May 24, 2018
With rivers, lakes, bayous and more, anglers in Mississippi and Louisiana have countless opportunities to catch big bass. Here are a few to try this year.
The most popular fish in the country can be found throughout the Magnolia and Bayou states.
Mississippi-Louisiana anglers have ample opportunity to pursue big bass across the region. In fact, the hardest part about fishing the two states is figuring out which place nearby offers the best conditions at the moment.
Generally speaking, Louisiana and Mississippi bass have finished spawning by this time of year and are returning to summer patterns holding near deep-water cover and submerged structure. Through the year, habits change as water warms and cools with the seasons. At this time of year, bass in both states settle in for the long, hot summer, just waiting for anglers to throw baits.
The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks manages a number of lakes, reservoirs, oxbows and rivers across the state. The diversity of aquatic resources across Mississippi provides year-round opportunities to land bass.
One of the best options is Bay Springs Lake, located in northeast Mississippi within Tishomingo and Prentiss counties. The 6,700-acre lake has remarkably clear, cool water and is home to largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. Recent stockings of Florida bass, along with historic stocking of threadfin shad, have produced solid bass populations as evidenced by recent surveys.
This lake is downstream of Pickwick Lake, which shares many environmental and seasonal attributes as Bay Springs Lake and has hosted bass tournaments. In fact, over the past decade, the average tournament weight for Pickwick Lake anglers has been significantly higher than the state average. Pay close attention to the regions of the lake that are fair game for Mississippi license holders; parts of Pickwick are found in three different states.
On the northwest side of the state, several large reservoirs — Arkabutla, Enid, Grenada, and Sardis — were designed for flood control by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.
Arkabutla, the smallest of the four flood control reservoirs, is formed by impounding the Coldwater River. This lake is very shallow and tends to be muddy when water is high, making fishing frustrating at times.
Lake Enid is located in Yalobusha County and offers summer bass fisherman shots at both largemouth bass and spotted bass. In June bass will be traveling to deeper water along the outside bends of the river channel, especially in areas where structure remains.
Grenada Lake is a very popular crappie fishing lake, but bass are also common. Sardis is the most popular of the northwest lakes, due in part to its larger size.
As a spring and summer bass lake, Sardis' pool level drives fishing quality. Anglers can catch summer bass off the points across the lake if the water is up. As the weather cools into the fall, bass move back into the back of creek channels.
Ross Barnett is a premier bass impoundment in the central region. Formed by damming the Pearl River, Ross Barnett encompasses 33,000 acres, of which 24,000 are considered open water lake. The remaining portion is less open and supports cypress trees and other vegetation.
Anglers who fish these waters cast frogs and other weedless plastics through the spring and summer, targeting lotus stands and other vegetation. Veterans know to focus on submerged structure near creeks and channels as summer gives way to fall. The lake has a solid population of black bass, but also supports hybrid and striped bass populations that can be sight fished in the open areas of the lake.
The lake offers 20-plus public boat launches scattered around the impoundment and bank fishing opportunities at Lakeshore Park and the spillway boat launch.
Calling Panther Lake is the Magnolia State's newest bass attraction. In terms of impoundment age, the lake is only 15 years old or so. Construction began in 2003, and it was then stocked with Florida largemouth bass (among other species) and opened to the public in 2006. Since opening it has gained a following of anglers who have learned where the lake bottom changes give way to channels. Water is relatively deep compared to other lakes in the state with depths nearing 45 feet near the dam.
Calling Panther Lake Campground is open to the public and features a concrete boat launch and camper lots. Good populations of both gizzard shad and threadfin shad are established and provide a solid second and third level to the lake's aquatic food web.
Where do anglers in the bayou state find bass? The easy answer is everywhere. Lakes, bayous, rivers and all waterways in between hold solid populations of bass. Couple the aquatic resources with a healthy stocking program and there is no doubt Louisiana bass fishing is good.
By June, most bass have spawned and are searching for food. Early morning and late afternoon are equally productive and night fishing attracts many anglers as well.
Caney Creek Lake, which holds a long-standing state record bass — 15.97 pounds — is known across north Louisiana as a home for lunkers. Caney is located in Jackson Parish south of Ruston. Jimmie Davis State Park, located on the north bank of the lake, can be used as a launch point for angers looking to reel in hawgs.
Averaging 16 feet in depth, the lake sports relatively clear water. This time of year, mid depths and shallows serve as forage waters for bass. Water temperature is slowly rising, and as a result fish are working to regulate body temperatures by moving into and out of warmer and cooler waters. Locate a dropoff and toss sinking baits toward shore and drag them out, making sure to keep the bait suspended in the water column. Baits that work well include jigs and crankbaits. The reservoir has a slot limit, so be sure to review regulations.
Another early summer fish producing hotspot is 3,000-acre Turkey Creek Reservoir. Here, tree cover and shallow water are the norm, though water depth near the spillway reaches 22 feet. Turkey Creek is located far from major cities and is under utilized.
"The abundance of shallow cover makes fishing good throughout the summer months," said Ryan Daniel, District 2 fisheries biologist. "June fishermen should fish as much of the lake as possible, covering as much water as they can. Spinnerbaits and crankbaits are the go to lures this time of year, though topwater lures will entice bass early in the morning."
The lake's location in an agricultural area results in a very productive lake. In addition, anglers have opportunities to catch bass from recent Florida bass stocking efforts.
Lake Bistineau has plenty of vegetation and anglers work heavy jigs through grass mats and floating vegetation. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has taken notice of the Bistineau vegetation and conducts yearly drawdowns of the lake.
Roughly one half of the lake is heavily forested with dense stands of cypress trees. Forested areas contrast with several large expanses of open water, including Crane Lake and New Orleans Pond. Other open water areas include smaller slough channels through the cypress forests.
"Drawdowns conditions in late summer or early fall produce great bass fishing, and fishing stumps or trees near the channel edge can be good for big bass," said Jeff Sibley, District 1 fisheries biologist.
Located in the Red River Alluvial Valley, Caddo Lake near Shreveport is one of northwest Louisiana's best lakes. Here, anglers can practice punching jigs through cover to get baits to the bass hanging out below.
Caddo Lake was a swamp before impoundment, and as a result, the water is nutrient rich and supports a healthy fish community including a solid bass population. The shared body of water is located in Texas and Louisiana. Multiple public launches are available on the Louisiana side, and summer bank fishing is allowed at Earl G. Williamson Park, located north of Mooringsport on Louisiana Highway 1.
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Toledo Bend, which is shared with Texas, is massive and supports a large population of bass. The lake is viewed as one of the premier bass fishing lakes in the country, and has been hosting tournaments for many years. Summer bass are hiding in grass at the bottom of the lake, though topwater baits may entice a bite early in the morning. As summer gives way to fall and cold fronts move through, anticipate the bass bite to pick up. Toledo Bend is accessible from many launches on both sides of the border.
As the summer goes by, anglers near the Atchafalaya, in southern Louisiana, eagerly wait for fall and the cold fronts that accompany October and November. The bass bite in the basin tends to warm up as the water temperature cools to the mid to upper 70s, which makes bass holding in or near deeper water during the summer months ease back toward the shallows. The cold fronts kill back vegetation, opening up bank and structure and cause bass to pile near vegetation that remains. Also, pay attention to baitfish as they move into canals. The Atchafalaya produces bass year 'round thanks to a water regime that helps maintain nutrient cycling and high productivity.
From north to south and everywhere in between, Mississippi and Louisiana anglers have bass fishing options at the ready. With so many options, it's easy to stay right at home and try each lake in turn, but consider supporting the fisheries in neighboring states by purchasing licenses for one- or two-day outings just to get a taste of what neighbors in the other states are working.
Side Notes: Consider Catfish
Summertime cats are biting in the rivers across Mississippi and Louisiana. Blue cats are typically found in swift water that is relatively clear. Blues spend their days in deep water resting, and find their way to shallows at night to feed.
Channel cats are night hunters that will eat just about anything. They tend to be smaller but more numerous. A keen sense of smell means anglers should use odorous baits to land channels. Common baits include commercial stink bait, chicken livers, nightcrawlers and cutbait.
Flatheads prefer slow current and deep holes filled with cover. Solitary hunters, flatheads love live bait. Anglers chasing flatheads should sink live bait to the bottom near areas with little current. Be sure to use heavy tackle, as flatheads will dive into submerged cover, testing the strength of gear.
The middle reaches of the Pearl River in central and southern Mississippi are home to blues and flats, while the Ouachita River in northeast Louisiana is a popular catfish destination. Catfish can be caught using other methods besides rod and reel. Catfish can be landed with hoops nets and slats and traps and can also be caught on jugs or by noodling. Yo-yos and trotlines are popular as well.