Macaluso: Changes needed for Bassmaster Classic _lowres

Photo provided by B.A.S.S./Gary Tramontina Casey Ashley shows off two of the heaviest bass he caught Sunday, the final day of the 45th Bassmaster Classic. He weighed in a five-bass limit weighing 20 pounds, 3 ounces from Lake Hartwell to jump from fifth place after Saturday's second round to take the Classic title with a 50-1 total that bested Lakeland, Florida pro Bobby Lane, standing behind Ashley on the stage at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena in Greenville, South Carolina. Ashley, from Donalds, South Caroline, became only the third angler to take Classic title from home-state waters. He won $300,000.

The curtain falls Sunday for hunting seasons that began way back in early September, but only for an intermission.

Sunday marks the end of the waterfowl season, for however good the Conservation Order is for blue, snow and Ross’ geese in Louisiana’s fields.

Saturday, February’s last day, closes down the squirrel, rabbit and quail seasons — for however few wild quail remain in our state.

The bit of good news is the near two dozen wildlife management areas that allow hunters to use dogs to pursue rabbits and squirrels during the season’s last days. Sherburne WMA near Krotz Springs and Sandy Hollow WMA are just two of the public areas that allow dogs for rabbits and squirrels. If you’ve run the course on private lands, these areas afford the last days to get your dogs afield. Check the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ state hunting pamphlet for more WMAs that allow dogs on what the LDWF’s calls “Small Game Emphasis Areas.”

We’re just three weeks away from the start of the turkey season, then there’s always May’s special squirrel season.

For quail hunters, the season on pen-raised birds on specially licenses hunting preserves runs through April 30, or as long as these operations have enough birds to make hunts. Usually places in south Louisiana operate through March, because April’s warming sun is too hard on pointers and setters. North Louisiana preserves often run a couple of weeks longer.

There’s good news for small-game hunters: Leap year will give you an extra day next year. Small-game seasons run through the end of February and there’s a Feb. 29 in 2016.

Classic lessons

Casey Ashley put away all the fancy lures touring pro bass fishermen have at their disposal and went back to a bait his dad makes back in his Donalds, South Carolina, home.

And he won the Bassmaster Classic with it.

There are all sorts of other details about where and how he brought in a 20-pound stringer Sunday, the Classic’s final day, but the lure was the key.

South Louisiana panfishermen know how effective an eighth-ounce Roadrunner is on bluegill, chinquapin, goggle-eye and sac-a-lait.

Imagine a Roadrunner on steroids and you have the homemade bait the 31-year-old Ashley said he, his dad and lots of other Lake Hartwell bass fishermen have used on that reservoir for years to catch largemouth and spotted bass.

The bait’s “jighead” is the same “horse-head” shape of a Roadrunner, except that Ashley’s dad pours a 7?16-ounce jighead on 4/0 hook. The secret is the “sampo” ball-bearing swivel that goes under the hook. Ashley’s secret is a No. 31/2 chrome willowleaf spinner attached to that swivel. He threaded a pearl-colored Super Fluke Jr. on the hook.

He said the swivel allows him to work the bait as slowly as needed and keep the willowleaf blade turning.

His final day’s biggest move was away from the brush around docks and piers, where he caught back-to-back five-fish limits on the Classic’s first two days, and to a spot where the coldest-ever Classic weather had moved the bass out on a spot where an old tree line in depths up to 40 feet were holding the field.

Ashley said the weight of the lure allows him to make long casts and to keep the bait in the strike zone longer.

It’s a tactic that should work in the deep canals in the Verret Basin canals and on Toledo Bend in wintertime conditions.

Tip of the cap

This one goes to Hayden Williams and Annabelle Guins from Sam Houston High School. They teamed to place second (8.43 pounds) in the state’s first B.A.S.S. Nation High School qualifying tournament on Saturday on the Calcasieu River. Guins was the only girl reported to be in the field.

Sam Houston’s team Alex Corbello and Blake Fontenot won with 10.02 pounds. Livingston’s Justin Watts and Alex Heintze finished fourth.