Variety is the spice of life, and it’s also the spice of the Red River.

With so many different places, baits and colors to fish, I thought that guide Russ McVey might have a difficult time distinguishing only one.

“Nope,” he said. “No doubt I’d throw a Texas-rigged, black-blue-flake creature bait.”

That was quick. Maybe variety really is overrated.

But as McVey began explaining the reasoning behind his go-to lure for the Red River during March, I realized the he was turning one lure that seemed destined for fishing the bottom into something much more versatile.

“A lot of people hear Texas rig and immediately think about slowly crawling a worm on bottom,” McVey said. “And you can definitely do that with a Texas-rigged creature bait, but what a lot of people don’t realize is that you can also fish a Texas-rigged creature bait up high in the water.”

One thing McVey never knows as he launches his boat in the morning is whether bass will be shallow or deep. Rather than swapping out rods rigged with different lures to find out, he simply adjusts the way he fishes his creature bait.

“Most folks are going to fish a Texas-rigged creature bait by pitching it to heavy wood cover like stumps, logs, or laydowns,” McVey said, “and that’s a dynamite way to fish it. But if you try it that way a while without getting bit, it’s time to think about fishing it more like a spinnerbait.”

More like a spinnerbait?

That’s right. When McVey’s black-blue-flake creature bait isn’t getting the job done on bottom, he just holds his rod higher and fishes it faster.

“These fish get bombarded with spinnerbaits when they’re up shallow,” he said. “The bass are still there spawning on the hard, sandy bottom, but they’ll turn off to blades. When that happens, they’ll fall for the more subtle presentation of a swimming creature bait.”

To swim it up high in the pad stems, McVey pegs either a 3/16- or 1/4-ounce weight to keep the plastic and weight one compact package. This keeps his creature bait from getting hung up as badly by preventing obstructions from coming between the two.

“I rig it up on a 7 1/2-foot flipping stick with 30-pound braided line and throw it out as far as I can in a pad field,” he said. “Then I just kind of pump it back and reel at the same time to keep it up high in the water.”

When swimming a creature bait, McVey reaches for beaver style baits because, in his experience, they’re made of slightly tougher plastic than the brush hog-style baits.

“The brush hog-style baits are great for crawling around in the wood timber,” McVey noted, “but they seem to slide down the hook when you’re swimming it up high and knocking it around in heavy cover. 

“The beaver style is a smaller profile bait that hangs onto the hook a little bit better.”

For fishing the creature bait, McVey highlighted the Do Not Dredge area, which is a local name for one of the oxbow lakes, as well as Shaw Lake in Pool 5 and the Jungle in Pool 4.

These areas have dormant pad fields that are full of pad stems. Since lily pads grow on hard bottoms, bass invade the pad stems whether they’re on the bank or out on a flat to spawn. 

“The last thing I’d advise anybody fishing a Texas-rigged creature bait at the Red River is to make sure to use braided line,” McVey said. “If you go with mono or fluorocarbon, you’ll never get these fish in the boat because they will break you off.”

Editor’s Note: This is the third article in a weeklong series by Chris Ginn on effective bass baits in March for locations around the state. Previously, he covered Delacroix to Bayou Black and Lake D’Arbonne.  Tomorrow he’ll highlight Caney Lake.