The primary target species of most coastal Louisiana kayak anglers are speckled trout and redfish. However, many areas that primarily harbor these saltwater species are seeing decreased salinities and an influx of largemouth bass.
With just a few changes in tactics and gear, you can add this tasty species to your fish bag.
Southeast Louisiana, in particular, has seen some major salinity changes primarily due to freshwater diversion and flood-control projects.
The Caernarvon diversion has sent fresh water into the marsh complex of Delacroix, Point a la Hache and Reggio for many years. It’s not uncommon to catch bass, trout and redfish all in the same spot.
Following Hurricane Katrina, a rock dam was placed across the MRGO just east of Bayou La Loutre. While the rocks allow some exchange of water through the porous structure, the daily flow of salty Gulf water was lessened and forced through other routes in the marsh.
Shortly afterwards, the “Great Wall” was constructed across the MRGO and Gulf Intracoastal Waterway near Chalmette, further slowing the influx of salt water.
A subsequent flood gate at the Seabrook also restricted water flow into Lake Pontchartrain.
Over the succeeding few years, all of these areas saw lower salinity, an increase in submerged vegetation growth and noticeable catches of bass.
The good news is that these changes don’t seem to have lessened the availability of the saltwater species — it just added extra fish into the mix.
Of course, speckled trout are less freshwater tolerant and at some times of the year you might need to paddle a little father to find them.
However, a lot of these areas are easily kayak accessible. The bass just add a bonus and offer a broader target of tasty, hard-fighting fish.
The largemouth bass, or “green trout” as they are often referred, thrive in these now-brackish waters.
Bass will hit any lure that you’re already using for trout and redfish. They’re also suckers for live shrimp and minnows. The addition of a few plastic worms and crankbaits to your current saltwater tackle box easily covers all bases.
Don’t be too surprised if these usual “freshwater” baits get slammed by trout and reds, too.
If you normally fish trout and reds, your current rods and reels are well suited for bass. If you’re primarily a bass fisherman, you should consider upgrading to heavier rods and line.
Don’t overlook fly equipment. Bass and reds make for excellent sport on a fly rod.
Bass tend to orient to cover more than trout and reds, so pay particular attention to any stumps, grass beds or other structure you encounter.
Bass in the Delacroix and Reggio areas is old news.
Although the population took a hit following Katrina, it has since rebounded nicely. Launching at the commercial launches or combat launching off the side of the road provide access to the interior marshes teeming with bass and redfish.
The fresher water spurs vast areas of grass growth. By late summer, some of these areas seem impenetrable, but the fish are still there. Using weedless baits like spoons, worms and weedless topwater frogs becomes a necessity — a productive necessity.
However, winter knocks back the grass, and early spring fishing provides more open-water areas. Popping corks, treble-hooked crankbaits and spinnerbaits can be worked without fouling, and will attract anything swimming in the marsh.
Bass are now being caught where they are least expected. The marshes of Hopedale, Shell Beach and even the shores of lakes Borgne and Pontchartrain are giving up bass to kayak anglers’ fish bags.
It’s not uncommon to alternate bass, reds and trout on subsequent casts. You might also encounter an occasional flounder or two.
There’s really no strategy to specifically target a particular species; they all can be caught in the same place, using the same bait and technique.
Although standard bass fishing works, the chance that a toothy trout or bruiser red will also smash your bait calls for a few upgrades. For instance, spinnerbaits for bass use much lighter wire that will be destroyed by the crushers of a redfish.
Most lures designed and marketed for redfish use heavier wire and hooks, but the lures will catch bass too — and last much longer.
There’s no need to change your planning strategy; any day that you think will be a good day for trout and reds will also be a good day for bass. Marsh bass are influenced by tides as are trout and reds, so days with good tidal movement generally produce better action.
One thing to take into consideration, however, is the bass spawn that is distinctly different from trout or reds. Unlike their saltier neighbors, bass utilize beds for spawning. Male bass find locations to build beds for the larger females to use for spawning.
In early spring, during the prespawn, male bass cruise shallow areas near shore to find bed sites. As the water warms, both males and females can be found in these shallow areas.
However, if fronts are still occurring, weather changes can quickly cause a retreat to nearby deeper water.
During warm-weather stretches, use faster baits like jerk baits or spinners to quickly cover more water and locate the fish. If a recent front has cooled things down, switch to a Carolina- or Texas-rigged plastic worm or lizard. Fish slowly in the deeper areas near the spawning beds.
If bass have actually started to spawn and are on the beds, sight fishing can be very productive if you have the ability to stand and fish in your kayak. Dropping a creature-type soft plastic onto a bass bed will usually draw explosive, defensive strikes.
If you can’t stand or the water is too dark for sight fishing, back off the shore a bit and slowly swim a soft plastic down the shoreline where it can intersect unseen beds.
Next time you paddle to your favorite redfish spot, plan on also adding some bass to your bag. This “fresh” new approach to coastal kayak fishing is a welcome and delicious change of pace.