Heading into Easter weekend, and all the promise Easter’s springtime brings, fishermen are holding on to more promises — and hope — than the reality they face today.
High water is everywhere: recent heavy rains haven’t helped, because the usual standbys, the Florida Parishes rivers, have gone through a constant rises and falls.
Even though sunny, warm afternoons follow this procession of storms, these all-to-frequent episodes leave rivers muddy and turns spawning activity an on-and-off proposition.
It’s nothing new to bass fishermen and their undying penchant for tournaments, locals know the standby places.
Jack Miller’s, the old-timey launching spot west of Plaquemine on the Intracoastal Waterway, is one, and that’s where the “Boomie” Chustz Memorial series went last weekend.
Gene Andre and Steve Fontana won the day with five bass weighing 12.9 pounds. They had a 4.8-pounder, the day’s big bass, and the Wayne Major-Shannon Fairchild team finished second at 10.98 pounds.
OK, so that’s not much weight, and there were reasons, but there’s hope in these guys who honor Chustz’s memory for the next tournament, a May 5 event from either side of the Bayou Sorrel Landing with the promise of more fish and heavier stringers.
“The water was very high, and we had to fight strong winds,” Fontana said of the Jack Miller’s trip. “It was tough.”
High water at Jack Miller’s means water is in the swamp, and bass will move into the swamp to feed on what most of us south Louisiana folks like to eat during the spring — crawfish.
Opposite the launch is Upper Grand Bayou, which can take you to places like Bulltail, the Superior Canal and all the way west to the pits on the east side of the East Atchafalaya Basin Guide Levee. When the water’s “right” and the sun warming (not hot) it's a fly fisherman’s dream for catching a variety of sunfishes, just not today.
Another alternative, and this is an incomparable adventure, could be to head into the Atchafalaya Basin.
Many years ago longtime LSU tennis coach "Dub" Robinson (may God rest his bass-fishing soul) used the first years (in Louisiana) of Daylight Savings Time to pilot his old DeSoto to Ramah, drive south along the levee, then up the levee to his favorite spot inside the basin. He’d walk the flooded levees casting spinnerbaits, sometimes a jerkbait, and catch bass feeding in the newly flooded grasses. Sometimes he'd have a 15-fish limit in a couple of hours before it became too dark to be safe.
You can’t do that today: Virtually all these levees are posted, but you can get to them by boat.
High water makes launching from the Bayou Sorrel Landing a chore, and it’s extra difficult to put in a heavy fiberglass bass boat. The concrete landing is underwater and you don’t want to risk flooding your towing vehicle.
A bateau with nothing more than a 40-horse outboard can be put in from the levee — crawfishermen have been launching from the levee for decades.
There’s another problem: because these areas are posted, you can’t get out the boat, you can’t set foot on the levee, but there doesn’t seem to be a prohibition about fishing the flooded levees.
This “edge” is perfect bass habitat: crawfish and baitfish move into this new habitat and grubs and worms lived there, too, and from those long-ago years there’s the memory of running across bream and chinquapin beds. Just be careful of the snakes and alligators.
Spinnerbaits, jerkbaits and jerkworms are the best offerings. Yeah, you could use soft-plastic crawfish imitations, but that would be too slow. You want to cover as much of the area as possible to find the best fish concentrations.
Just remember, don’t get out of the boat — you’ll be trespassing.
Hip, hip, hurrah
If you remember Alex Heintze showing his bass-fishing prowess during his teenage years in the Junior Southwest Bassmasters, then know he’s honing his bass-catching skills at higher levels.
He teamed with “old-timer” Gary Haney to take the state’s South Central Region points title in 2018, a feat which qualified them for last week’s Berkeley Team Series National Championship Tournament held on South Carolina’s Lake Hartwell.
The 100-plus teams competed for two days to make Saturday’s 27-teams championship round, and these Capital City area anglers made the final day’s field in 12th place. They improved their catch weight each day with five-bass limits at 13.84 pounds, then 14.61, before stepping up with a final-round 15.4 pounds to finish in eighth with a 43.85 total.
The winners were Jason Burroughs and Darren Ashley, who came in with a second-day 19.07 catch to vault them into position for a final day’s 17.25-pound stringer and a 51.33 total.
Caleb Sumrall, the 31-year-old from New Iberia, came about as close as an angler can get to making the top 10 championship round in last week’s Bassmaster Elite Series stop at Winyah Bay near the South Carolina coast.
After three days, Sumrall had a 15-bass total weighing 33 pounds, 4 ounces and finished 11th in the 75-angler field, just 8 ounces from 10th place. Raceland’s Tyler Rivet came in 17th with a 31-2 total. Both earned $10,000, and were the only two of Louisiana’s seven anglers to push through the first two days to make the top 35 cutdown for Saturday’s third round.