hook ups, and on the other hand the scent has more surface area for scent dispersion.
I flip the tube in the early morning hours around boat docks, weed edges and banks. What you want to look for during the post spawn are spawning shad. Shad are the key to locate bass that are actively feeding to recuperate from the spawn. Finding the shad in the early morning is pretty simple. For this electronics are not required; a good set of eyes and ears are all you’ll need. Listening for shad hitting the top and sighting them from far away is key to locating hungry bass.
My set up is pretty simple for the southern region. I like to use the 4-inch Hollow Belly in a shad-pattern color attached to a heavier monofilament line like 25-pound Trilene Maxx and rig with a 5/0 wide gap hook with a 5/16-ounce bullet weight.
The key when fishing during the post spawn is to fish slowly. If you locate some shad during the spawn, the key will be to keep your distance and don’t get in a hurry. You may lose sight of them, but have faith that they are there. Stay back when casting to the area and fish the area thoroughly.
I use a 6-foot, 6-inch medium-fast Fenwick Techna AV casting rod because it has the right action to make the bait crawl over the limbs to keep from getting hung up. Also, this rod handles 12- and 14-pound line so much better than a heavy action rod. You can also cast further with the extra tip action, plus you get the ability to feel the fish better. I use an Abu Garcia REVO Premier, with a 6:1 retrieve ratio, so when a bass gets hooked, I can hit it hard and wind fast to pull its head away from the whatever cover it might be headed toward. If it runs toward the boat, I’ve got plenty of retrieve speed to keep up with it.
Whether you are fishing up North or locating the southern post spawn haunts, fish can be found. Catching them can be made easy if you use a versatile tube and expand its uses. Think against the grain when you look at tube baits and your versatility can land more fish.