The cut in the west bank of the Mississippi River known as the West Bay Freshwater Diversion was packed with boats when we passed it Sunday morning, so it wasn’t a surprise that even on a Tuesday there would be several boats already anchored up with Jason Hall eased off the throttle and eased his bay boat into the slot.
Hall and fellow Mississippian Eddie Permenter were in Venice for the annual media trip known as Marsh Madness, and they needed to get back to the marina early to cook dinner for the crew of industry reps and outdoor journalists. So they figured the diversion, located just north and across the river channel from Main Pass, would make for an easy trip.
We all assumed we’d be reeling in redfish, as word going around was that trout had yet to really move into the Mississippi River in any numbers.
How wrong that information turned out to be.
“You have to get on the bottom,” Hall instructed as he dug out a 1-ounce hair jig and tied in to the business end of his line. “You want to be where the water is about 20 feet, and cast up where it’s about 7 or 8 feet.”
Permenter and I searched around, and the heaviest jigheads any of us had were ⅜-ounce models — not quite enough for get to the bottom in the current ripping through the cut.
After several unsuccessful attempts at getting down to the bottom, we both tied on double rigs with two of the ⅜-ounce jigs.
A long cast away, LouisianaSportsman.com editor Pat Bonin set the hook and a chunky speck was soon thrashing next to the boat from which he was fishing.
It didn’t take long for us to figure out that bite. Soon all three of us were using double-rigged Z-Man plastics to snatch fish into the boat.
The key was making casts and subtly bump the jigs along the bottom. Hard jerks proved less successful; it was a case of less being more.
The bite would ebb and flow, and when one of us got a bite it was almost a certainty that we would put several fish in the boat.
However, recognizing a bite wasn’t always easy. Often, it felt like the jig was just dragging across the sandy bottom. So setting the hook whenever there was the slightest hint that something different was happening was critical.
By 11:30, we had put about 30 specks in the box. They weren’t huge fish — many were schoolies with a number of throwbacks mixed in — but it was the makings of a great fish fry.
“That’s the best kind of fishing trip,” Permenter said as we idled into Venice Marina. “You’re 15 minutes from the landing and catch plenty of fish.”