Summer Bass Action at Poverty Point Reservoir

The lake is new, and the fishing's exciting -- because the bass are ready to bite!

Photo by Ron Sinfelt

By Kinny Haddox

It's just been over a year since the new Poverty Point Reservoir opened for public fishing, and if the first year's fishing there is any indication - and there's no reason to think that it's not - the 2,700-acre lake three miles north of Delhi in northeastern Louisiana's Richland Parish is guaranteed to be a hotspot again this year for those bent on striking it rich when chasing summertime bass.

The lake is named after nearby Poverty Point, a Native American site consisting of complex earthworks that has been a rich source of artifacts. Its builders, a people belonging to what's been dubbed the "Poverty Point culture," settled between 1,400 and 700 B.C. on the banks of Bayou Macon near what is now the community of Epps.

That lake and park are just a few minutes from the state historic site makes Poverty Point a great place for a summer vacation, offering not only fishing or boating but a cultural experience as well. Day trips are available to this site that has been a focal point for archaeological research since the mid-20th century.

But enough of that for now - because the fish are biting! When the lake opened its ramps on April 21, 2003, fishermen lined up for miles to get in. And their patience paid off: Even novice bass anglers met with success. Over the next few months, fishing and fishing pressure eased up a bit; the lake continued to shine.

It became apparent early, though, that the summertime bassing wasn't going to be as easy as the springtime action. June and July force anglers to switch techniques - to go looking for the bass.

After the rigors of weathering the spawn and a large amount of fishing pressure simultaneously, the bass would back off from the sorts of structure that conventionally come first to mind, seeming to prefer instead offshore structure like dropoffs and brushpiles and the lake's few scattered treelines. Some of the best fishing for numbers was for the smaller schooling fish. Finding a spot in which the bass were moving around and just staying put until the fish came back by - much as some crappie fishermen at big reservoirs do in the spring - worked for some.

From the reports we've gotten, worm-fishing was best early on, but the fish really seemed to like shiny crankbaits - in silver or gold - when they were schooling; it wasn't unusual to see anglers get five or six fish in just a few minutes when schools passed through. Then there'd be a period of no fish, followed by another period of catching activity. The really nice summer fish - the big ones - were caught mostly on bigger bulky baits like jigs and soft plastic creature baits.

Mike Wood, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries District 2 biologist, oversees Poverty Point Reservoir out of his Monroe office. He has high hopes for the reservoir this summer. "When we opened Poverty Point up in the spring of 2003, a majority of the fish in there had not seen a hook," he said. "The fishing was just fabulous - it was great fishing. Then, after the pressure hit and the fish became a little acclimated, it got harder. By the time summer got here, a lot of people were saying that all the fish had been caught, and they went home. But that wasn't the case."

What did happen is that the bass moved off the shallow banks, where 95 percent of the fishermen had been catching them. Some moved deep into the cover; others scattered to cover off the banks throughout the lake. "Fishing became more of a challenge," Wood said. "It will be similar to that this year, but there are still plenty of fish in the lake. Fishermen just have to work a little harder to find them.

One of the secrets to striking it rich at Poverty Point this summer will be fishing some of the king-sized brushpiles that were constructed in the lakebed before it was flooded. As a joint venture between the LDWF and the Poverty Point Reservoir District, nearly 50 piles of stumps and logs were left in the lake. Unmarked, their locations follow no pattern, so it's up to the fishermen to find them. A word of caution: If you do find them, don't mark them unless you want lots of company fishing them!

"The fishermen who are willing to work to find them and learn how to fish them will benefit from their work," Wood noted. "Most of the piles are in 10 feet of water or less."

Last summer, some of Poverty Point's bigger fish were caught shallow. There are some pretty thick areas of cover, and the big fish seem to have liked backing right up into them; you had to put a bait right in the thickest part of the cover to catch them. Some of midyear's bigger fish were taken by users of that technique.

Even though Poverty Point was just opened to the public last year, it's been filling with water and fish since 1998. In fact, some of the lake's first stockings consisted of big older brood fish taken from the state's hatchery system.

"We had a large population of older largemouth bass in our hatchery that we had been using for our stocking program," Wood explained. "They were getting older, and we needed to replace them with younger brood fish. Poverty Point was an ideal place to put them to good use."

So at Poverty Point you can certainly expect to catch small- and medium sized bass - but it wouldn't be unusual to see an occasional 10-pounder taken this summer.

Area fishing expert Bobby Phillips agrees. Although Phillips' personal choice is usually white-perch fishing, his daily routine as owner of the Honey Hole in West Monroe keeps him in constant contact with bass anglers using the lake.

"I was amazed at the number of fish they caught last year," he said, "and I think some of the fishermen were, too. Obviously, the best fishing was in the spring, because the fish were right up on the banks and in the easy cover. But there were lots of fish caught in the summer, too. You just had to pay your dues a little and learn the lake."

Phillips predicts that this year's summer run will belong to those who follow the shad. "That lake is just absolutely full of shad," he asserted, "and the feeding fish will be following the shad." In his opinion, the baits most likely to succeed there are shiny crankbaits like Rat-L-Traps in silver or shad colors. Because of the vast open areas, there'll always be wind action, and the lake will be stained, so don't expect to find crystal-clear water. Work with lures that you think will function best in slightly stained water.

Echoing Wood's prediction as to sites at which to catch summer bass, Phillips said that while some fish will be found shallow, the best action will be in the tops and wi

ndrows that were constructed on the lake.

"There is also a lot of good structure along the old Bayou Mason run where it gets down over 20 feet deep," he observed. "The ridges and drops around that are good, and there is still some standing timber there. Most of the lake is only 8 to 10 feet deep, but if you find structure and you find the shad, you'll find bass."

In summary, fishing Poverty Point in the summer will require some more literal legwork than just hitting the banks would. A depthfinder will help you find those areas into which the bass are likely to migrate. Also, keep your eyes open for schooling bass on the surface. They should be plentiful, too, especially when boat traffic is light.

Since there aren't a lot of background data to go on, the best bet for summertime angling is to give the lake a try and use the techniques, lures and fish-finding skills that you use on other lakes at this time of year. With the number of houses and fishing piers going up around the lake and the miles of shoreline, Poverty Point is sure to evolve into a pretty decent night-fishing lake as well - and it's open for it now. The regular use-fee for night-fishing is a bit higher than the daytime permit, but it's well worth it if you like angling under cover of darkness. Contact the lake for details before you come.

Poverty Point has super facilities for a lake its size: a large boat landing and parking area on the south end of the reservoir and a new State Park facility on the north end. The north end facilities include a marina complex with 48 secured boat slips, a store, fishing pier and cleaning station and overnight facilities. Additional overnight facilities are available in town or in nearby towns along I-20.

Poverty Point Reservoir and State Park are located at 1500 Poverty Point Parkway, Delhi, LA. 71232. You can write to the state park there or call for information at 1-800-474-0392 or (318) 878-7536. The site is three miles north of Delhi with separate South Landing and North Marina Complex entrances off state Highway 17.

You can reach the lake off of I-20 by taking the Delhi exit and heading north. Lodge reservations are limited, but can be made by calling 1-877-CAMP-N-LA (1-877-226-7652).

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