By this time of year, the river usually has gotten down to its normal level, and the bass will start holding on the points of the canals and anywhere they can find moving water. The real key to locating bass in the Basin in July is locating moving water. Then I look for heavy matted vegetation, and that's where I expect to catch bass.
Buzz the grass
At first light, I'll be fishing a 3/8-ounce Strike King black buzz bait. I like a black-colored buzz bait early in the morning, in low-light conditions or on a cloudy day. I like to use a dark-colored bait in dark-colored water.
Although white is most fishermen's favorite color for a buzz bait, I've always preferred black buzz baits. Today more of the pros are starting to use black. Although I may not get as many bites on a black buzz bait as I will on a white, I'll get more hook-ups on a black buzz bait than on a white buzz bait. I don't know why. Maybe the bass can see the black buzz bait better then the white buzz bait, because black is the more-dominant color. For whatever reason, I get fewer short strikes on a black buzz bait than on a white buzz bait.
When I'm fishing a buzz bait, I'll fish it pretty fast around matted hydrilla or hyacinth mats. This time of year, I expect to catch 2- to 4-pound bass on that early bite. The Atchafalaya Basin is full of bass about that size.
Spinnerbait the edges
As the sun comes up and the day becomes somewhat brighter, I'll usually switch to a Strike King spinnerbait. I like a 1/2-ounce Premier Elite in the gold shiner color. My second pick is white/chartreuse, but I really don't think you can beat the gold shiner when fishing the Basin. I like one gold and one nickel willowleaf blade on my spinnerbait.
What I've learned about this particular spinnerbait combo is that I can fish it anywhere in the nation and catch bass. The only time I fish Colorado blades or Indiana blades on a spinnerbait is when the water is really dirty.
Punch the mats
As the day becomes a little brighter, I'll put down my spinnerbait and start punching mats. To punch the mats, I use either a 3/4- or 1-ounce Tru Tungsten sinker, and I'll put a Strike King Bleeding Flip 'N' Tube bait rigged weedless behind the weight.
Although I'll normally start punching through the grass on the edge of the mat, as the day progresses, I'll fish deeper into the mats and attempt to punch through right in the middle of the grass. We have those muggy, 95- to 100-degree days in July, and the bass usually will be hiding in the thickest part of the shade they can find under the grass.
My favorite tube color is black/red flake. When I punch through the grass, I try to determine where the bass are positioned. I want to know if they're holding just under the mat, or if they've settled all the way down to the bottom.
When my tube first punches through the grass, I let it go all the way to the bottom. Then I work my jig from the bottom, all the way up to the top of the grass using little twitching motions.
When fishing those mats, you need really stout lines, so I use 50- to 80-pound-test braided line. I fish the line on a 7-foot 11-inch Greg Hackney Quantum Signature Series rod with a Quantum PT 6.0:1 reel. I like the speed of the 6.0:1, but it also has more power than the 7.0:1 reel. Remember, you're fishing in heavy cover, so you've got to have power in the rod, the reel and the line to get the fish out of the cover.
If I fish all day long in the Basin with these techniques, I expect to get 25 or 30 bass bites a day. If I can catch a 5- or 6-pounder, I know I've caught a really big bass for the Basin, because most of the bass there will weigh 2 to 4 pounds each.
The Basin is my best pick for bass fishing in Louisiana in July. Don't be surprised if you see me down there.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Gonzales resident Greg Hackney is one of the most successful bass anglers on the pro tour. He earned the FLW angler of the year title in 2005, and also won two tour events in 2005 and in 2006 on the Bassmaster circuit. The Bassmaster Rookie of the Year for 2003, Hackney became the BASS Central Open points champion and then in 2004, the Southern Open points champion.