The Red River, close to Shreveport, Louisiana, is a fishing paradise. Schools of panfish like crappie and bluegill reproduce to make excellent forage. Add gizzard shad, thread thin minnows and crawfish to complete a delicatessen for largemouth bass that grow fat and sassy while prowling under lily pads, stumps and brush piles in search of meals that are never hard to find.
Bruce Brown, a professional Louisiana bass fisherman and Red River guide, makes part of his living searching for this healthy bass population. He spent most of his life fishing these waters and knows it is not always easy.
“You have to find the food sources and the bass won’t be far away,” Brown said. “Problem is, they have unlimited cover to hide under and a lot of food. I fish around the lily pads and other available structure. We have a lot of stumps here too. Those big bass sometimes hide in the shadows.”
His words proved true an hour later in the shadow of a large duck blind. I cast a Creme plastic worm with long arms and a twisting tail across a small shallow. Brown had cautioned me to slowly work the worm back after letting it sit and soak for at least a minute. Chances are a bass will be watching in anticipation of an easy prey.
“There are bass on spawning beds around this blind,” he said. “Don’t be surprised if you hook a big female off her nest.”
The worm “soaked” for a minute and then I turned the reel handle, once, twice, WHAM! I set the hook but it was not necessary. The fine bass dipped her head and dove toward deeper water. Line ran off my drag for a second before she turned and ran back toward Brown’s Nitro boat and the under it, then dangerously close to the outboard motor prop. I applied a bit more pressure, doubling the Quantum bass rod and she finally turned. Her escape efforts took much energy and she gave up.
We weighed the 7-pound bass, took a couple of pictures and released her. She disappeared in a flash and probably headed back to her nest with a sore mouth and a bad mood. We managed to catch several smaller males before day’s end. The huge females had to be close by, but they would not bite.
Later that evening I sat in Shane’s, a Cajun restaurant in Shreveport and enjoyed an incredible dinner of crawfish etouffee over crab cakes with fried dill pickles and jalapenos. I savored every bite while forgetting my ever-lasting diet, especially when my companion for the day, Pat Gill, offered me a bite of her fried frog legs and crawdad tails, a treat that I gladly accepted. Sometimes diets just have to wait.
The following day I joined another bass fishing pro from Shreveport, Mike Echols. He managed to land an 8-pound bass later that morning and talked about southern bass fishing this time of year with tips that will work in Missouri or Kansas.
“With the spawn 90 percent over the bass will change gears and the lures they are most likely to hit,” Echols said. “Any time you get a little cloud cover, the small chugger type top waters are a good bet. Shad are just becoming a target. Bass fry are abundant and bream are moving shallow to spawn and feed on little largemouths, so a Strike King Series 4S crankbait in a perch pattern will catch large fish.”
Vegetation will start to show in the form of coontail moss and lily pads. Early in the season when the pads are just beginning to grow is the best. Small isolated groups of pads are easier to catch fish off of because the bass is easy to pinpoint. Also, remember while fishing pads on a cloudy day, bass will sometimes set up where the stems go into the ground and not directly under the pads themselves.
After bass leave the shallows, ridges are one of their first stops. While a ridge is relatively easy to fish, locating the bass may be a chore. Feeding fish will be on top, the shallowest part of the ridge. When they quit feeding they can still be caught if a lure is presented close enough. Find out if they are staging on the sides of the ridge or on the very ends and throw a Carolina rig or deep diving crankbait.
Bass fishing in northern Louisiana around Shreveport could net you a huge bass. The area has Florida-strain bass and common largemouth bass that are fat and sassy. Bass tournaments may require more than an 18-pound weigh-in to even qualify. The bass are just that big and ready to bite.
For more information about visiting Shreveport or fishing the area, contact the local CBV at www.shreveport-bossier.org.
Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at email@example.com