There’s no bad time to fish this Northwest Louisiana hotspot during June.
If Northwest Louisiana bass fishing guide Russ McVey were a character on television’s hit show 24, he would have been whacked several episodes ago.What is it about McVey that would have caught the attention of Jack Bauer?
Namely, talking too much.
I could imagine McVey playing the role of some FBI or Secret Service agent who was privy to some classified information that he just couldn’t keep secret. Before too long, he would find himself tied to a chair while being pistol-whipped by Bauer. Only this time, Bauer wouldn’t have to whip so hard because McVey would continue to talk between the blows.
While interrogating his prisoner, Bauer would learn how to do some new things like tie a palomar knot, make a Carolina rig or flip a jig. But McVey wouldn’t stop there; he would continue to spew bass fishing secrets until he finished with an all-inclusive 24-hour guide to catching bass at Caddo Lake.
I don’t guess we could fault McVey, though. He just wants to teach people how to catch more bass. If that means giving up some of his secrets to be able to accomplish that goal, so be it. After all, it’s not like he was sharing secrets with the “other side.” The Texans will never know.
Caddo Lake has had its share of ups and downs over the last several years. The lake used to churn out big bass with amazing regularity, but that slowed somewhat a few years ago when the hydrilla disappeared.
“There’s been a resurgence of late,” McVey noted. “We started getting the grass back about 4 or 5 years ago. And as anybody that follows bass fishing knows, grass is one of the primary keys to rapidly growing big bass.”
McVey is so excited about the state of affairs at Caddo that he predicts some lucky angler will be knocking on the door of a new state record for the Louisiana side in the next couple of years. The lake has an abundance of 6- to 10-pound fish in it right now, and there were quite a few between 10 and 12 pounds caught this past spring.
“It’s starting to kick into high gear,” McVey said. “And June is a great time to go fishing because you can catch fish all day and all night long.
“My strongest piece of advice would be to leave the light line at home, though. Your heart would be as broken as your line when a big bass bites.”
6 a.m.-12 noon
McVey’s 24-h our Caddo Clock begins bright and early in the morning. The first 30 to 40 minutes at daybreak is prime time, and it’s one of the best times to be fishing Caddo in June. Bass are generally more active at first light, so, for McVey, the key to the early summer bite is to get there early.
“The sooner you can get there and get a bait in the water the better your chances are of catching a quality fish,” he explained. “Bass will be on the prowl, so to speak. They take advantage of the low light to move out of the thick grass and feed on the edges and in the boat lanes. At most lakes, the bass go shallow to feed, but it’s a little different here. They just move out to the edges.”
McVey sets his early morning sights on places like Potter’s Point, Little Green Break, Sand Island and Rachel Island. These areas have ample grass lines bordering vast, thick mats of inaccessible water and open boat lanes for bass to roam.
“These fish get in that open water and set up ambush points,” McVey said. “The boat lanes are really good because they act as channels for fish with walls of grass on either side of the lane. Bass will generally stay out on these edges until the sun starts to break the treetops and there gets to be more boater activity on the water. At that point, they pull back into the thick stuff.”
After this initial active period, bass get out of the clear, open water of the boat lanes. Anglers who want to stay on the bite have to adjust with the fish. The most likely situation is that bass ease back to just inside the edge of the grass, where they will stay as long as there is a shade line there. After that, they retreat back into the thickest sections, which in some instances might be a long cast from the actual edge.
“I start the early morning with a Pop R, Tiny Torpedo or a 3/8-ounce white Tru Tungsten buzz bait,” McVey said. “But I always keep a rod rigged with a soft plastic like a Shadick or Tiki Stick in case I miss a topwater strike.”
Once the fish start pulling back into the grass, McVey lies down anything with treble hooks and throws baits that come through the grass better. He relies heavily on the soft jerkbait and sinking stickbait, but he adds frog baits like the Tiki Toad or Horney Toad to the mix.
“If I can’t get bit on any of that stuff, I assume the fish want a vertical presentation,” McVey added. “At that point I’ll try punching the grass with a junebug, red shad or black/blue 10-inch worm or a black/brown/amber or black/blue Southpaw Jig.”
12 noon-6 p.m.
Shade is the most important element of this time period. McVey often finds the best shade in areas that have a mixture of hydrilla and lily pads. In this case, the grass tends to be a little bit thinner, which allows the fish to move around and find a lure easier. The added bonus of the umbrella-like shade of the pads makes these areas ideal for the middle of the day.
While McVey loves the grass/pad cover combination, some anglers like Eric Veuleman, a frequent tournament competitor on the lake, prefer to hit the cypress trees during the middle of the day.
Like McVey, Veuleman starts with something like a Ribbit frog in open water, but when those big swell butts start casting their shade, he just can’t pull himself away from them.
“One of the things that stands out for me when I hit the trees is that I seem to catch more and bigger fish on trees that are maybe a foot deeper than all the surrounding trees,” said Veuleman. “My No. 1 bait would have to be a watermelon candy or junebug Zoom Brush Hog, but lately I’ve been doing well on a Paca Craw, too.”
Veuleman starts with a 3/16-ounce rattling weight, and makes adjustments based on how he’s getting bit. If all the bites come as the bait is falling, he goes to a heavier weight. On the other hand, he goes to a lighter weight if the bass bite after the bait hits bottom.
McVey knows what the trees can produce too, and he fishes them frequently, but he would rather fish that grass/pad mixture because he typically gets more bites around the vegetation.
“You’ve got to stick with the weedless stuff in those kinds of areas,” McVey explained. “I like something I can pull over the top of the grass and let fall into the holes. Frogs and soft jerkbaits work best for me. Red shad, watermelon red, junebug and plain watermelon are good colors to try.”
Some other good shade-makers on Caddo are the boat docks and duck blinds. Both cast a substantial amount of shade, and McVey believes they are always at least worth checking. It’s also worth a trip to the Texas side of the lake to check the deeper bayous that have deep grass walls on both sides.
“If the blinds and docks just aren’t wrapped with grass, you can throw the weightless plastics around them,” McVey said. “But if there’s too much grass, you’ll have to punch it with the big worms. Redbug, junebug, camo and junebug/red work well. You can also try fishing a frog around shade lines cast by the wood cover.”
The best areas to fish during this mid-day period are those that offer relatively deeper water near shallow flats. McVey prefers Big Green Brake, Jeems Bayou and A boat row.
6 p.m.-12 midnight
McVey considers the early part of this period the best time to catch one of the giant bass for which Caddo is famous. Everything begins to settle down around 6 p.m., and from then to dark it’s kind of like fishing the first 30 minutes at daybreak. Low light and peaceful surroundings are the keys to this bite.
“I revert back to what I do in the early morning,” McVey said. “I go back to fishing near the islands. I like the ones that have deeper water close by. I don’t mean 10 feet deep. Some of these islands have 5 feet of water 100 yards away from the bank, while some have 5 feet 25 yards off the bank. Little Green Brake, Big Green Brake and Whatley Island have that 5-foot water closer to the bank.”
McVey gets away from the Texas rig this time of the evening as the fish become more active in the diminishing light. He begins this period with the Shadicks and Tiki Sticks, but switches to a Tiki Toad or buzz bait about 30 minutes before dark because he wants to start making some noise.
After it gets dark, lots of anglers might be anxious to start slinging a big spinnerbait. However, the vegetation in Caddo makes that a somewhat arduous task. There are some areas in the boat lanes where a spinnerbait might come over the grass clean, but it’s mostly an exercise in futility.
Rather than the spinnerbait, McVey throws buzz baits in the early part of the night. His favorite is a black Tru Tungsten with a gold blade. He makes repeated casts around the edges of the grass and in the middle of the lanes.
“I might also try fishing a big worm along the boat lanes if the topwater bite isn’t there,” McVey added. “Any dark color works well at night.”
Like McVey, Veuleman returns to the grass edges late in the evening where he will throw a Ribbit or a buzz bait. However, one of his best late-evening baits is a Senko, which he fan casts in the boat lanes paying particular attention to any little points or indentations along the edges.
12 midnight- 6 a.m.
Other than drink some coffee to help you stay awake, McVey advised that one thing he’s seen on cypress-tree lakes like Caddo is that there is generally an early morning and late evening bite with at least one major feed during the night. He says a general rule of thumb is that this major night feed will come sometime after midnight between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m.
“This is when most night anglers start fighting to keep their eyes open,” McVey quipped. “The solution to staying awake is also the solution for taking advantage of this late-night feeding period — cover water with fast-moving baits that run close to the surface.”
McVey prefers throwing the Tiki Toad in this situation because he doesn’t have to worry about grass spooling around the blade and rivet of a buzz bait. Any grass that accumulates around the nose of the frog is easily wiped away in one motion without having to pick at it in the dark.
Veuleman likes throwing a frog at night too, but he primarily focuses on the grass that is closest to deep water.
“I think larger fish live in that kind of area,” he said, “and since I’m after big fish, I like to fish where they want to be. I think that deep water makes them feel more secure, plus it’s a little bit cooler down there.”
While the grass is great for the late-night bite, McVey added that it would be a mistake to pass up the lighted boathouses at night. They really come alive during the latter part of the night because the lights have been on long enough to attract the bugs and baitfish. Anglers frequently catch three or four fish off the same boathouse at night with the very real possibility of hooking up with a double-digit fish.
“I like the boat houses in Jeems Bayou,” McVey said. “And there’s normally a pretty good night bite from Potter’s Point back around to Ames Basin.”
One of the most important things anglers should keep in mind when fishing Caddo this month, according to McVey, is that these bass normally feed about 30 minutes at a time. Therefore, you shouldn’t let the down times get you down because they’re going to turn on again.
Keep your confidence up, and you’re going to come away from your trip with some good fish, especially if you put McVey’s and Veuleman’s patterns to practice. Try their tips this summer, and you can catch Caddo bass around the clock.