Thursday outdoors photo

Blake LeRay caught one bass Saturday, but it stood tall and heavy because not only did he take first place in the 7-10 year-old age group, he also had the day’s heaviest catch, a 3.87-pounder in the Junior Southwest Bassmasters opening tournament for the 2018 season. There were 34 young anglers competing in the season opener and they had the option of fishing either the Verret or Atchafalaya basins with their adult ‘guides.’

If you’re looking for good news on the fishing front, then all you have to do it look to the heavens to find salvation.

But don’t look too long ’cause you’ll get water in your eyes, as in there’s nothing like clouds and rain predicted to move in for the coming weekend to put the quietus the best stretch of fishing weather we’d have this month.

After Monday’s rain and last week’s Arctic blast, the sunshine has helped, and even as early as Tuesday morning, folks were finding redfish willing to take slowly moved twitch lures and some soft plastics worked slowly under a cork.

Scott Toups deserves a shout-out for reporting last weekend’s conditions from the Grand Isle area. He found low water, low tides and 18-20 inch-long redfish “so thick I couldn’t get my bait past ’em.”

Toups reported early-morning water temperatures in the upper 40s and late afternoon surface temps in the low-50s, and that’s enough of a rise to make late-afternoon action a little better than mornings. Note, too, we had a warming trend along the coast and coastal marshes, much warmer than waters north of the 30th parallel.

Toups’ twitch bait turned out to be a Catch 2000, and said he had to battle pelicans for the small trout he caught Saturday morning.

“I’ve never seen the pelicans as aggressive as they were,” Toups wrote on the Troutman site. “I’m guessing with the cold temps keeping the baitfish on bottom, they were hungry. The cormorants would dive down and come up with bait, just to get jumped by 2-3 pelicans,” and he turned to take a limit of redfish, then reported speckled trout turned on for an afternoon bite.

By Sunday morning, water temps were at 52 degrees, and the nighttime high tide had water levels the highest of the weekend, and Toups reported taking a dozen 14-16 inch trout.

There’s much the same thing happening on the east side of the Mississippi River and in the Terrebonne marshes.

With sunshine through Friday morning, it means finding clear water is a must, only because it warms faster than muddy/stained water. And when you can find something to direct that warming sunshine into the water (pipes, riprap, platforms, bottoms with hard shell or limestone) then your odds of catching fish go way up, especially if you see baitfish moving in that area.

Keep in mind that even with warmer water, work baits slowly, and bounce, even drag, soft plastics on a jighead along the bottom until trout and reds become active.

Junior anglers

Jim Breaux’s report from the Junior Southwest Bassmaster’s first tournament of the year — the club’s eighth year — just about said it all for south Louisiana freshwater anglers.

“This was by far and away the toughest tournament this club has ever fished,” Breaux said after 34 young fishermen and the same number of adult partners competed Saturday in the Verret and Atchafalaya basins, and neither side of the East Guide Levee outproduced the other.

Low and cold water was the bug-a-boo and the only five-bass limit among the young anglers came from Zachary’s Gage Collins, who weighed in a 7.77-pound total to win the 11-14 age group. Brett Sellers, with a 2.86-pounder, took the Adult Division with five bass weighing 7.79 pounds.

It took only one fish to win the other two age groups: Wyatt Ensminger’s 2.33-pounder was tops in the 15-18 age group, and young Blake LeRay’s 3.87-pounder took the 7-10 age group and was the overall heaviest bass.

Breaux reported jigs-n-pigs and soft-plastic flukes and red-eye shad were the most productive lures.

For more info about this club, call Breaux at (225) 772-3026.

On the Bend

Old friend Harold Allen teamed with Matt Loetscher to show Toledo Bend continues to produce giant largemouths when they won the Texas Team Trail’s first 2018 event with a five-bass catch weighing 28.74 pounds.

And they did it without having a bass among the top eight weighed in the Jan. 13 tournament.

Allen told writer David Brown they slowly worked different, but heavy, jigs-n-plastics around ledges with wood. Loetscher said they would follow the cast down and if the jig struck wood, they would allow the bait to lay in the wood and slowly work the bait down into the structure to win the Triton bass boat rigged with a 150 Mercury and $2,550 in cash.

The second-place team, George Jeane and “Tater” Reynolds had the big bass, a 10.32-pounder, and finished with a 27.47-pound total.

The most amazing aspect of the leaderboard was that it took 21.36 pounds to make the top 10, 18.47 pounds to make the top 20 and 16.82 pounds to make the top 30.

Amberjack season

A reminder for recreational offshore folks is the greater amberjack season will close Saturday and remain closed through June 30.

Wildlife and Fisheries announced the closing in conjunction with federal fishery managers, who are working on new regulations for spring and fall seasons.

The LDWF’s announcement stated federal managers are working on a fixed recreational season to run Nov. 1-April 30 annually with a possible open recreational season in May, a June 1-July 31 closure, then an open season August through October.

High school offer

Lew’s Fishing and the Future Fisherman Foundation are teaming to offer all high school fishing club and teams a chance to apply for rods-and-reels combo to help with equipment for their anglers.

Although the Lew's High School Product Grant Program runs through Sept. 30, it’s one of those sooner-than-later processes because the program will shut down after all product has been distributed.

According to Lew’s executive David May, there are three product-award levels, a 4, 8 or 12 Mach rod and reel combos (even split between baitcast and spinning) with product awarded according to club size, activities and conservation involvement. He said the program is funded from a portion of the sales of its Mach line of rods and reels.

The online application is on the Lew’s website: Lews.com, or you can go to: Futurefisherman.org.

Report fish kills

Should you come across “significant” numbers of dead or dying fish, LDWF is asking you to contact the department. Contact information along with requested reporting specifics, is on the LDWF website: wlf.louisiana.gov/fish-kills.

State fisheries folks ask you include name, phone number, fish-kill location, species and estimated numbers of fish.