Beat the Classic pros by 10 months

The Atchafalaya Basin doesn’t fit the stereotype for ideal turkey grounds, but the birds that flourish there haven’t seemed to notice.

I’m really excited because BASS announced that the next three Bassmaster Classics will be held on lakes close to my home that I know and love to fish. The 2009 Classic will take place on the Red River out of Shreveport, the 2010 Classic will be in Birmingham, Ala., and the 2011 Classic will be in New Orleans. So, this homeboy finally gets a break.

By having the Classic in Shreveport in February, the world will get to see the size and the number of bass the Red River can produce. I’m convinced the Red will deliver some of the biggest bass ever seen in a Classic — probably a number of 8- to 10-pound bass and several five-fish limits that will weigh 20 pounds or more.

I believe three baits will win the Red River Classic: the Pro-Model jig, the spinnerbait and the Red Eye Shad.

Since I’m so excited about the Red River winning the bid for the 2009 Bassmaster Classic, that will be my pick for catching bass in April. I recommend fishing the Alexandria area this month. In April, the bass have just come off the beds, they’re eating heavily and the river probably will be high and muddy. So, you’ll be able to get your boat back into the shallow-water spawning areas and have a great topwater bite.

The male bass will be guarding the beds, and the female bass will be feeding heavily in the shallow water after they’ve spawned. The river will run hard and orange, but more than likely you’ll be able to find clearer water and aggressively biting bass in the backwater areas.

Best bait bet

At this time of year, a frog like the Rage Toad is king on the Red River. I’ll be fishing the Toad with a Tru-Tungsten frog hook, throwing that Toad in the heaviest cover I can find. Because many bass will be guarding their fry, they’ll be holding in grass, wood cover, logs and stumps, and very active. You can get a topwater bite all day, regardless of the weather conditions in April. Also, the water will be cool in that pleasant zone where the bass prefer to concentrate, with the air temperature most likely in the high 60s or low 70s.

I’ll be using a slow to a medium retrieve when I’m fishing the Rage Toad, so the bass can see it, catch it and eat it. At this time of year, you don’t have to trick the bass to get them to take the bait.

I like the Rage Toad because when it comes through the water, it creates a sound that makes the bass mad. They don’t want the Toad in their comfort zone.

I’ll be fishing the Toad on 25- to 30-pound-test monofilament line or 50- to 65-pound-test braided line with a No. 4/0 or 5/0 hook and a heavy-action rod to drag the big bass out of the cover.

The flipping bite

My No. 2 lure choice this month will be the Strike King Bleeding Bait tube. If the bass don’t want to break the surface of the water, usually a piece of plastic, like the tube bait, will turn them onto the bite.

I prefer black/blue, black/red flake or green/pumpkin colors, depending on the color of the water. The darker the water, the darker the color bait I’ll be fishing.

I’ll either use a 1/4- or a 5/16-ounce sinker pegged to the head of the jig on 20- to 25-pound-test monofilament line or 50- to 60-pound-test braided line.

During April, some bass still may be bedding, and the tube resembles a crawfish or a baitfish that’s invaded that bedding area. I’ll use a No. 4 or 5 offset hook in the tube because I want an extra-strong hook to tie onto that big line.

At this time of year, I expect to catch 15 to 20 really good bass in a day of fishing that weigh from 2 to 5 pounds each. This river system is really healthy and contains tons of bass that will weigh 2- to 5-pounds each. You’ll occasionally catch a 7- to 8-pounder there, too.

Bustin’ spinnerbaits

I also like to fish the Premier Elite 3/8-ounce spinnerbait at this time of year. Depending on the water color, I’ll either use a Colorado/willowleaf blade combination or two Colorado blades on 20- or 25-pound-test line.

In April, as the bait comes by the cover, I kill it (stop it and let it fall) and then restart my retrieve to try to get a reaction strike. My three favorite colors are chartreuse, chartreuse/white and golden shiner, depending on water color. I’ll primarily be casting to stumps and laydowns.

If you want to fish where the pros will be fishing at the 2009 Bassmaster Classic, head to the Red River this month. You’ll understand why the best bass fishermen in the world have accepted Shreveport’s bid: “Y’all come.”

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