Best bets for Upper-Basin bass

The sprawling Atchafalaya Basin offers bass anglers a lot of playing room, but when Addis angler Darren Hernandez heads to this swamp, he’s likely to be working the waters surrounding Big Bayou Pigeon.

And, while February is a fun month to be on the water, Hernandez said the frigid temps that hunkered down over South Louisiana beginning in December will likely make for an interesting spring.

“Normally, down here we think of cold water as being in the mid- to upper 50s,” the Westside Bassmasters member said. “That’s really an optimum water temperature for bass, so our fish don’t really get sluggish in what we think of as cold water.

“But this year will be kind of different because of the cold weather we’ve had. I’m looking forward to figuring it out.”

His normal approach is to start on primary points going into canals off main bayous, moving farther back as the spring ages.

“That first point is where I’m always going to start,” Hernandez said. “In February, I don’t think the fish will be starting to move back (into the dead ends) because of the cold water.”

What he hopes to find is cover in the form of hyacinths or submerged vegetation in water with at least 4 feet of depth. If there are stumps mixed in, all the better.

He said that’s where the bigger bass will live.

The day starts with Hernandez working the edges of this vegetation with spinnerbaits and crankbaits to search for productive water.

“Usually if there’s fish in a mat, something will strike on the outside edge,” Hernandez explained. “Flipping is just so slow it’s hard to cover a lot of water.”

Once he gets a couple of bites with the moving lures, the tournament angler switches to a flipping stick and really gets down to business.

“I always start on the outside edge and work my way in,” Hernandez said. “I’ll punch farther back until I get to the bank, depending on the water depth.”

He’s not looking to finesse fish into biting, though. Instead, his goal is to pop his lure through the vegetation and provoke reaction strikes.

His flipping rig consists of a 7-foot, 11-inch extra-heavy, fast-action flipping stick matched with a high-speed reel spooled up with 65-pound Power Pro braid.

On the terminal end of his line will be a 4/0 Strike King Hack Attack flipping hook beneath a pegged 1 ½-ounce tungsten weight.

A creature bait will be threaded on the hook. Hernandez likes Zoom Z Hogs.

“There’s a Baby Z Hog and a full-sized Z Hog, so you can go up or down in size,” Hernandez said. “I want something with that kind of slick body and some flappers.”

Now, that’s his normal approach, but Hernandez expects to be challenged this year because even if it warms up this month in South Louisiana, cold water from the northern snow melt could keep water temps depressed.

“My process might not work this year,” he admitted. “If it doesn’t, I may switch to a wacky worm. A lot of people don’t fish a wacky worm down here, but that’s lights out.

“Just drop it along those breaklines (of vegetation).”

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About Andy Crawford 863 Articles
Andy Crawford has spent nearly his entire career writing about and photographing Louisiana’s hunting and fishing community. While he has written for national publications, even spending four years as a senior writer for B.A.S.S., Crawford never strayed far from the pages of Louisiana Sportsman. Learn more about his work at www.AndyCrawford.Photography.