Crimson clover is blooming, purple martins are setting up housekeeping in bird boxes and turkeys are gobbling as Louisiana welcomes another glorious spring. Bluegills and redears are swirling and swishing shallow lake bottom spawning beds, while crappie are setting up shop around shallow cypress roots, preparing to make a new crop of baby crappie.
And what about the bass? On some lakes, especially in south Louisiana, early April means the spawn is in full swing, while not quite reaching its peak in lakes to the north. Even so, April is a great time to tie into the bass of a lifetime on lakes around the Sportsman’s Paradise.
We visited with inland fisheries biologist and professional bass tournament angler Alex Perret to get the skinny on which waters should produce the best bassin’ action in April. Here are a few of his favorite honey-holes.
In the event you have trouble pronouncing this lake with the spelling that looks like you randomly took letters from a Scrabble set and tossed them on the floor, here’s the phonetic pronunciation — Cat-ah-WATCH-ee.
“This is a natural lake that’s part of the coastal marsh, but well inland,” explained Perret. “Further down the lake system the water starts getting brackish, but the majority of the water is fresh.”
Perret noted that this lake gets water indirectly from the Mississippi River via the Davis Pond Freshwater Diversion Structure, which imitates the historic spring floods that provide a flow of fresh water and nutrients from the Mississippi River.
When levees were constructed along the Big Muddy for flood control, the river’s spring overflows were blocked, impeding renewal of marsh-supporting fresh water, nutrients and sediment. The Davis Pond project took care of that, providing Cataouatchee with all ingredients needed to produce an outstanding bass fishery.
“At normal pool stage, it’s hard to say what the actual acreage is. You can probably access up to 100,000 acres by way of canals and freshwater marsh, but what is identified as the lake itself covers a few hundred acres,” said Perret.
“The Tank Pond on the west side of the lake is a great spawning area, a part of the lake that is targeted by bass fishermen. There is good aquatic vegetation, with lots of hydrilla and milfoil over the past couple of years. As a result, the bass population, both in numbers and size, has exploded.
“Add to that the stocking of Florida-strain largemouth bass in the lake by the LDWF and it results in a phenomenal bass fishery,” he added.
Kevin Van Dam, elite bass fishing professional, won the 2011 BASS Masters Classic fishing this area. He used his expertise in handling a square-bill crankbait in 3- to 4-foot water to haul in an incredible 69.11 pounds of bass from Cataouatchee. In fact, five of the top six finishers in the Classic caught their fish from this fertile lake.
“While there are some shad, the main forage base in Cataouatchee is bluegill. Looking at records for April, lots of 18- to 20-pound, five-fish limits were caught in the lake, with the best areas being the western and northern parts. Quite a few bass over 10 pounds are caught here each year, with lots between 6 and 8 pounds caught regularly,” said Perret.
“If I go out in April, I’m going to be throwing a square-bill crankbait or spinnerbait with gold blades. White and chartreuse colors are always good here.”
The boat ramp at Bayou Segnette State Park offers access to the lake.