The Tchefuncte River has a well-deserved reputation for being one of the toughest bass fisheries in the state, and could arguably be considered the most challenging river to pattern and fish.
But the recent lack of rainfall has the water low and beautiful, and the fish have nowhere to hide. That means bass are easily accessible right now — and they’re as aggressive as ever.
Jeff Bruhl and I made a trip Monday morning, and we found the fish active and ready to eat. Because this is an El Niño year, westerly winds cranked up and caused the water to fall out longer than normal.
That created an ideal opportunity to fish run-outs in the main river.
“I prefer a falling tide rather than an incoming tide,” Bruhl said. “On a falling tide, you want to fish drains.”
We pulled up to the first drain with a ledge and a submerged tree-top, and on my third cast I had a 2-pound bass coming in the boat. We worked that bite until it faded, but not until we had several fish in Bruhl’s livewell.
He explained how he fishes the whole drain before moving on.
“Most of the time they’re by the trees in the drain, but sometimes they’re right in the middle of the drain,” he said. “Some days you’ll catch one or two fish per drain, and at the end of the day have a nice stringer of fish.”
With the falling tide finally admitting defeat, we changed our pattern and fished the outside bends in the main river.
“A lot of times they’re going to be on points and wind-blown banks,” Bruhl said.
That was certainly the case, as the windy banks seemed to be best. We pitched our baits next to the wood on the bank and worked them down whatever ledge we were fishing, with most bites coming about halfway from the boat.
The hot bait was definitely a watermelon Zoom trick worm. Bruhl attributes the bait’s productivity to the fish relating more to the bottom than the top of the water column. (He tried a topwater frog, but received only a few heart-stopping misses.)
On his Texas rigs, Bruhl uses 1/8- and ¼-ounce bullet weights with a 3/0 extra-wide-gap hook.
“I don’t peg the sinker when I’m fishing like this,” he said. “I find you hang up a lot if you do.”
Another advantage of not pegging the sinker is when the fish eat the bait, the sinker slides away from the hook — giving the fish no leverage to shake itself free.
Having the correct set-up for worm fishing will, without question, help you put more fish in the livewell. And stout equipment is crucial.
Bruhl and I were fishing with medium-heavy rods, and reels that were spooled with 17-pound fluorocarbon. A lot of times we set the hook on a fish, and had to quickly get it out of the mangled mess of wood that lines the banks of the Tchefuncte. With light line, the fish will break it like dental floss.
But Bruhl said today’s bite doesn’t mean that a worm is always the best option. In fact, most days he routinely goes through a string of baits before he finds the one that is most effective.
“You have to figure out what they want,” he said. “Flukes, topwater and worms are all good this time of year.”
We finished the day with an impressive haul of several bass that weighed more than 2 pounds — hawgs on the Tchefuncte. As long as the rainfall stays to a minimum, the action should last most of the summer.
Bruhl typically fishes this pattern in the main river until September, and likes to plan his trips around the edges of the day or by the falling tide.