Cold weather is behind us. May signals a more stable weather pattern with warmer weather and HOT fishing in Central Florida. Post-spawn bass, stripers, spawning shellcracker, and spawning catfish are the freshwater targets this month.
Early morning schooling bass can be found at first light near the St. Johns River mouths of Lake Harney and Lake Monroe. Throw shad imitation slash/crank baits like a Rapala X-Rap, Yozuri Minnow, or the time-trusted Rattle Trap. Bass will readily eat the live shad if you can cast net some, but the schools have mostly moved north. After the early bite, focus on deeper edges near lily pads or eel grass with Carolina rigged soft plastics – use dark colors. Live shiners are always good, wild shiners are best. Sunshine Bass are stocked by the FWC solely for recreational anglers. Look for the stripers to shadow schools of shad in the lakes. Use the same shad imitation hard baits above.
Daily panfish catch limits bestow the anglers with patience and a big can of red worms or live crickets. The spawn is on for shellcrackers! Target them along sandy shorelines anchoring before or after the bends in the St Johns, close to the bank in 3-8 feet of water (warmer water, go deeper). Hook size should be #4; weight the wiggler to the bottom with one or two split shots. Fly anglers using poppers will enjoy all day action especially when the love bug hatch occurs. Bring on the rains! One to three days following a big rain, the water begins rushing from the creeks into the St Johns River system flowing north. This signals catfish to swim upstream to spawn. Peeled fresh shrimp on a 2/0 circle hook works great in the river or creek bends.