May 09, 2018
Mississippi and Louisiana, the two most southern states bordering the Mississippi River, have countless opportunities for bass fishing. Here are two — one in each state — that anglers should consider this year.
Anglers in Mississippi and Louisiana are blessed to have an abundance of outstanding largemouth bass fishing opportunities. The Magnolia State is home to 119 public lakes and 123,000 miles of streams and rivers that combine to provide over 225,000 acres of prime freshwater fishing.
Over in the Bayou State, an even greater amount of bass fishing opportunities can be found. And with so many incredible options to choose from, the most difficult task is narrowing down to just a few to try.
CANEY CREEK RESERVOIR
More commonly referred to by the locals as "Caney Lake," Caney Creek Reservoir is located between Chatham and Jonesboro in Jackson Parish. This 5,000-acre lake was created in 1986, from the impoundment of Caney Creek, Smith Branch, Clear Creek, Cypress Branch, Hancock Creek and Boggy Branch. The erratic shape of the lake produces a multitude of points and coves and over 72 miles of fishable shoreline. The reservoir has an average depth of only 16 feet, with a maximum depth of 43 feet. Due to a considerably small watershed of 26,560 acres, the seasonal water fluctuation is only 1 to 2 feet. In fact, following construction, it took three years for this reservoir to reach its normal water level.
In 1994, Caney Creek Reservoir was designated as a Louisiana Trophy Bass Lake. This designation is limited to three Louisiana bodies of water and follows a determination that the body has suitable potential to consistently produce largemouth bass in the 10- to 15-pound range.
The 15.97-pound lunker caught by Greg Wiggins off a point near Brown's Landing in 1994 still reigns as the largest largemouth caught anywhere in Louisiana. And while Caney Creek Reservoir is a phenomenal largemouth bass factory, producing six of the top 10 largemouths caught in the Bayou State, it is also an incredible all-around fishery. It is home to the Louisiana State Record black crappie and redear sunfish, as well as the second largest bluegill.
Caney Creek Reservoir leaves nothing to be desired in the amenities category either. Jimmie Davis State Park (318-249-2595) is conveniently located on a peninsula on the north shore and offers two boat launches, 11 fishing piers, 80 picnic sites, a swimming beach and three picnic pavilions. There are also 73 camping sites, which accommodate RV's and tents, each equipped with a table, tent pad and a fire ring. Two comfort stations and laundry facilities are located in the camping area, as well as cabins and a group facility.
Formerly known as Caney Creek Lake State Park, it was renamed in honor of former Gov. Jimmie Davis. Davis was a country-western singer and film star in the 1940s and 50s, who served as governor from 1944 to 1948 and from 1960 to 1964.
The majority of Caney Creek Reservoir's shoreline is residential with numerous boathouses and piers lining its banks. However, there are two commercial marinas offering bait, concessions and fuel. Boat ramps are abundant and include free launching and parking.
In spring, lures of choice are jigs, plastic lizards and wacky worms. On bluebird days, watermelon and gold flake are the best colors. On overcast days, dark-colored soft plastics presented slowly entice bites. As bass move out to the points after the spawn, switching to deep-diving crankbaits or worms with larger weights is more effective.
Unlike most Louisiana lakes, Caney Creek Reservoir is mostly open with very clear water. Having been clearcut prior to construction, the lake has limited structure other than bottom contours. However, there are five major streams that enter the lake from the northeast and another two from the southwest that offer drop-offs for staging bass. The five finger areas along the northeast side offer some of the best springtime fishing, but just about anywhere along the shoreline vegetation can also produce fish.
Even though Caney Creek Reservoir isn't the trophy-producing fishery it was back in the early 1990s, this Jackson Parish lake continues to yield lunker largemouths on a consistent basis. Each year good numbers of double-digit lunkers are pulled from the waters of Caney Creek Reservoir.
CALLING PANTHER LAKE
Much like Louisiana, outstanding bass fishing can be found just about anywhere in the Magnolia State. However, southwest Mississippi is home to some of the hottest trophy bass lakes to be found anywhere. And while Natchez State Park Lake continues to lay claim to the Mississippi State Record largemouth, Calling Panther Lake in Copiah County consistently produces more trophy largemouths than any other public lake in the Magnolia State.
Constructed just over a decade ago, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks manages this 512-acre impoundment, located five miles west of U.S. I-55 near Crystal Springs.
Deriving its name from the Choctaw Indian word, "Copiah," Calling Panther Lake is best described as a small lake in the middle of the woods. With a single boat ramp and a pair of piers running alongside each side of the boat launch, some might consider it somewhat wanting in amenities, but it has outstanding largemouth bass fishing.
Although not a very large impoundment, Calling Panther Lake offers a wide variety of fishing options. For example, Calling Panther Lake's erratic shape produces a total length of shoreline comparable to lakes more than twice its size. It also harbors an abundance of standing and fallen timber, as well as numerous deep creek channels, providing the angler a unique fishing experience. For those desiring more diverse structure, there is a strip of deep water along the dam, a number of shallow flats and a variety of brush piles in depths up to 45 feet. Although grass and lily pads can be found in some of the more shallow areas, most of the lake bottom is either clay or sand.
Hurricane Creek and Finley Branch feed the lake from the northeast side and northwest side respectively. These two streams merge in the upper end of the lake forming the deep channel that meanders through the heart of the impoundment. In an effort to improve safety and make timbered areas of the lake more accessible by boat, MDWFP drew the lake level down by 5 feet and used chain saws and boats to cut boat lanes to key fishing areas.
When Calling Panther Lake opened in March 2006, the lake was highly anticipated to be a first-class fishery. MDWFP biologists placed a seven-fish limit on bass, with a slot between 16- and 22-inches on fish that had to be released and allowed one fish over 22 inches. In only a few years of this management, the small lake was producing bass in the double digits. But as the number of smaller fish began building up, the limit was adjusted to 10 bass per day, with anglers allowed to keep one fish over 20 inches. The biologists wanted to create a more liberal limit on bass to encourage people to harvest the abundant fish found at Calling Panther Lake. The new limit allows fishermen to keep fish to eat, along with one trophy bass.
"Since the majority of our anglers here at Calling Panther are after trophy bass and diligently practice catch and release, the creel limits have never been an issue," said Ricky Blakeney, manager at Calling Panther Lake.
MDWFP actively monitors the lake and makes adjustments to insure it remains a viable largemouth bass fishery. In 2014 and 2015, over 60,000 bluegill fingerlings were added to the lake to address a decline in bluegill production. The fisheries biologists decided to add an additional 12,500 largemouth bass fingerlings in the spring of 2016 as well. Earlier stockings of shad have yielded an abundant baitfish supply that provides plenty of fodder to help produce even more monsters.
According to the regulars, a 6-inch June bug plastic worm is the lure of choice. They also see excellent results with poppers in deeper water in the early morning and late afternoon. Inexplicably, crankbaits and spinnerbaits simply don't produce like they should on this lake. For best results, Blakeney suggests Texas-rigged plastics and jigs to entice a strike.
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Although excellent bass fishing can be had anywhere on the lake, there are three hotspots that have been consistent producers for anglers. The first is on the southern point of the stand of flooded timber located about 100 yards out from the boat launch. The transition area where the flooded timber drops down into deep open water has been a good spot for both numbers and quality. The second hotspot is located just past the timber in open water. A sandy bank on the west side of the channel serves as a staging area for largemouths. And the third hotspot is along the rock-lined levee in both shallow and deep water.
The lake record largemouth for Calling Panther is a 15.4-pound monster caught by James Allen of Crystal Springs on February 26, 2011. And with the numbers of monster bass regularly caught and released at Calling Panther Lake, it's amazing that Allen's record still stands. While many of the largest bass were caught on large 7-inch shiners, including Allen's lake record, this method became less productive as the shad population grew to its current level.
According to Blakeney, Calling Panther Lake sees modest fishing pressure for such a productive bass lake. Usually there will be six to 10 boats per day on weekdays and 20 to 25 boats per day on weekends. And even though 24-hour fishing is allowed, very few anglers take advantage of night fishing.
"There is one angler from Vicksburg that fishes almost exclusively at night, and with great success," Blakeney noted. "In fact, he regularly catches lunker largemouths around the standing timber using large grape or black, soft-plastic worms."
If you want to fish multiple days, Calling Panther Lake (601-892-4776) now offers a total of 23 modern concrete camping sites with complete hookups. However, that is about the extent of the amenities on site. The Red Barn (601-892-7675) on MS Highway 51 in Crystal Springs is the closest option for live bait and tackle.
On the Side: Calling Panther Shellcrackers
Although Calling Panther Lake in Copiah County is recognized as a premier trophy bass lake, many anglers overlook the incredible shellcracker fishing available.
The redear sunfish that call Calling Panther Lake home grow to enormous sizes.
While the lake record redear, caught by George Runnels, tipped the scales at 1.65 pounds, shellcrackers weighing more than a pound are common for the few anglers that pursue these tasty panfish at Calling Panther Lake.
According to lake Manager Ricky Blakeney, the best success can be had fishing earthworms on the bottom in the shallow barrow flats along the west side of the lake near the dam.
The shellcrackers in Calling Panther Lake start bedding in March, about a month earlier than their bluegill cousins. They prefer to bed in the sandy clay shallows created when the dirt was removed to construct the dam.
However, anglers can find shellcracker beds in most all the shallow coves around the lake as well.
"You can cruise through the shallows when they're bedding and smell the sweet scent of the spawning shellcrackers," said Blakeney. "Then all you have to do is anchor off, thread an earthworm on a bream hook, and start working on your 100-fish creel limit."