Bass fishing as a professional sport conjures up images of sparkly boats with huge motors, and anglers standing on a stage showing off tournament fish that will soon be released. Often they have traveled to specific lakes and run many miles in their speedy boats to get to the fish.
However, for recreational anglers in Louisiana, bass are available in all areas except the extreme coastal reaches. They are easy to catch from paddle craft, and chances are they are closer to your home than you might think. Bass are delicious, and with a liberal limit of 10 and no size restrictions, kayakers targeting bass are sure to find lots of action — along with a great meal.
Famed bass lakes like Toledo Bend and Caney Lake are great bass fisheries, and if kayakers are looking for a trophy, fishing them is advised. However, if you’re not looking for the bass of a lifetime, you likely drive past several good bass fishing areas on your way to work. Canals and larger drainage ditches — as long as they are fresh or brackish water — likely hold bass. One easy way to find a good (and often overlooked area) is to watch for bank fishermen. Those folks sitting on the side of the road will likely be fishing bream or catfish, but if those fish are there, so are bass.
Finding launch locations
Oftentimes those roadside hotspots are where folks have easy access to the water with less foliage and low banks. It just so happens that type of spot also provides a great kayak launch area. Once launched, you can easily travel further from the road and leave the bank fishermen to their spot. When you locate such an area, go on Google Earth to get a complete view of where it goes and possibly some intersecting waters that are not readily visible from the road. A lot of these areas may also be inaccessible by power boat, and in some instances, the local government may even prohibit the use of gas-powered motors. This is often the case in many drainage/flood control canals.
Once in the water, start fishing as soon as you can. Bass are generally structure oriented so make sure to cast at any stump, branch, lily pad or anything that provides a bass cover to ambush its prey. Shiners and large earth worms make great live bait for bass fishing, but really aren’t necessary. Bass strike a large variety of artificial lures and the type and color is dictated by the time of year, water clarity,and how much aquatic vegetation is in the area.
Although these canals are usually not more than 10 feet deep, a small assortment of lures to cover the water column is always recommended. Topwater lures and chuggers are great for springtime bass. Don’t get overzealous, as they’ll often strike when the lure is resting after some short twitches. For subsurface presentations, crankbaits and spinnerbaits are hard to beat. They are easy to fish, and no specific skills are needed to work the bait. Varying the retrieve speed changes the depth and rhythm, so experiment and see what’s working on that particular day. Texas-rigged plastic worms are hard to beat anytime of the year, but learning to detect worm bites and set the hook takes some practice and learning. However, as the weather warms and the days get longer, the aquatic vegetation gets thicker and these weedless wonders may become a necessity.
Pound the banks
If you’re fishing a long, straight canal, it’s best to concentrate on one bank at a time. If you prefer casting to your left side, fish that bank first and you’ll be able to do the same on the return (and vice versa.) If the banks are relatively free of overhanging tree branches, stay closer to the bank and cast forward to work the lure parallel to the bank, which keeps it in productive water longer. If parallel casting is prevented by tree cover, stay in the middle and cast to any pocket or opening where you won’t get hung up. Leaning to side-arm cast lets you skip or skim your lure close to the water and land it under low cover —which is often shady and a prime bass area.
Canal bass generally won’t be giants, and usually run 1 to 2 pounds. However, 3- and even 4-pound fish are caught every so often. Bass provide great sport on lighter tackle, and the leaps and jumps — sometimes inches from the kayak — are really exciting. As you drive around town, keep your thoughts on kayak fishing with an eye toward bass. You may discover a bass fishing honey hole that’s really close to home.