The invite came with high expectations.
“Whenever you get ready for a good bass trip, I’m on them pretty good in the (Atchafalaya) Basin,” Caleb Sumrall’s Facebook message read. “(I) had a 150-fish day (Sunday)!”
I couldn’t sign up fast enough. So imagine my disappointment yesterday when we only boated 60 fish from the waters west of the Atchafalaya River.
The New Iberia tournament angler, who won 2014's Louisiana Sportsman Open Bass Championship, pointed out we had lost at least another 20 bass during yesterday's trip. I guess it was as good of an excuse for missing that 100-fish mark as any.
But honestly, I’m not sure I’ve ever caught that many bass in a single day of fishing. So I’ll cut Sumrall some slack.
And the fact that a number of the bites came on a Spro topwater frog made the trip even more fun. I mean, who can argue with a great topwater bite?
The news of Sumrall’s incredible Oct. 25 trip came as a surprise for two reasons. First, although reports of 100-fish days leak out of the Basin annually, this year’s quick water-level fallout resulted in bass fishing that has been lackluster, to say the least. Also, it stormed Sunday, dumping upwards of 10 inches of rain that pushed water levels up and created muddy conditions.
In fact, Sumrall said he was absolutely blown away by the amazing fishing action — and might not have believed it if he had not been there.
“The water rose a foot, and visibility went from about 4 inches to nothing,” he said. “And the fish still bit on almost every cast.
“They were biting on every cast. It was just crazy.”
For a little perspective, catching 150 bass during a seven-hour trip require swinging an average of 21.5 bass over the gunwale each hour.
Most anglers would count a 21-fish DAY a booming success.
Of course, conditions couldn’t have been more different when I stepped onto Sumrall’s boat yesterday. The forecast called for mostly cloudy conditions with a chance of rain, but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.
Despite the bluebird conditions, Sumrall put a couple of nice fish in the boat right off the bat using a frog.
We spent much of the morning talking about flipping (that’s another story to be written later), and by midmorning we had 30 fish in the boat.
I was needling him mercilessly about falling behind on the count, so we finally decided we’d see how many fish — of any size — we could boat.
By 3 p.m. we had landed another 30, and missed almost that many.
I know, I know: None of that does you any good. So here’s what you need to know to replicate our day.
1) Conditions are more important than location — You probably want to know exactly where we fished, but I’m not telling you that. Partly because Sumrall asked me not to, but I can assure you that he wasn’t working any top-secret spots; we ran into other anglers all day. What was important was finding the right conditions (see below).
2) Look for current — The water was moving everywhere we caught fish. It didn’t have to be moving much, but if there was no current there were no bites.
3) Junk fish — I stuck with a frog for much of the day, but Sumrall moved fluidly between a frog, punching Missile D Bombs through grass mats, a spinnerbait and a ChatterBait. He had one rod in his hand and at least six rods laid on his front deck at all times, and he used every one of them repeatedly during the day. And he killed me.
4) Fish in and around submerged vegetation — Every one of our bites came while fishing around grass. Hydrilla, coontail, whatever. Didn’t matter. There just had to be vegetation.
5) Flip the snot out of hyacinth patches — When you come across isolated patches of water hyacinths atop submerged vegetation, it’s worth punching these mats repeatedly. It wasn’t unusual to pull two to three bass out of a single wad of hyacinths, and these were normally pretty nice-sized fish (2-plus-pounders).
6) Water depth isn’t overly important — Many of our bites came in water less than 2 feet deep. I’m not sure we had a bite in more than 3 or 4 feet of water. “Bass only need about 4 inches to move around,” Sumrall said after boating a fish from — I kid you not — a hydrilla mat that had less than a foot of water beneath it.
7) Keep moving — Sumrall’s boat has twin Power-Poles, but he employed them sparingly (such as when we wanted to work a runout thoroughly). The rest of the time, he used his trolling motor to push the boat along at a nice clip. “You have to cover water to find fish,” Sumrall said.
So how long will this crazy bite last? He said it's all a matter of water temperature.
“It should last until the water temperatures drop too much,” said Sumrall, adding that the low 50s would likely signal the end of this action. “Then the bites will come less often.”