Hunter Freeman, a bass pro from Monroe, has the perfect answer to ringing up big bass in May.
He goes walking.
His bait of choice in this post-spawn month is a Salmo Rattlin’ Stick.
“It’s just a big, walking bait,” Freeman said. “You can throw any topwater. I just prefer a big, walking bait like that. You can catch a bunch of fish on it and you can catch big ones.”
Freeman, a 23-year-old former Louisiana-Monroe college angler who fishes the FLW Pro Tour, said this topwater is easy to walk-the-dog because of its balance, shape and design. It’s perfect for Toledo Bend, Lake Sam Rayburn and the clear waters of Caney Lake, which he considers his home lake and where he spends as much time guiding as possible. It can come back on either a tight slither or a wide-swinging walk-the-dog presentation.
“Oh, yeah, it’s very easy to walk,” he said, “and it’s got a weight transfer system in it you can cast it a mile.”
Freeman knows the action attracts bass early in the morning, prime time for the May shad spawn, and throughout the day when bass can’t ignore the commotion it makes on the water.
How to fish it
The Salmo Rattlin’ Stick, which has a unique deep-sounding rattle, is 4 3/8 inches long and weighs three-quarters of an ounce. That rattling sound is like the call of the sirens to bass. It’s most effective over grass beds around points, if there’s any underwater vegetation where you fish. After the spawn, bass push out and sit on anything they can hold on, according to Freeman.
“I usually like to stay 6 feet and shallower in early May. In late May, I start backing up some,” Freeman said. “If it’s calm, I usually do four big walks and let it pause. If the wind is blowing I try to walk it as aggressively and consistent as possible.”
Freeman said the bait creates a significant disturbance on the water, one bass seek out like heat-seeking missiles.
Setting the hook depends on “how they are eating it,” he said. There are times they swirl and roll over on top of it. There are days they slurp it from under. And there are days they smash it. The key is to wait until you feel the weight of the bass before slamming home the two sets of Mustad Triple Grip hooks.
Freeman fishes the Salmo Rattlin’ Stick on 40- or 45-pound braided line, mostly Power Pro.
With 40- or 45-pound test, he said, “You can work the bait a whole lot better (than with 60-pound test).”
He works it on a 6-foot-10, Falcon Expert “Bayou” Rod, which has “pretty stiff action.”
“I throw that because I’m not the tallest guy in the world,” he said.
He favors a reel with a 7.1:1 gear ratio because “that way you can slow it (the retrieve) down but get a quick pickup.”
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