Back in the early 1990s, I used to run up and down the West Pearl pitching a jig or soft plastic to anything that broke the current. The bass, I figured, lay behind these obstructions to get out of the current and wait for something to eat.
"Nothing's changed," Covington-based bass tournament angler Jason Pittman told me as I stepped into his custom aluminum boat tailor made for fishing shallow river systems. "There's no rhyme or reason to anything; these fish have pulled out to the river, and we're making as many pitches as we can."
Pittman had Texas rigged a june bug Mister Twister Poc'it Craw on a 3/0 hook with a 3/16-ounce weight, and he was planning on pitching it with 65-pound-test Fins Windtamer braided line.
During the past couple of months, the West Pearl has fallen to really low water levels, and the bass are starting to feed heavily as the water temperature falls.
"We're looking at about 65-degree water temperature," Pittman told me as we idled through Indian Village. "During the summer, we had some low-90- and upper-80-degree water.
"Now, all of a sudden, these fish have gone into fall 'I'm-going-to-eat mode.'"
As Pittman predicted, catching these bass wasn't really rocket science. Everywhere we pitched to anything that was blocking the current we set the hook. Laydowns, alligator grass, pilings, cypress knees — it didn't matter. Fish were behind all of it.
We eventually worked out way down to the lower West Pearl just one bend north of the marsh, and that is where we found a school of bass that made up in eagerness for their lack of size.
"It's definitely a numbers game," Pittman told me while tossing back a 12-inch bass. "When you get down to this end, you're looking at more quantity than you are quality. Five of them that may go 7 or 8 pounds, and you hope you catch a good fish every now and then."
Larger bass are more of a percentage game rather than the result of some kind of special technique or secret trick. To get the big one, Pittman has to fish through the small ones.
A 2-pound bass would be a good fish on any given day, but he has recently caught a couple up to 4 pounds.
"And they came right where I was catching the 12-inch fish," he pointed out. "It's just a matter of the more flips you make during the day the better your chances of eventually putting your plastic in front of a big fish."
With the realization that you're not going to catch 5- and 6-pound bass, the West Pearl River is as hot as it gets right now for consistent bass-fishing action. If you're looking to have a good time, rig up a little craw-worm and just start fishing everything in sight.