Look for hard bottoms, clear water this month
Chris Basey has been fishing the Northshore all his life, and he said March is when bass anglers can take advantage of big bass moving into the shallows.
Basey, tournament director for Bass Assassins Tournament Trail, said the biggest bass and heaviest bags routinely come out of the East Pearl River in March.
“On this river system, it’s not uncommon to see bags over 14 pounds and kicker fish weighing over 6 pounds this time of the year,” he said.
Plastic lizards and craws are staples for anglers targeting bass during the spawn. Basey said the Pearl River system is loaded with crawfish, so triggering a strike from a hungry bass will be easy if you match what’s in the shallows this month.
“During this time of the year, I go bigger with my craws because the water is warming up and because the bass are looking to feed before the spawn, so a big meal is what they’re looking for,” Basey said.
The Pearl River system consists mainly of cypress-lined banks, which provide spawning bass with a hard bottom. Basey focuses on hard foundations during the spawn.
“With a hard bottom, bass can clear an area for a bed, making it easier to guard the eggs. Also, I find that hard bottoms with some sort of aquatic vegetation nearby is preferred because it gives the fry a place to hide after hatching,” he says.
As the East Pearl River approaches Lake Borgne, the trees disappear, and the canals look more suitable for redfish than bass.This isn’t exactly what anglers think of when they are targeting spawning bass, however, Basey said not to count out the marsh canals south of Hwy 90.
“Some of those canals in the marsh have hard bottoms, making them a gem to bass and fishermen alike,” he said. “In the marsh, a lot of times you’ll find beds everywhere in the bayou if it’s shallow enough unlike upriver where the beds are only along the bank.”
Basey said a simple way to see if the bottom of a canal is hard is to lower your Power Pole, and if the poles stop abruptly when it reaches the bottom, it’s a hard bottom. If the spike takse more than 2 seconds to sink into the mud, then it’s a soft bottom.
For most rivers and bayous along the Northshore, sight-fishing for spawning bass is an option because of the clear water, However, when fishing the muddy Pearl River, sometimes you’ll have to cover a lot of water to find clean areas.
“When I am searching for spawning bass, first I drive around looking for the cleanest water,” Basey said. “Then, I put the trolling motor down and on high, and I cruise the bank, keeping a lookout for activity as I chunk and wind a spinnerbait or crankbait.”
Basey recommends fishing a spinnerbait or crankbait at different depths to gauge if the bass are in the shallows or staging.
Although the harsh cold fronts are finished in March, the Northshore of Lake Pontchartrain can still see cold temperatures after a front. Basey said to keep an eye on water temperatures.
“If the water temperatures reach the 60s, then drop into the 50s, the fish that are in the shallows are going to be stunned. Those fish won’t be interested in eating anything. so a reaction bite is what you’ll be looking for,” said Basey, who recommends throwing a square-bill crankbait or smaller spinnerbait around and wood or rocks that you can find.