Bass fishing photo

Brady Talbot shows off two of the bass he caught in a five-bass, 15.7-pound total to win the 11-14 year-old age group and overall top catch in Saturday's Junior Southwest Bassmasters 2020 opener from Bob's Bayou Black Marina in Gibson. Talbot also had the day's big bass, a 4.49-pounder, among the 30 young anglers and 30 adult 'guides.'

With the first big-time south Louisiana bass tournaments on the horizon, once again bass fishermen can take a lesson from the youngsters competing monthly in the Junior Southwest Bassmasters club.

There was a respectable 30 young anglers showing up with their “guides” Saturday at Bob’s Bayou Black Marina in Gibson. For a January tournament, you’d hardly get 60 fishermen to show up anywhere unless the fish were jumping in the boat.

Aside: It’s good to see this landing remains open after all the hullabaloo over having to shut it down because it was on a “private” canal.

Saturday was a good choice: a cold front was going to bring rain in later that day — and the LSU faithful got a chance for a dry championship parade (as short as it was) — and the barometric pressure was low enough in advance of the front to afford the young anglers a shot at decent catches.

Brady Talbot rolled in with a top-flight catch. The Denham Springs youngster took the 11-14 year-old age group win, and had the top overall catch with his five largemouths hitting 15.7 pounds, including the day’s lunker, a 4.49-pounder. Talbot even topped the adult fishermen.

Other age group winners included Hanson Chaney (15-18 age group), 13.9 pounds on five bass, and, in the 7-10 group, Anthony Tapia Jr.’s three fish and 5.32 pounds led the way.

But their catches provide more than winners.

Saturday followed a string of warm, rainy days and southeast winds that raised water levels across the coastal brackish and freshwater marshes. Sure, the cloud cover helped, but higher-than-normal water levels usually spell doom if you’re casting for bass, redfish and/or speckled trout — and they were fishing on the eighth day after a full moon, again not a good time.

“No one gave up, there was a decent bite with lots of short bass,” JSB organizer Jim Breaux said. “We weighed 80 bass and 79 bass were released to fight again another day.”

Whenever you talk with young anglers, you get a smorgasbord of suggested lures for a next trip, and this first event of JSB’s 11th year followed that trend. They reported the marsh bass took frogs, spinnerbaits, jigs & pigs, flukes and bladed jigs — you know those things everybody calls ChatterBaits, but you can’t call them ChatterBaits unless they are ChatterBaits. These youngsters are learning how to “punch” heavy vegetation with soft plastics and that’s where the jigs-pigs and flukes entered the picture.

For details on this club, call Breaux at (225) 772-3026.

Here it is

The lesson here is something veteran bassin’ guys and gals know all too well: don’t give up on a winter day. What doesn’t work in the early morning might work well in the middle of the day.

For years, the old timers told us youngsters — that was 40-something years ago — to keep our heads down and grind it out into the middle of the day.

That’s what these youngsters did.

Wintertime is famous for rapidly changing barometric pressures, and a low to slightly rising barometer is something that can trigger a feeding period, as brief as it might be.

A high, but falling barometer likely will trigger a much longer feeding period during a day, if only because there some inexplicable reason that bass and other species go into a some sort of funk on an extremely high barometer and don’t feed, and they’re hungry when the pressure abates.

The rain-laden front approaching south Louisiana will arrive with a barometric pressure below 30 inches — that’s low.

When the not-so-cold front settles in Friday and Saturday, the pressure is predicted to hit 30.24 inches near midday Saturday, then drop to near 30 inches on the next not-so-cold-and-rainy cold front predicted in here next Wednesday.

Other factors

Wind, tide, sunlight and water temperature are in the wintertime fishing mix, too.

JSB anglers fished the Terrebonne Parish marshes after days of southerly winds, a direction that pushes water into nearly all the coastal marshes except the waters near the west side of the Mississippi River.

While high water in the marshes does pose a problem because it pushes bait and predator fish into the heavy grass, it helps, too, because it follows what usually are strong north winds that blow water from the marshes. This water exchange between fronts is good for the fish, and what’s good for fish is good for fishermen.

Tide is another water exchange factor, and, as experience teaches, a falling tide in the marshes is usually a good trigger for fishing action. The predator fish take advantage of the food riding the falling water and take advantage of this feeding opportunity.

If you check out the tides for the coming week, it’s not good. After Sunday, tidal ranges will began a run to the lowest high tides of the winter. This period will last for at least eight days, and won’t get better until we approach the days leading up to the Feb. 9 full moon.

A factor in your favor into the weekend and early next week is the forecast of sunshiny days. Sunlight penetration into the water is the only midwinter warmer for our mostly shallow waters. Warmer water temps get baitfish, shrimp and other morsels more active and whey they’re active it’s not long before the predators get active, too.

It’s not until the first buds from willow trees that tell us ground and surface-water temps are getting close to the first fish spawns – sac-a-lait can spawn as early as a 59-degree water temperature.

And water temperature is important, too. If you’re fishing in water temps below 50 degrees, your fishing success will be limited. Like bassin’ man Wayne Murray said years ago, “You got two chances to catch a bass when the water is 48 degrees … slim and none and slim has a nickname — very.”

It’s not much better in the 50-55 range, and increases dramatically when water temps get to 60-68.

Good fishing.