Hotspots For Mississippi Bass

Hotspots For Mississippi Bass

Practically every pond, lake and stream in the Magnolia State harbors some black bass. But if it's really fast action that you want this year, try these waters for your bassin' pleasure. (March 2008).

Photo by Trent Myers.

Magnolia State bass anglers have been chomping at the bit waiting for that magical pre-spawn period of spring to arrive. Well, it's finally here!

Some of the best bass fishing of the year is just around the corner, and we have lots of locations across the state that offer tremendous bassin'. We obviously don't have space to cover them all, so here's a look at five of the top spots to target right now.

OKHISSA LAKE
Anglers in the southwestern portion of the state are in for a real treat this spring: A brand-new fishing hole just opened in the area this past fall -- and it's posed to be a real dandy.

Franklin County's Okhissa Lake was built by the U.S. Forest Service with fishing in mind, and its 1,100 acres are destined to be an anglers' paradise; it's expected to become one of the Magnolia State's premier largemouth fisheries.

Famed angler Bill Dance chipped in by lending his expertise to designing the lake, much as pro golfers are known to help design courses. Okhissa Lake holds the distinction of being the very first "Bill Dance Signature Lake."

The lake also is one of the deeper waters in the area. It is 75 feet deep near the dam and probably averages around 30 feet deep, according to Rick Dillard. Dillard is a fisheries biologist and the Fish and Wildlife Program Manager for the Forest Service.

Okhissa has more than 30 miles of shoreline and features plenty of tributary fingers and coves. The tremendous amount of structure in the lake makes it truly an angler's dream.During construction, workers created channels and humps to the lake. Rootwads were collected from the bottom of the lake and used to construct fish attractors.

Plenty of standing timber and stumps will be found in the lake. The saleable timber was cut and sold prior to flooding -- with the roughly $3 million netted put back into paying for the lake's development -- and the remaining trees left for structure.

Okhissa was stocked with a number of different sportfish, as well as threadfin shad as a forage base. Florida-strain largemouths were added around three years ago. They have been growing exceptionally well, according to Dillard.

About 600 gravel spawning beds were constructed for bream, and another 100 smaller beds for largemouths.

Sampling performed in the spring of 2007 showed most bass were in the range of 2 to 3 pounds. However, the surveys also revealed some largemouths had already reached 5 pounds. Dillard expects those fish to be around 7 pounds or more by this year.

The biologist expects the largemouth fishing at Okhissa Lake to be really good. It's in a region of the state whose soil composition should make for a fertile fishery. Dillard went so far as to predict that the lake would most likely hold bass in excess of 10 pounds by 2009 or 2010.

A 16-to-20-inch slot limit is in effect at Okhissa Lake. Anglers must release all fish within the slot. Up to 10 bass may be kept per day per angler, but only one can be more than 20 inches.

Two public boat ramps are sited on on the west side of the lake.

More information on Okhissa Lake may be obtained by contacting the Homochitto Ranger District Office at (601) 384-5876.

LAKE BILL WALLER
A special gem for bass anglers this year should be Lake Bill Waller, in Marion County. At 168 acres, this state fishing lake offers both a good bass fishery and enough room for anglers to spread out and find some space to themselves.Closed for the past three years, the lake reopened just this past November. The closure was necessary to install a new water control structure and do work on the dam. The fish populations were reinvigorated at the same time.

Bill Waller has historically been a good producer of big bass. In fact, the fish holding the record for largest bass from the lake weighed in at 15 pounds 14 ounces.

During renovation, the lake was stocked with Florida-strain largemouth. Fingerlings were introduced into the water in the spring of 2005. They have shown very good growth rates and some fish have already reached 6 pounds or more. There should be some really decent bass fishing there this spring.

Generally, after a lake is renovated and reopened, the bass are very aggressive and fishing action is incredible, especially for the first few months. Obviously with this lake reopening last fall, it should offer some phenomenal angling this spring.

Anglers are greeted with very liberal fishing regulations for largemouth at Bill Waller. The goal is to keep the lake from becoming overcrowded with undersized fish. A total of 15 bass per day may be kept, but they must be less than 18 inches long. All bass of 18 inches and longer must be returned to the lake.

The lake has a lot of deep water with many places more than 20 feet. The fact that the lake has such depth within casting distance of the shoreline is one of the things that makes exceptional.

There is a lot of standing timber in Lake Bill Waller. This horizontal structure is a big attractor for bass and provides lots of action for anglers. Be forewarned though. Fishing within the timbered areas requires heavy line.

There is a fair amount of bank fishing available. Some gravel spawning beds are within reach of bank anglers. Additionally, there are three wooden piers and two new earthen piers that were constructed during renovation.

Fishing near these piers can be excellent in the springtime for both bank anglers and boaters alike. There are also two or three good main-lake points that can produce some great spring bassin' as well.You should match your baits to the forage base. The forage is comprised of bluegill, shiners, and lake chub suckers.

With this being a state fishing lake, anglers are required to pay $11 per boat to fish the lake. The fee covers all anglers in the boat. Bank anglers must pay $5 per person. Another special regulation at the lake is no night fishing allowed. Fishing hours are from one hour before sunrise until sunset.

To reach the Lake Bill Waller, from U.S. Highway 98 in Columbia turn southwest onto Colu

mbia '“ Purvis Road. At 8 miles turn right onto Game Reserve Road.

More information is available by calling the lake office at (601) 736-1861.

KEMPER COUNTY LAKE
The second largest state fishing lake in Mississippi is located in the east-central part of the state about 30 miles north of Meridian. Kemper County Lake totals 595 acres and is home to a strong largemouth bass fishery. For a smaller lake, this impoundment also has an unusual spotted bass population.

Fisheries biologist Larry Bull of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife Fisheries and Parks said the catch rate is good for bass and sampling has indicated good size structure within the fishery. There is generally good reproduction every year and plenty of fish larger than 15 inches are present.

Just recently, a 14- to 18-inch slot limit was removed at Kemper County Lake. The regulation was no longer necessary, which was attributed primarily to a decrease in fishing pressure. Additionally, most of those who do fish for bass here typically release their catch anyway.

Kemper County Lake is known for producing some really large bass at times. In August of this past year a 9-pound bass and an 11-pounder were taken within a three-week period by one angler. Those fish weren't just anomalies because another bass weighing 11 pounds 9 ounces was pulled from Kemper County Lake in 2004. The lake record largemouth was taken back in 1994 and weighed 14 pounds, 4 ounces.

Largemouth bass aren't the only impressive fish in the lake though. Although smaller in size and number, spotted bass make up about 10 percent of the bass caught during electro-fishing sampling. There are some spotted bass up in the 3- to 4-pound range, which are very respectable fish.

There is not a lot of turbidity to the lake's water and the reservoir is relatively deep for a state lake. The clear deep water makes the use of smaller lures and lighter line a good idea.

A popular spot on the lake during the months of March and April is in the northern end. That region has a fair amount of vegetation, including lily pads. It is possible to target the openings in the weeds or fish the break line between the plants and open water.

Early in the year while the water is still a little cool, fishing baits slowly works best. Suspending jerkbaits can be hot when other baits fail. After the water begins to warm, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and topwater lures all can be effective.

Kemper County Lake is three miles northwest of DeKalb off of State Route 397. Facilities at the lake include a boat launch, camping spots, and restrooms. More information may be obtained by calling (601) 743-5505.

BEE LAKE
The bass fishery at little-known Bee Lake, an old 400-acre oxbow off the Yazoo River in west-central Mississippi, isn't particularly exceptional, but it's definitely improving.

Bee Lake's angling has been somewhat hampered in the past owing to high turbidity. However, there has been extensive work done on the watershed that should greatly reduce the amount of muddy water at the lake. In fact, the Delta Wildlife Foundation has worked with local landowners within the watershed to install 37 sediment retention structures to reduce erosion.

Most of the work has now been completed in the watershed project. However, some reforestation efforts are still ongoing.

There are some fairly decent bass in the fishery at Bee Lake. The lake has been stocked during the past couple of years and the size structure of the bass ranges from 1 pound up to around 7 or 8 pounds. Those larger sized fish are not all that uncommon at Bee Lake.

This lake warms up before some of the other area waters and subsequently, bass tend to turn on earlier in the year than the region's other lakes.

One of the best areas of the lake for spring bass is in the northern end. There are lots of weed mats there that attract bass as well as forage fish. Most of the aquatic vegetation is comprised of alligator weed and bur marigold.

There are also a lot of cypress trees in the lake. While they offer scenic beauty and additional bass structure, they can be a problem to boaters. The cypress knees surrounding the trees require caution while boating.

Bee Lake is located approximately 20 miles north of Yazoo City. It lies off US 49E at Thornton.

There is one free boat ramp on Bee Lake at Bell's Store. Lake conditions, and fishing information can be obtained by phoning the store at (662) 235-5930.

PICKWICK LAKE
One of the more diverse black bass fisheries in the Magnolia State is found in Pickwick Lake. Populations of largemouth and spotted bass are found there, as well as an absolutely superb smallmouth fishery.

Guide Roger Stegall of Iuka has been fishing the lake for a number of years and is a fervent fan of the smallmouth fishery there. "I believe the next world-record smallmouth will come from Pickwick," he offered.

He bases that opinion on the number of large fish the impoundment on the Tennessee River has been giving up in recent times. His personal best at the lake is 8 pounds, but he's seen smallies caught up to 9 pounds. There are good numbers of bronzebacks taken in the 3- to 6-pound range.

Stegall believes that probably 35 to 40 percent of the bass population in the 43,100-acre impoundment consists of smallmouths. Nonetheless, largemouth bass still dominate the lake. Stegall attributes this to the grass in the lake. He said there is a big population of largemouths in the 2- to 5-pound range and some up to 7 and 8 pounds are caught frequently. He's caught largemouths up to 9 pounds at the lake.

Pickwick anglers are also starting to catch more spotted bass than ever before according to Stegall. He said there have been a good many in the 3- to 5-pound range caught over the past three years.

For March and April, Stegall recommended fishing close to the spawning areas. Locations that are near bedding areas, but have deep water nearby are especially good. The line where the deep water joins the shallower water can be a real hotspot.

Other locations to target are gravel points or areas with pea gravel. Locations along the banks that have a change in bottom can be great too. Examples are where the lake bottom changes from pea gravel to chunk rock, or where red clay changes to gravel or rock.

Stegall pointed out that two of the best areas of the lake for March and April are Yellow and Bear creeks.

Starting in March, Stegall throws a variety of baits at the largemouth depending on conditions. He uses jerkbaits, jigs, jig-and-pig combos, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and shaky-head worms. The latter are great for all three

black bass species, he added.

Stegall noted that the Series-3 crankbait by Strike King is one bait that every angler absolutely must have in the tackle box to fish Pickwick.

"Oftentimes it will outproduce every other bait on the market and it's great for all three species," the guided confirmed.

Smallmouths also fall victim to 3/4-ounce spinnerbaits or 4-inch grubs. Early in the year, a suspending jerkbait can be hard to beat for the bronzebacks. A Bitsy Bug jig or football-head jig can work wonders on spotted bass. Another really good bait for spots is a shaky-head worm.

For more information on Pickwick Lake or to book a day of guided bass fishing with Roger Stegall, check out his Web site at www.fishpickwick.com or call him at (662) 423-3869. Find more about Mississippifishing and hunting at:MississippiGameandFish.com

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