And the Pearl River provides a perfect place to work on perfecting the old jig-and-pig technique for catching bass.
A recent morning brought a touch of fog and cold temperatures to the East Pearl. An old college buddy, Kevin Jobe, climbed in the boat with his cameras to film and photograph some new Stanley baits. A falling tide during the morning helped overcome a bright blue-bird sky.
Although the new Ball Buster buzz baits only produced a few nibbles, the Stanley jig was the teacher's pet. By day's end, about 30 or so bass plus one bucketmouth showed off for the cameras.
Be sure to watch the attached video for on-the-water tips to success.
A Stanley jig with a pork or plastic trailer is about as bread-and-butter a fishing tactic there can be. Mastering the lure is as frustrating as it is rewarding. Places like the Pearl offer the opportunity to learn the feel and techniques needed to catch fish with a jig.
Pearl River bass strike a jig with no reservations, and they pattern easily when the tide is falling. Wood cover near drains and run-outs often are the combinations for locating keeper-sized fish. A standard black-and-blue-skirted jig is a good starting point.
On the Pearl River, any branch of the river with trees, laydowns or other cover is a starting point. West Middle, East and other arms of the river produce bass on a jig.
On the East Pearl to West Middle Rivers, the dropping tide had the fish staging in or near drains along the bends of the river. The heavier 5/16-ounce black-and-blue jigs matched with sapphire blue Chigger Chunk trailers were the tickets for targeting stumps and cypress trees. The new jig has a hand-tied skirt that does not slide down the hook shaft after a hook-set.
River bass are not big, averaging less than 2 pounds each. But what they lack in size, the fish make up in fight. Tidal fish sure put on a show.
Here are a few tips for fishing the Pearl River:
• Access the river using the East Pearl Highway 90 (Green Bridge) launch on the Louisiana/Mississippi state line or Crawford's Landing on the West Pearl near the Wildlife & Fisheries office. Take Hwy 11 exit, go north, turn right on Brown Switch Road, and then follow signs to the swamp tour. The landing is behind the rest area on I 12.
• Before planning a trip to the West Pearl, check the river stages: The Pearl River gauge should be about 8 feet or less and falling for the fishing to be good. If the gauge reads 10 or more, expect the East Pearl River to be muddy to stain, since the water spills through the woods from the West Pearl.
• Bass often inhale the bait, so strikes are rarely felt. So the most-important tip is that anglers must watch their lines at all time. Any twitch of the line or movement in the wrong direction is a sign a fish is moving off with the bait. Other bites feel more like the lure is hung on a root. These strikes are the most frustrating because the next thing the angler feels is the bait being release by the fish. There are days when the fish smoke the jig but these days are do not occur often.
• For beginners, use a 6-foot-10-inch or shorter medium-heavy-action rod. Spool a Abu Garcia Revo with a high-speed retrieve with 17-pound or so Berkley 100 Percent Fluorocarbon line. Heavy action rods and braided line work well, but may be harder to master. Braid tends to bury the hook into wood cover, causing the loss of jigs.
• Use a black-and-blue Stanley jig in the ¼- to ½-ounce size. The 1/2 ounce might be a better starting point for anglers with no experience with a jig; heavy jigs are easier to feel and crawl over cover. Add a trailer like a pork chunk, zoom chunk, Chigger Craw chunk or other favorite brand to imitate a crawfish.