Caney Chatter - An unusual Caney Lake tactic for winter bass fishing
Cold water temperatures mean deepwater fishing, right? Not according to this angler, who catches big Caney Lake bass using chatter-type lures.
Kenny Covington uses fluorocarbon line when fishing chatter baits to help him feel subtle bites that are only signaled by the bladeís sudden stillness.
Kenny Covington isnít most people.
He is a bassaholic who isnít afraid to buck conventional wisdom.
When fishing magazines instruct him to head to deep water during the middle of winter, what does Covington do?
Iíll tell you what he doesnít do. He doesnít fish deep water.
"Out there, youíve got to be really specific on where youíre at," Covington said. "Up here, Iíve got a lot of different options. Out there theyíve got one."
As strange as it sounds, he considers a chatter bait his first option at Caney Lake during January, when the water is at its coldest.
Chatter baits are made for fishing shallow water.
To put it another way, when conventional wisdom says Covington should be jigging spoons in deep water, he does the exact opposite by casting chatter-type baits in shallow water.
"Go figure," he quipped. "I look at it like this: There are always shallow fish, even in a clear lake like Caney where hardly anybody fishes for them."
When you throw a bait that fish have never seen at the right time in the right place it can kind of be like fishing for bass in a newly constructed pond.
"Those fish in that pond are stupid and pretty much eat anything you throw at them," Covington explained. "Well, if I can throw a new bait to an under-fished population of bass ó I think that puts the odds in my favor."
Just last January, Covington and his tournament partner Lee King headed south to Caney Lake to throw chatter baits. Before their day was done, they landed three or four good 5- or 6-pound bass, along with numerous slot fish.
The water temperature was 51 degrees.
In fact, Covington has discovered a seemingly direct correlation when it comes to water temperature and these baits.
"The warmer it gets the worse they hit it," he said. "I kind of got on that by accident. We found a bunch of fish last year on chatter baits in 48- to 50-degree water. By the time the tournament rolled around, the water temperature had climbed into the upper 50s, and we couldnít buy a bite on chatter baits.
"We still caught them in the same place, but we had to switch to Rat-L-Traps."
Although more premeditated than accidental, Covington feels he more or less stumbled into how effective chatter baits can be at Caney Lake during cold weather.
He spent a few years fishing with one of the best deepwater fishermen in all of North Louisiana for some local team tournaments, but he never felt quite at home much deeper than 3 feet of water.
"We fished every lake on the schedule deep, and Caney was no exception," Covington said. "Then it occurred to me that I just needed to sit down and approach Caney like I did every other lake I fished by myself and figure out how to catch them shallow."
The first thing Covington discovered was that, no matter how cold it got, the notoriously shy shallow-water bass at Caney Lake became different creatures under a cloudy sky.
"I donít care how cold it is, if itís cloudy overcast, the shallow fish at Caney are going to bite," Covington insisted.
Although he had lots of options, Covington tied on a chatter bait one day just to see if it would work. Through lots of trial and error, he discovered what these unusual baits can and can not do.
The first thing this self-described power fisherman figured out was that chatter baits allowed him to cover a lot of water even when it was cold.
He also discovered that a chatter bait is a big-fish bait.
"Youíre not going to catch a small 6- or 7-pound limit on a chatter bait," he said. "Itís not a bait for catching a bunch of small fish like Iím convinced a shaky head is."
But something a chatter bait can not do is come through wood cover without getting hung.
Over time, Covington came to the realization that a chatter bait is a cold-water version of a Wobble Head.
"What I mean by that is you either love it or hate it," he said. "There are some people out there that arenít going to throw it just because they think it looks strange. But if you ever pick up a Wobble Head and figure out how to fish it, youíll surprise yourself with how good a bait it is. The same can be said of the chatter bait."
So is it just a matter of chunking and winding a chatter bait?
You might get a few bites doing that, but Covington has figured out that a chatter bait is an extremely situation-specific lure at Caney Lake during January.
"First youíve got to understand that a chatter bait is not a jig and it is not a spinnerbait," he pointed out. "Itís kind of a hybrid bait that I canít even begin to categorize, and youíre not going to be able to throw it in every kind of situation you come across."
Covington has discovered that chatter baits work best over shallow grass flats in the backs of the creeks. Most of the grass back there during the winter consists of submerged coontail and dead lily pads.
Making as long a cast as possible, Covington reels his lure back in just fast enough to keep it ticking the top of the submerged coontail.
"I just straight retrieve it deep enough so that I canít see it or deep enough to contact the grass," he explained. "You can feel that blade thump, thump, thumping through there.
"When it hits the grass, I like to rip it like I would a Rat-L-Trap. Thatís when I get a lot of bites."
The key is to stay in as close contact with the blade as you can. If you canít feel the thumping, then something is not right. Either itís time to rip free whatever is impeding the blade from working, or itís time to set the hook.
"A lot of times when youíre slow-rolling that thing the blade will just quit," Covington said. "These bass will inhale it, but you wonít feel anything because theyíll hit it coming right at you and knock slack in your line."
To help him feel bites, Covington spools his reels with 15-pound-test Seaguar Red Label fluorocarbon. Its low stretch helps him hook bass at the end of a long cast, and its increased sensitivity helps him stay in constant contact with his bait.
"Other than that, I donít fish chatter baits on anything fancy," he added. "A 6 Ĺ-foot rod with a baitcasting reel works best for me. I tried fishing them on fiberglass rods, but I didnít like it. They didnít give me as much feel, and I couldnít hook them when they bit after the first couple of cranks."
As for lure sizes, Covington keeps that pretty simple, too. He prefers a Ĺ-ounce bait because it is easier to keep it down where he canít see it. But he will tie on a 3/8-ounce bait when he gets in grass growing just below the surface.
And although he claims he hasnít had any problems with bass short-striking his bait, Covington insists the last thing he would do if that were the case would be to add a trailer hook.
"You can fix short strikes by playing around with size or color," he explained. "But add a trailer hook to a chatter bait and youíre going to catch every piece of wood in the lake."
Yes, Covington feels too many bass anglers play by the perceived rules way too often.
They read bass donít bite in shallow, cold water, and what do they do? They head straight to Caney Lakeís famed McDonald Point.
"Thatís fine with me," Covington said, "because that leaves me all these shallow fish where I can fish more to my strengths."
And as long as itís cloudy and cold, heíll throw a chatter bait shallow at Caney all day long.
It may not sound like the wisest decision, but Covington simply tunes out all the chatter that says otherwise.
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