Bass typically spawn later in rivers than they do in lakes because of high, spring water levels that look more like a Yoo-hoo than water. But, this isn't a typical year on Pool 5 of the Red River near Shreveport. The first sign that this would be a different kind of spring came on February 22 when Russ McVey of Southpaw Guide Service hauled in a 13.63-pound bass that went on record as the largest bass ever caught on the Red River.

McVey caught the lunker on a 9/16-ounce black neon Southpaw Jig, a jig that McVey produces, with a 3 1/2-inch black neon Bass Pro Shops Craw Worm. The fish bit around heavy timber in approximately nine feet of water.

The big fish was only the beginning of good things to come on the Red. Stable water has allowed the backwaters to remain clear during a time of year when they are typically high and muddy. This has brought a ton of fish in seeking suitable spawning areas, and, according to McVey, they are finding exactly what they need.

"The water temperature is already in the low 70's," McVey said. "We're having an early spawn this year, and the best fishing is from the bank to five foot. The oxbow lakes are in great shape and they are just right for catching spawning bass."

While the size of the bass has gone done dramatically from McVey's giant, he's still managing to catch plenty of quality fish around the three-pound mark. A trip a couple days ago in 20 mph winds produced over 20 fish between two and three pounds.

McVey revealed that the three most productive lures right now are a soft, sinking stickbait, a small spinnerbait, and a Texas rigged creature bait.

"If the wind lets me," McVey said, "I'm throwing a watermelon or watermelon red Wave Worm Tiki Stick. I'll switch to a 1/4-ounce white or white/chartreuse Bass Pro Spinnerbait when the wind comes up. And I keep a watermelon or watermelon red Texas rigged creature bait tied on to pitch into the heavy cover."

McVey believes that anglers should understand that the timber they see above water makes up only about 30% of what's actually there. The other 70% is underwater where it can't be seen. Bass may spawn on a hard, sandy bottom in the back of an oxbow, but they're more likely to bed out on the underwater logs, stumps and laydowns.

"It's hard to single out a particular lake because they are all good right now," McVey insisted. "If you're coming but you don't know where to go, I'd recommend fishing the backs of White House, Caspiana, Knee Knock and Port Lake. As long as you can find an oxbow lake that has an end in the back, you'll find bass."

Anglers interested in contacting McVey about a guide trip on the Red River or the Southpaw Jig should call (318-464-2277).