It’s not as if fishing the Pearl River is some deep, dark secret.
Bass fishermen in the New Orleans and North Shore areas have known about it for years, and Capital City area anglers discovered it some 20 years ago when Hurricane Andrew wiped out millions of fish in the Atchafalaya and Lake Verret basins.
There’s lots to learn about the Pearl, not the least of which is there are three of ’em, the West, Middle and East, and each has nuances known only to the most veteran Pearl River fishermen.
Today it’s good enough to report that bass are biting in the Pearl, but that’s where we have to break down the “nuance” part of a trip to this waterbody that divides our state from Mississippi.
Jeff Bruhl is the answer man, and in two trips over the last week, he and Advocate videographer Gary Krouse have worn out the largemouths.
Right off the bat, these two said to leave the West and Middle Pearls alone. Launch off U.S. 90 at the East Pearl and stay there, because this largest of the three Pearls has had the clearest water.
Of course this information comes after two days of monsoonal-like rains, deluges that can turn any river muddy overnight. The good thing is that the East Pearl will clear more quickly that its sister runs, so planning a trip there in the next week should produce the same “wear-them-out” results.
And it comes with taking a page from Bruhl’s notes that the “... water has to be moving for the fish to bite,” and that means being on the water when the tides are rising or falling, and falling is the best time. All species of sunfish don’t bite in the Pearl on the slack tide when the water’s not moving.
But now that the East Pearl’s level has settled somewhat from the springtime rains, Krouse said the lure choice followed familiar patterns — topwaters like black buzzbaits and frogs early in the morning.
There is some action on spinnerbaits. Remember that smaller blades and bait bodies are a better combination there at this time of year because it matches the size of the baitfish.
After the sun gets higher in the sky, bass move off the banks, not because there’s more cover or heavier grass, but because the baitfish move out to deeper water, where they meet up with pogeys that are moving in the river. Then it’s shad-colored crankbait time.
Shallow-running hard-plastics are good. So are the lipless kinds, like Rat-L-Traps. The trick is to find out the just-right depth to crank for largemouths. If you’re good enough to keep “Traps” in the strike zone, then that’s the way to go.
And, Krouse said the bass attacked, “... any soft-plastic (lure) that resembled a crawfish.”
A last note: Know that your Louisiana basic fishing license covers fishing in the East Pearl, but you’ll need a Mississippi license if you cross into the river’s east bank, because, then, you’re fishing in Mississippi.