Touring FLW bass pro Jeff Gustafson is also a longtime guide and offers up his go-to approach for big bass in May and June.
“At this time of year,” says Gussy, “most bass are in or close to spawning habitat. Largemouths like to spawn in the backs of bays and other protected areas. Key on the north side of the lake, looking for shallow water that’s a bit warmer. Look for cover they can hold on to, like laydown trees, clumps of pencil reeds, or bulrushes. Could be docks.”
If bass are pre-spawn or post-spawn, “they’re probably hanging on the cover that’s on the way in or out of that back-bay, shallow stuff,” Gustafson notes. “Use your eyes. Do you see bass on beds, or are they a bit deeper, on the next level out from the spawning areas?”
Search, then pitch
To quickly search vast areas and figure out what type of cover bass are favoring, Gussy relies on a spinnerbait during the pre-spawn period. “I love the 1/2-ounce Reed-Runner,” he says, and I start by fishing everything I see. Trees, docks, bulrushes, whatever. I use white in clear water, and in dirty water, chartreuse skirt with gold blades.”
Hot tip: if bass seem lethargic, and few strikes come on the spinnerbait, suspect they are done spawning. To search for post-spawn largemouths, Gustafson chooses a wacky-rigged soft plastic stickbait. “It sinks very slowly,” he says, “so cast it past your target and slowly move it in there. It’s a bait that largemouths don’t pass up very often if it floats by them. You have to fish it slower than a spinnerbait, so take your time.”
After a pattern begins to emerge, he slows down and pitches to the winning cover type.
For this, Gussy favors a 3/8- or 5/8-ounce Jungle Jig, a bass jig with a weed guard. Using a 7 1/2-foot rod and 20-pound-test line, “I can pitch it into pretty much any cover and muscle the fish out.”
Gussy’s pitching secrets
Practice pitching the Jungle Jig, landing softly as possible, directly into clumps of cover. Let it fall straight to the bottom. You must let out a little slack line just as the jig hits the water; a tight line will pull the jig off the target as it sinks, also resulting in more snags.
When the jig hits bottom, shake it a couple of times, moving it no more than about 2 or 3 feet, then quickly reel it in and pitch to the next target.
“This bait selects for big fish,” says Gussy, “and most bites come within five seconds of the bait hitting the water.”