Remember when the boss-of-bosses Kevin VanDam, arguably the king of professional bass fishing, set a Bassmaster Classic five-bass-limit record in 2011 fishing Lake Cataouatche.
The seven-time B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year’s final-day, 28-pounds-even catch put the cap on a three-day, 69-pound, 11-ounce total, and earned him his fourth Classic title to match the four Rick Clunn won.
OK, so these two men run neck-and-neck for the king’s throne, but what VanDam did that February in south Louisiana — better than a 4-10 average fish — shows what our home waters can produce given the right environment.
Well, for years after the Davis Pond Diversion went on line and began filling the Cataouatche-Lake Salvador area with Mississippi River water, and state Wildlife and Fisheries biologists seeded the waters with Florida-strain largemouths, giants like VanDam showed off to the bass-fishing world were being caught by locals, too.
That was just seven years ago: In a couple of years that kind of action faded. Word got out some oystermen complained the Mississippi’s flow decreased salinity farther south. So the diversion’s flow was lowered. The result was there wasn’t a whole lot to draw the attention of bass fishermen, not even the locals.
Hope for the area resurfaced over last weekend. The Ascension Area Anglers held their first quarterly tournament of the year. They launched from the Des Allemands area, a spot close enough for some of the top south Louisiana bassin’ guys to check out Cataouatche again.
For the first time in just about five years, this area appears it wants to take its place on the fishing map again.
“With the state (B.A.S.S.) Federation tournament coming up this weekend out of Bayou Segnette (state park), we just wanted to give our guys a chance to get on the water,” AAA’s David Cavell said Monday.
“And everybody smashed it,” he said.
The club’s event limits each angler to three bass for the afternoon weigh-in. That translates into a six-fish-per-boat total, and BubbaLaBourgeois teaming with just-out-of-college Doug McClung put 25.13 pounds on the scales. Tim Carmouche and Shane O’Daniel came next at darned near 25 pounds, too.
“It was a smash fest,” Cavell said. “And when you talked with the guys, you found out they were fishing the Cataouatche-Des Allemands area. The area is thriving. We had several 5-, 6- and a 7-pound fish (Charles Hewitt had a 7.04-pounder) weighed, and that’s in a club tournament.”
With big stakes ahead this weekend, you could expect some tight lips about the exact locations and even deeper secrets about lure choices.
“Everybody caught their fish on something different,” Cavell said before rattling off a tackle box-sized list including vibrating jigs, jigs, frogs, hard-plastic plugs, soft-plastics of every shape and size, “and one guy said he caught fish on a buzzbait.
“That’s how all over the map it was when it came to lures,” he said. “Really, the fish are stabilized and they’re doing their deal, you know spawning time and the fish were very aggressive.”
The convention on bass is that they spawn on a full moon, and that’s March 1, so the state Federation folks might just have picked the best weekend to find out if Cataouatche is back.
In the several years of carrying the monthly results of the Junior Southwest Bassmasters-Denham Springs bass tournaments, there were very few times, if any, when the top three in each of the three age groups weighed in five-bass limits. The adult driver-fishermen usually catch a limit, as they did Saturday out of Bayou Black Marina.
The 44 young fishermen filled 40 boats and the warming days produced 26 five-bass limits among the youngsters, who, with the adults kept club organizer Jim Breaux busy weighing 227 bass.
Lance LeBlanc won the 15-18 age group with 12.86 pounds, the top total among the 44, and Beau Landry‘s 4.57-pounder was the day’s lunker. Matt Fiske‘s 15.22 pounds topped the adult anglers.
Breaux said, “Most of the fish were caught on spinnerbaits, vibrating jigs, jig-pig combos, flukes, brushhogs, creature baits and Caffeine Shad,” in other words another tackle box-clearing report.
For more on getting youngsters incolved, call Breaux at (225) 772-3026.
Going back to years past, remember when Caney Creek Reservoir was producing state-record bass after state-record bass. Times have changed, and so have the regulations.
Effective now, there’s no longer a slot limit on bass on this 4,500-plus acre lake south of Ruston in Jackson Parish, and fishermen will be under the statewide black-bass regulations of a 10-fish daily creel with no length limits.
State fishery biologists and managers explained the change came after a “three-year comprehensive assessment ... determined length limit regulations have little impact upon the fishery, primarily due to the high rate of voluntary catch-and-release fishing by Caney bass anglers.”
The announcement also stated Wildlife and Fisheries biologists scheduled the remainder of 2018 for angler creel surveys to determine changes in angler behavior about catch-and-release and catch-and-keep.