Caddo Lake bass keying on shad as fall arrives

Guide Paul Keith said Caddo Lake’s big bass feed primarily on shad in the fall.

Located in the northwestern corner of the state, Caddo Lake sprawls lazily across the Louisiana-Texas border. It’s an old lake and has been a hotspot for anglers since prehistory, taking its name from the Amerindian tribe that once lived there.

Caddo Lake is an interesting October bass-fishing destination; it offers unique topography, plentiful grass and big fish at a key transition time between summer and winter patterns.

At roughly 25,400 acres, Caddo Lake is large, though quite shallow, with an average depth of just 4.6 feet. The lake is situated inside a beautiful cypress forest and has been generously stocked for about 40 years.

Throughout those years, Caddo Lake has maintained a reputation for producing monster largemouth bass. In fact, the official lake-record largemouth weighed in back in 2010 at a freakishly huge 16.17 pounds, breaking the previous lake record of 16.01 pounds. Incidentally, either fish would have become Louisiana state records had it been caught on the correct side of the Texas-Louisiana line.

Caddo Lake certainly inhabits a special place in the heart of Paul Keith, who grew up in Mooringsport and has guided bass-fishing excursions on Caddo for 29 years. He operates Caddo Lake Guide Service, an outfit with a reputation for putting clients on big fish. He has spent a minimum of 200 hours on Caddo each year as long as he can remember.

Here are Keith’s tips for targeting big bass on Caddo Lake.

Bass on the move

October is a transition month at Caddo Lake. Bass are feeding exclusively on shad after feeding on a variety of prey, from crawfish to amphibians, earlier in the year.

“By October, some schools (of shad) are made up of individuals too large for 10-inch, 2½-pound, bass to eat,” Keith said. “Those 1- to 3-inch shad are now 4 to 6 inches long, and a transition occurs, (in which) big bass begin to gang up and feed on larger baitfish.”

On Caddo Lake in October, the likelihood of finding large, feeding bass increases as the temperature drops.

“And we’ve already experienced some cooler weather,” Keith said, “and like (clockwork), I’ve started picking up large bass.”

Keith focuses this month on schools of shad on shallow flats adjacent to creek and river channels, primarily at depths of 2 to 4 feet. Large bass stack up in deeper water to feed.

“Most of Caddo Lake’s fishable water is between 2 and 4 feet deep,” Keith said. “And since it is full of cypress trees, grass and lily pads, you never run out of cover. If anything, there’s so much cover that it spreads out the fish.”

Shad activity leads to bass

“Because (the lake) is so shallow, targeting grass beds with (electronic fish-finding devices) doesn’t really work,” Keith said. “You’ll go over a school of fish and (your fish-finder) will just pick it up as debris.”

“I find more schools of shad by just sitting down and being still sometimes, watching,” Keith said. “Watch for shad activity near the surface. Watch for feeding bass, and stay on the lookout for birds.”

Where there are feeding birds, there are shad, and the bass won’t be far away.

Keith said shad-colored lures in white and silver, 3/8- to ½-ounce Chatterbaits, Alabama rigs, and Texas-rigged weightless Flukes should be your go-to tools on Caddo Lake.

“I always keep a topwater lure handy, too,” Keith said, recommending a big Zara Spook or a Whopper Plopper to get the job done.

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About Will Martin 104 Articles
Will Martin is an adventure writer based in New Orleans, LA. He pens fiction and nonfiction stories at willmartin.info, and is a staff writer at Louisiana Sportsman. He can be reached at willm@lasmag.com.

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