Small Waters, Monster Bass
Think small when looking for big bass this spring in Mississippi & Louisiana.
Almost every freshwater system in Mississippi and Louisiana offers good bass fishing.
Legendary waters like Toledo Bend, Lake Bistineau, Pickwick Lake and Ross Barnett Reservoir traditionally give up massive bass, but some small waters also hold lunker largemouths.
Anglers might want to try these smaller lakes when looking for big bass this spring.
Grand Bayou Reservoir
Since John K. Kelly Grand Bayou Reservoir, better known simply as Grand Bayou, officially reached pool stage in August 1996, Louisiana managed it for bass. Over the years, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries periodically stocked the reservoir with Florida largemouths.
“Every year, we stock about 30,000 Florida bass fingerlings about two to three inches long into Grand Bayou,” advised Villis Dowden, a LDWF biologist. “Anglers catch about five to ten 10-pound largemouth bass every year with an occasional 12-pounder. The lake record weighed about 13.50 pounds. In a creel survey in 2015, I weighed and measured a 12.50-pounder that was released right at the dock.”
The 2,500-acre reservoir in Red River Parish near Coushatta averages about 8 to 10 feet deep. Some holes in the old Grand Bayou channel running down the middle of the lake dip to more than 24 feet deep. Wooded shorelines and some grass patches create bass habitat. Anglers can also fish the channel drop-offs.
“We lost some submerged vegetation, but we still have enough to make a good nursery for young bass,” Dowden said. “Grand Bayou doesn’t have much topography, but it does have a few very narrow, shallow ditches running into it and an artificial reef close to the dam. We’re planning to establish one or two more artificial reefs in the northeastern part of the lake.”
During the spring, bass move up those small ditches into shallow flats. The spawn typically peaks in late March to early April, but spawning could extend into May. Look for bass along the ditches and in the coves. Also fish shallow points. In addition, many crappie anglers place brush piles throughout the lake. Bass use these piles to hunt bream and crappie.
“Grand Bayou doesn’t have a high shad population, so bass mostly forage on smaller bream or crappie,” Dowden explained. “A big bass can eat a big crappie. During April, people catch many bass on plastic lures and wacky worms. When fish start moving into their post-spawn patterns, anglers can catch a lot of bass on topwater baits around grass beds from April through June.”
Many anglers fish deeper holes and channel drop-offs with Carolina- or Texas-rigged worms. In the flats, run spinnerbaits or crankbaits. Along the wooded shorelines, flip jigs tipped with craw trailers.
Entirely within Chicot State Park near St. Landry in Evangeline Parish, Chicot Lake covers 1,642 acres. Long managed for monster bass, the clear lake frequently produces 8- to 11-pound fish with an occasional bigger one. Some topped 13 pounds.
“Since 1988, we’ve stocked nearly three million Florida bass into Chicot Lake,” detailed Jody David, an LDWF biologist. “Native largemouths hybridize with the Floridas, so the lake has a pretty good amount of bass with Florida genes. People catch a few 10- and 11-pounders every year, mostly during the spring spawning season.”
Construction of a dam across Chicot Bayou began in 1938, backing water up into an existing cypress and tupelo swamp along the bayou. The original channel averages about 7- to 8-feet deep, but a few holes drop to 15-feet deep. Heavily wooded flats average 2- to3-feet deep. With so many trees and other cover, every cast on the lake looks like it should bring a strike from a double-digit leviathan.
“It’s a tough lake to fish because it has so much cover in it, but it also has a bunch of big bass,” David said. “With so much cover, the big bass can be hard to pattern. To successfully fish Chicot Lake, people really need to learn it. People can really catch some big fish from the spring through early summer if they know how to fish the lake.”
In the spring, bass start moving up into the shallow flats when the water temperature hits about 58 to 62 degrees as they prepare to spawn. Spawning could begin as early as late February, but traditionally peaks from mid-March to early April. Fishing many coves, little fingers and points could turn into exciting spring action.
“The best fishing in the spring is usually on the northern end of Chicot in an area called Walker Branch,” David recommended. “The shallow area near the spillway is another good place to fish in the spring. It has some submerged vegetation. The lake has a lot of giant salvinia, which is causing big problems throughout the whole state. Most of the giant salvinia is restricted to about 400 to 500 acres on the north end of Chicot.”
In the spring, anglers often spot crawfish clinging to trees standing in the water, so fishing crawfish-colored baits is not a bad idea. Anglers can also work buzzbaits or spinnerbaits next to trees or pop floating frogs across matted vegetation.
In September 2019, the state will begin drawing down the lake. The level should drop about 3 inches a day until it hits about 5 to 6 feet below pool by early winter. When the Chicot level falls three feet, the state will close it to fishing for safety reasons. That will likely occur in mid-October. By January, the water should return to normal and the lake reopen to fishing, provided the area receives sufficient rain during that time.
Lake Jeff Davis
The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks operates 20 small public fishing lakes that offer excellent fishing on about 4,000 total surface acres. One of them, Lake Jeff Davis, covers 100 acres in Jefferson Davis County about 3 miles south of Prentiss.
The state drained and renovated the lake in 2010 and restocked it with fish, including Florida bass in 2011. Bass stocked years ago reached hefty proportions. Anglers now catch many fish in the 4- to 6-pound range, with a few in the 7- to 9-pound range. The lake also produces some double-digit fish, including at least one 12.60-pounder. Anglers typically catch the biggest bass during the spring spawn.
In April, many bass start transitioning to deeper areas after spawning. A mid-lake channel drops to more than 30 feet deep in places. Stump fields in 3 to 15 feet of water on the southwest shoreline provide excellent bass habitat. Another secondary channel flows in from the northeast. Brushy shorelines, rocky riprap near the dam and coves make excellent places to catch bass. Anglers can also bounce baits off pier pilings.
Big bass feed heavily upon a large panfish population. Therefore, work the shorelines with chartreuse spinnerbaits or crankbaits to mimic bluegills. In the shallows, drop wacky worms or run weedless swimbaits and frogs across the grass.
Anglers can fish off the banks in many places or take advantage of several fishing piers. Before fishing the lake, consult a depth contour map to locate drop-offs, channels, fish attractors and other structure that might hold bass.
Lake Lamar Bruce
Another public fishing lake, Lake Lamar Bruce covers about 300 acres of Lee County northeast of Saltillo not far from Tupelo. Stocked entirely with Florida bass, the lake can deliver good bass numbers and some behemoths, especially in the spring. During March and April 2018, anglers landed several bass exceeding 10 pounds including an 11.82-pounder that set a new lake record.
Extremely clear, Lamar Bruce averages about 7- to 9-feet deep with some holes plunging to more than 30-feet deep. Numerous stumps, brush piles, riprap shorelines and a few docks attract bass. In addition, the state established native vegetation and made other recent improvements to enhance bass fishing.
“Lake Lamar Bruce is one of the top bass lakes in northeast Mississippi,” said Trevor Knight, a MDWFP biologist. “The lake was renovated in 2015 and restocked with Florida-strain largemouths. This resulted in a ‘new lake effect’ with high bass catch rates and the potential to catch a trophy fish. The population is still maturing and growing larger.”
The largemouth spawning season typically peaks in mid-April, but anglers might find some bass already in post-spawn patterns and some still on the beds. At Lamar Bruce, bass spawn in coves with hard bottoms. Also look for bass around the mouths of any small tributaries, flooded brush or grass beds.
“When the water temperature hits the 50s to low 60s, small, clear impoundments like Lamar Bruce typically fish very well,” Knight explained. “The north end of the lake is very popular in the spring. In April, look for bedding fish in the backs of coves and around bushes and stumps. Some beds will also be deeper around riprap. Some post-spawn fish can be found in brush piles on main lake points.”
Since the lake holds a tremendous panfish population, fat bluegills comprise a large part of a largemouth’s diet. Therefore, fish near bream beds with lures that imitate bluegills such as shaky heads tipped with plastic trailers, crankbaits or swimbaits. In water about 3- to 5-feet deep, fish wacky worms. Work Texas-rigged plastics and jigs over the drop-off edges into deeper water.
Anglers must release all bass measuring between 18 and 24 inches, but may keep one bass that exceeds 24 inches. The state also stocked threadfin shad in the lake to improve bass forage, built gravel beds for spawning, added fish attractors and worked to establish more vegetation to enhance fish habitat.
Although almost any freshwater system in either state can produce excellent bass catches this month, anglers might find big action in these smaller waters. In a small lake, anglers can more quickly determine patterns than in a sprawling reservoir. And the bass will be there, waiting for you.