Bass follow bait on the Ouachita

While many river bass are around a pound or two, fall is an excellent time to land Ouachita lunkers like these.

Target drains with crankbaits for river bass

It’s been a crazy year on the Ouachita River. Spring flooding pushed waters far out of the river’s banks. Then a summer drawdown by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for repairs on the Columbia lock and dam drew the river down to a 40-year low. The drop emptied many smaller tributaries, brought D’Arbonne Bayou back to its channels and cut off most river lakes.

But one thing stayed consistent, and is still that way going into the fall.

“Those fish are going to follow the baitfish,” said Nick Young. “Wherever the food goes, the bass will follow. The only time that isn’t true on the river is when sandbars of shallow areas cut off access and the fish are trapped in backwater lakes. When that happens, they still follow the shad, bream and crawfish because that’s what they eat.”

The main pool of the Ouachita in Louisiana between the Felsenthal, Arkansas and Columbia lock and dams is the one affected. Currently the river remains down for the lock repairs, and instead of a flowing stream, it’s more like a 90-mile long meandering lake. The water in the Columbia pool is much clearer than usual because the river isn’t really flowing. The water below the dam at Columbia remains somewhat lower, but is still off-color as usual this time of year. There’s still uncertainty as to how long the river will remain low, but how to catch fish is pretty predictable.

Access is limited for bigger boats, but at the Monroe end, the public landing at Joe Bob’s is open and below the lock and dam, the big landing at Columbia is functioning. Finding a way to get in is worth it, Young said.

“You’ve got run outs, creek channels and drains that run into the river, and fishing the mouths of these is the best place to consistently find fish,” Young said. “Fish the points that extend out in the river with crankbaits and work your way all the way up close to the bank with plastics.”

At that point, specific colors and sizes don’t seem to matter. Just pick some lures you feel confident in and find the ones they are hitting, Young said. His favorite is a Bandit 300 series in shad or crawfish color and for plastics, he likes junebug or some dark color.

Kinny Haddox
About Kinny Haddox 319 Articles
Kinny Haddox has been writing magazine and newspaper articles about the outdoors in Louisiana for 45 years. He publishes a daily website, lakedarbonnelife.com and is a member of the Louisiana Chapter of the Outdoor Legends Hall of Fame. He and his wife, DiAnne, live in West Monroe.