MAY ON LAY LAKE …IS TOPWATER LURE TIME!
Written By Reed Montgomery
Any angler worth his/her weight in topwater lures has heard the old adage,
“ May is topwater time! ” For those anglers that are rather new to the ever-growing sport of bass fishing, a little explanation may be needed of why this annual post-spawn occurrence takes place.
With reference to Alabama’s age old Coosa River impoundment Lay lake (impounded in 1914), and its magnetic personality that seems to draw bass anglers in from all over the globe, here’s what takes place as these bass go on a topwater feeding frenzy.
At the end of each spring spawning season, usually around the first week of May, both the Coosa River spotted bass and Lay lake’s largemouth bass have for the most part, completed their spawning activities. All but one. Eating.
These recuperating bass then as they say, ”come off the beds” often displaying a very aggressive attitude…and they are always very hungry.
Gone are the annual rituals of spawning. Courting, preparing the bed, laying the eggs, and then tending the nests, after their newborn offspring enters their very on new, underwater world. All taking place within a 4-6 week period with these bass eating very little during the entire spawning process.
All the while they are attempting to hold a 24 hour visual, restlessly running off all the egg eaters and then protecting the newborn fry. Soon these annoying prey begin to go away as the baby bass disperse and leave the comfort of the bed.
But not the male and female bass. They stick around to get their fill. Its now time for the predators to eat!
Not only are these, both male and female bass, very hungry from practically starving themselves to death while tending to their parental duties — protecting this spring seasons’ newborn offspring — but they have a vengeance as well.
For the last few weeks, these bass of Lay lake have been pestered by egg and fry-eating bream, shad, minnows, crayfish, worms, snakes, eels, lizards and waterdogs, and even smaller bass, crappie and catfish!
As the beds were being made, these intruders all just hung around. Waiting.
When the eggs began to hatch, these pests immediately intruded on the bass domain, often in huge numbers. As the newborn fry begin to emerge (those that survived), more and more of these prey emerged, unfortunately consuming another season’s offspring.
But that’s over now and its payback time! These big, Lay lake bass are hungry and they are seeking vengeance on anything that moves within grasp of their huge maw! Which brings us back to the subject at hand. Fishing with various topwater lures in May on Lay!
CHOOSING TOPWATER LURES FOR LAY LAKE
Most adept anglers that have had the pleasure of fishing Alabama’s Lay lake (impounded in 1914) have discovered fishing the lake’s weed-infested waters calls for a certain type of lure choice. That is, to avoid frustrating lure hang-ups or possibly losing costly lures.
Still, whether they like it or not, all anglers must have at least two lure choices. Weedless Topwater Lures and those Not-So-Weedless Topwater Lures.
WEEDLESS TOPWATER LURES
The ever-growing list of weedless lures offered on today’s lure market (those that can be drug through the thickest of weeds and wood cover without hanging up), is mind boggling!
Its easy to eliminate some lures. Those with dangling treble hooks do not fall in the weedless lure category!
There are air-injected floating worms and lizards. They come in bright colors and natural colors. Soft plastic jerk baits in shad and bream colors. Even plastic dragonfly imitations, snake-like plastics up to a foot long, mice imitations and a number of other weedless lures to choose from, all that usually feature a single hidden hook.
Even buzz baits featuring a trailer hook and single hook swim baits can be fished right up in the weeds and around most wood and rock cover on Lay lake.
All of these lures can be fished on the water’s surface all around the many types of aquatic weeds Lay lake has to offer, including wood cover. Thus they are dubbed, ”weedless topwater lures ” and meant to be fished in the thickest of weed or wood cover, retrieved on or near the waters surface, without hanging up.
Still, there are the basic lure designs. Those topwater lures that have either been copied over and over again, all throughout the past fifty plus years, all to attract the bass — and possibly the bass angler alike — and some of these topwater lures are still in production today.
Like one of everybody’s favorite topwater lures, including mine…frogs.
As spring gets underway and Lay lake’s new growing aquatic weeds begin to bloom all throughout the entire lake’s 289 miles of weedy shoreline shallows, out come the frogs.
Hopping, scurrying across the water’s surface, annoyingly swimming all about the lake’s shallows (not to mention their incessant croaking), these frogs quickly become a huge part of the bass’s daily diet.
Real frogs are usually rather easy for these bass to catch. You can rest assured most bass would prefer to eat frogs all the time. A bass can swallow a frog rather easy. Frogs feature no spines or bony tissue to hamper the process of eating (and swallowing), so they go down rather well.
During the month of May, when selecting a frog imitation to fish with, always be prepared for some every exciting topwater explosions! These lures are not meant to be used by faint hearted anglers!
* Anglers with heart conditions should take precautions when fishing with frog imitations! Always have your heart pills in your tackle box!
CHOOSING FROG IMITATIONS – When making a choice among today’s hundreds of plastic frogs or rubber-bodied frog imitations, most astute anglers have their preference. There are many, many frog choices to select from. Some work better than others.
Certain frog lure manufactures hail theirs as being the best, often backed by the best professional anglers and Television personalities in the fishing business.
Frog television commercials (no not Budweiser), like those featuring a new and exciting topwater frog lure (and explosion), can automatically create lure sales, for some very enthused anglers.
Color choices can vary tremendously. With some of today’s frog imitations so life like, its often hard to tell the fake frogs from the real ones! Different body styles and even various sizes of frogs, now come in dozens of color choices.
* Having many colors and styles of frogs, including a selection of small to large size frogs, some already rigged and ready, is suggested for experimenting on each outing.
WEEDLESS QUALITIES – The weedless qualities of these single hook, fake plastic frogs or the two hook, rubber hollow-bodied frogs, always plays a huge role in the fish catching picture.
A frog imitation is of no use to any angler, if it constantly hangs up on every cast.
Rigging a single hook frog requires hiding the hook in the plastic lures body. Fished weightless, these are very weedless lures.
A good, hollow-bodied rubber frog, one featuring two upturned hooks, should feature hooks that lay snug up against the lures body. This helps avoid the frog snagging on weed and wood cover and it means more strikes!
For anglers seeking those very exciting topwater explosions this “May on Lay” most importantly of all, keep this thought in mind. “ When it comes to actually putting bass in the boat, the lures hook-up capabilities is of the utmost importance. “
“If you don’t hook em’ then you don’t actually catch them!”
* When fishing with any lure, having very sharp hooks is very important to your fishing success. Replace or sharpen all hooks.
Included in this fish catching equation would have to be a good, dependable 6-7 foot rod, wide-spool reel (to hold an ample amount of strong, heavy pound test fishing line either monofilament, fluorocarbon or braided line) and a good landing net.
Again, preference plays into each anglers tackle, lure and equipment selection.
Fishing with various frog imitations, an angler will soon discover just exactly what, when, where and how the bass wants it on any given day.
Or for those anglers really on the go (like bass tournament anglers that often have trouble slowing down) real fast, keeping the frog moving for those explosive reaction strikes!
Often this extra fast retrieve technique does have its down fall, with more missed strikes than when slowing down your retrieve. Generally the slower you go, the more bass you hook. Always pay close attention on every cast!
Then there is always experimenting. What size frog the bass wants, what type of frog, what color of frog they prefer must often be discovered on about any fishing expedition to Alabama’s Lay lake. So if they are not biting your favorite frog, switch it up!
On some days these frog-eating bass must be enticed to bite. On other days it seems like they are starving! Night Fishing? Frogs can be deadly lures after the sun goes down!
SINGLE HOOK FROGS
Some of today’s frog models are solid plastic frogs an angler can fish utilizing a single hook. Choosing a single, wide gap hook in the 4/0-5/0 size is suggested. Offset gap hooks grab to many weeds, usually hanging right in the bend below the hook eye.
By using a screw-lock type, wide-gap hook, or pegging a toothpick right through the eye of the hook (and the frog), then cutting off both ends of the toothpick, this will help eliminate the frog constantly sliding down the shank of the hook, from casting the lure long distances. You can insert glass or brass rattles in these plastic frogs as well.
Retrieves vary too! Single hook frogs usually feature two dangling legs. An angler can fish these types of frogs in a similar fashion to retrieving a buzzbait. Simple. Just throw it out, bring it in and hold on!
Or you can retrieve these frogs utilizing short hops of the lure, pausing the frog along weed lines, stopping in and around isolated patches of weeds, or purposefully stopping it right dead in the middle of small holes and open lanes found within the weeds.
Even allowing the frog to just sit idle (for as long as you and the bass can stand it), or moving it very, very slowly, may be needed, especially during highly pressured fishing situations usually evident on our very crowded lakes during the spring season.
Or on those days when the bass must be enticed to strike a frog imitation you may have to really slow it down and make repeated casts all around likely looking cover.
RUBBER HOLLOW-BODIED FROGS
Anglers choosing a rubber, hollow bodied frog, one featuring two upturned hooks and a pair of either rubber trailing legs or a silicone skirt, need to select weedless models and those frogs that feature very sharp hooks.
Just like when using single hook frogs, adding an enticing rattle or two in these hollow bodied frogs, may help aid these bass in finding the frog, especially when anglers encounter stained to off-colored water conditions on Lay lake.
Give them a choice! You do not know…unless you throw!
* For more info on fishing with frogs See; “Fun with Frogs and Rats” at the articles link at www.fishingalabama.com!
NOT-SO-WEEDLESS TOPWATER LURES
Fishing around Lay lake’s aquatic weeds and targeting various types of wood cover such as stumps, logs, laying trees, brush piles and standing timber, calls for the use of topwater lures in May. The kind that may hang up if fished right in the cover.
These types of topwater lures usually feature either one, two, or three cover-grabbing treble hooks. You can fish them very close to cover if casting accuracy is part of your game plan. And it should always be.
Lures are costly and expensive to lose, especially if they are left hanging in some tree or shoreline cover. So keep in mind, practice makes perfect!
Some examples; (including some lures that have worked for almost 100 years on Lay lake’s bass) are generally those basic types of topwater lures most anglers have a few of. Or they have at least heard of. This could be a very long list if it included today’s many lure choices. Still there are the old, basic topwater lures that do still work.
WALKERS – These types of topwaters can be made to walk all around any type of Lay lake cover for some very explosive topwater strikes.
BUZZ BAITS – Small to large sizes work. Always include trailer hooks. Try noisy models on windy, rainy days and during low light periods. More quieter buzz baits may be needed during calm more serene conditions.
WADDLERS – Jitterbugs and Crazy Crawlers fall in this topwater category. Great lures around weed, wood and even rock cover and good lures at night as well. Super glue rattles to the lures body for an extra enticing sound.
PROP-BAITS – This can either be a single prop topwater lure like a Tiny or Baby Torpedo or a double-prop bait like an old topwater, the Devils Horse or a Crazy Shad.
POPPERS – The name sake topwater lure, the Rebel Pop-r can’t be a bad choice any time. Also try other concave mouth topwater lures in this popping category like; Chuggers and even old Hula Poppers that still fool Lay lake’s big bass!
FLOATING MINNOW-TYPE LURES – These are not often thought of as being a topwater lure. But lures such as an old Rapala, Bomber, Rogues and even some of today’s floating model, hard bodied jerk baits, can be fished like a topwater lure.
Crank them down a foot or so, allow them to slowly float up, then pop them, giving a good jerk when they reach the waters surface. This is a deadly tactic on Lay lake’s post spawn bass!
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Thanks and Good Fishin’!