Blueback herring can be found in Lake Murray, Lake Hartwell and Clarks Hill - to name just a few - and what they're doing this month will determine what, where and how bass fishermen fish in those lakes.
Bluebacks are spawning in May, and bass will stay on them, feeding any chance they get; remember, they have finished spawning and are just now putting their feed bags back on. Our blueback herring lakes will be on fire this month.
I love to fish topwater baits this month, and when I won a BASS tournament on Clarks Hill a couple of years ago in May, I caught 'em on a Mop Jig, but my favorite bait right now to throw at the bass that are feeding on herring is a swimbait, a Trigger-X Drop Dead Minnow.
It comes in a herring color, and I fish that color quite a bit, but under low-light conditions - cloudy days, early morning and late afternoon - sometimes I think you need a little brighter color, so I'll use a white or pink. Sometimes those colors will get you a little more action than the natural color.
Before you can catch them, however, you need to find herring, because you'll find the bass nearby. Sometimes they'll be on steep drops, sometimes on flat points. You keep moving until you get on the herring, and that's one reason I like to fish the Drop Dead Minnow. I'll cast it, let it settle a few feet, then twitch it a couple of times, and if I don't get a bite, I'll reel it back in pretty fast. I can cover a lot of water with it, and because the bass are keying on herring so much, they'll smash it even if it's swimming away from them pretty fast.
You want to look for them on points on the main lake first, and if you don't find them there, go back in the creeks and look in the same kinds of places. I'll probably start by looking on those tapering points, and if don't find them there, then I'll look on those steeper-type places, and there will be a week or so in May when they'll get on them.
When you get around herring, you'll know it. You'll cast up in them, and you'll see the bait following your lure back. They must think it's another herring, and they're spawning.
They way I fish the herring with the swimbait is to cast, let it sink a foot or two, then twitch it a couple of times, the way you'd twitch a floating worm -twitch, twitch, pause. But then I reel it back fast, and that's the cool thing about a Drop Dead Minnow: it has a very realistic swimming motion.
I don't fish this bait slowly. I let it sink, twitch it a couple of times, then reel it back at a pretty good clip; I'm not fishing it the way I'd fish a floating worm. I want to cover a lot of water with it. Plus, they'll chase it, because on Murray, Clarks Hill and Hartwell, the water is clear enough that they can see a bait from a long way off.
I fish the bait on a weighted hook: a VMC hook I helped design. It's a 4/0 hook, light wire, with a 3/32-ounce weight. You don't want a heavy wire hook when you're making long casts, and when the bait falls with that light hook, it's got a nice little action. Also, the bait is about five inches long, and it's fairly bulky, so you can cast it a long way with just that little bit of weight on the hook. I fish it on a 7-foot, medium-heavy All-Star rod and a high-speed Pfleuger Patriarch baitcaster spooled with 15-pound Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon.
Because herring is the dominant pattern in May, I'll fish a swimbait all day long. Some days you might get a decent topwater bite, but most of the time, a swimbait will produce more bites.
I'm really looking forward to May this year. Lots of time, when we have a real early winter and a warm spring, the blueback will spawn early and be done early. This year, we've had a late winter and a cool spring, so I expect the herring to be spawning the whole month of May - and the fishing should really be good.