Outdoor Corner: Has spring sprung?

Lyle Johnson
Justin Scott and Craig Taylor with their 2nd place 17.16 stringer in the LA-Bass/Anything Outdoors St Jude benefit.

I just got back from Colorado. When we left Breckenridge it was 15 degrees and dumping snow. When we landed in New Orleans it was 70 degrees and a bit muggy. It seems like spring already.

It’s probably a bit early, but as I returned from church I noticed some swamp maple leaves at my front door. I looked across the street and there they were, buds and leaves all over those trees. The swamp maple is usually the first to bloom, signifying that spring is near.

All this warm weather has the bass on the march to their bedding areas to look for locations to perform the yearly ritual of spawning. The male bass start things off as they pick a spot that looks good enough to attract female bass. They fan the spot with their tails to get it neat, hoping that a pretty female will deposit her eggs so he can fertilize them.

Moreover, the warm weather has provided a bonus crop of crawfish to use for bait. This time of the year is also perfect to use small crawfish for bait. All the rain we’ve been having creates optimum conditions for the drainage ditches to be filled with the perfect size mudbugs for catching just about any kind of fish that swims.

A dip net and some rubber boots is all you need to harvest enough of them to make a day’s worth of bait. Find a ditch that holds water most of the year and has some type of grass, and that’s where they’ll be. They can hide in the grass and use it for a food source also. An open ditch seldom has many crawdads in it. Reach out as far as you can and scoop all the way back to where you stand. When you scoop, make sure the net passes on the bottom. That’s where they live.

Dump them all on an open spot in the grass and get started. Put a little of the grass in the bait bucket so they can stay moist, but no water is required to keep them alive. Sometimes you’ll catch grass shrimp, and that’s an added bonus. Throw them in too!

Size matters. The smaller ones are the size to catch panfish. Bream, goggle-eye, and chinquapin can’t resist a live crawfish. The medium ones are best to use for catfish. They’ll eat the smaller bugs, but you’ll catch the little catfish as well. Medium to large will be really good if you like to catch bass with live bait. This takes a little more work but it’s worth the time if you enjoy fishing for bass.

The rig for panfish is pretty simple. A cane pole will do just fine, but a rod and reel will work also. Use a long shank four or six hook, so the fish can’t swallow the hook in case you choose to release it. If the hook gets swallowed, the fish probably won’t survive.

A split shot two or three inches above the hook lets the bait sink a little faster and a cork set according to the depth of the water. Keep the bait about six inches off the bottom. My favorite way is to use just a hook so the bait will sink slowly and all those wiggling legs just can’t be resisted.

For catfish, a 1/0 hook is big enough to land a big one and will also catch smaller ones. I usually tie the sinker on the bottom and the hook up the line. The temperature of the water usually dictates how far off the bottom I set the hook. Catfish don’t always swim along the bottom.

For bass, a 2/0 hook would be a good choice. Rig it weightless and don’t use a cork either. Bass are structure oriented, so the best places to put the bait would be a stump, the base of a tree, in some lily pads or a patch of grass. You don’t have to leave the bait in one spot very long, move it around because this is one offering they’ll hit pretty handily.

All that warm weather helped out two local bass tournaments to great success and participation. Last Saturday the La-bass/Anything Outdoor Bass Classic was held out of Doiron’s landing in Stephensville.

Great weather helped the 75 boats with 150 anglers in them turn in a remarkable performance with good stringers of bass for their efforts. The team of Terry Blackmon and Bobby Templet led the way with a five bass limit that tipped the scales at 17.17.

Only 1/100th of a pound back was Justin Scott and Craig Taylor with five bass for 17.16. The team of Sandy Gaudet and Dustin Champagne weighed five bass for 15.39 for 3rd place. In that string of bass was also the big bass of the tournament, a lunker that pushed the scales to 5.66.

Here's the rest of the top ten: Willie & Warren Couch 4th place--5 bass, 14.91; Joey Decuir & Blake Sylvester 5th place--5 bass, 14.58; Kevin Medine & Chad Porto 6th place--5 bass, 13.64; Blaine Delapasse & Troy Bercegeay 7th place--5 bass, 13.45; Wade Leblanc & Danny Aucoin 8th place--5 bass, 13.25; Barry Henry & Owen Plaisance 9th place--5 bass, 13.02; and Kevin Hebert & Timmy Theriot 10th place--5 bass, 12.70.

Anything Outdoors Helping Kids raised $2000 at the event and matched that total to give $4000 to Mrs. Cindy Penos’ St. Jude fund for her daughter who died at St. Jude.

On Sunday a fundraising tournament for the LSU collegiate bass fishing team was held at the St. James boat club out of Blind River. The results were as follows: in the Jr. Division congrats to Brant Andra and Reece Bourgeois for their 1st place and big bass.

For the Adult Division, 3rd place went to Justin Stanga and Jesse Demars with 10.51 pounds, 2nd place was Brandon Sanchez with 10.77, and our 1st place winner was Garrett Strickland and Harrison Tabiolo with 10.79. Big Bass of the tournament was 3.75 lbs. caught by the team of Bobby Torres and Gerard Cryer.

Check out the Outdoor Calendar to see upcoming tournaments. Remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Until next time have fun in the outdoors, be safe, and may God truly bless you!

Lyle Johnson is a free-lance writer, co-host of Ascension Outdoors TV and Curator of the Louisiana State Fish Records. He can be contacted at reelman@eatel.net

Outdoor Calendar

EASL Monthly Meeting: 3rd Monday every month, East Ascension Sportsman’s League meeting held at Chef KD’s on Highway 74 starting at 7 p.m. A meal served and special speaker will be in attendance.

Squirrel season: Through Feb. 28 daily bag limit 8 possession 24.

Rabbit season: Through Feb. 28 daily bag limit 8 possession 24.

Quail season: Through Feb. 28, statewide, private lands only. Daily bag limit 10 possession 30.

Fly Tying 101: Feb. 16 and 23, 2-4 p.m., Orvis, Perkins Rowe, Baton Rouge. No cost. Hands-on clinic covering basics of fly tying. Materials and tools provided. Registration required. Call 225-757-7286.

Prairieville Broncos Bass Tournament: April 6, Doiron’s Landing Stephensville. Team tournament $160 entry fee. Captain’s meeting April 4 (location TBA). Call Scott Watson 225-610-0699, Karen Watson 225-270-1565 or email prarievillebroncosfootball@yahoo.com.

South La Highpower Club Match: Feb. 24, 8:30 a.m., Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Range, St. Landry Road, Gonzales. NRA match rifle or service rifle, 200-yard/50-rounds match course. Fee $12 members, $15 nonmembers, $5 juniors. $15 annual club & Civilian Marksmanship Program membership (allows purchases from CMP). Call George Serrett 225-389-6118. Email: gserrett41@cox.net.

Anglers For Autism Bass Tourney: March 2, 4:30 a.m. check-in, Doiron’s landing for Atchafalaya Basin & Belle River/Lake Verret, Stephensville. Pick-your-partner event. 3 p.m. weigh-in, Doiron’s. Fee $205. $5,000 first-place. Benefits Emerge Center. Call 225-938-2834 or Keith Thibodeaux 225-938-0941. www.emergela.org.

Need an event publicized? Contact Lyle at reelman@eatel.net