Henderson Lake bass run is on!

Paul Begnaud, left, and his father, Chester Begnaud, hold five bass that went 16.89 pounds on the first day of the Henderson Lake Dog Fight Classic in 2018.
Paul Begnaud, left, and his father, Chester Begnaud, hold five bass that went 16.89 pounds on the first day of the Henderson Lake Dog Fight Classic in 2018.

Veteran angler believes fishing is about to explode. Here’s where.

Topwaters of every kind retrieved seductively at choice locations around Henderson Lake fuel the bass fishing — and bass catching — passion of a Lafayette native who has fished the lake for more than five decades and historically has some of his best outings in May.

Chester Begnaud of Breaux Bridge, who teams with his son, Paul Begnaud of Lafayette, to compete in Henderson Lake Dog Fights, takes his topwater arsenal most of the time this time of year to a handful of different places: the Phillips Canal area where the mounds should be underwater, drains in Opelousas Bay where fish come out of the woods, the Five Points area and the shoreline going to Butte La Rose. He also pointed bassers to the Butte La Rose Canal.

The key to finding and catching bass in any of those spots around the lake in St. Martin Parish? Find the shad.

“Follow the shad,” Begnaud said from experience.

Go-to lures

His go-to artificial lures over the years include, most recently, Whopper Ploppers, Chug Bugs and buzzbaits. His son enjoys success with a plastic frog, he said, noting, “He throws that frog quite a bit.”

Chester Begnaud shows a nice bass caught on a black Whopper Plopper at Henderson Lake.
Chester Begnaud shows a nice bass caught on a black Whopper Plopper at Henderson Lake.

When the bass lay off those surface baits, Chester Begnaud feeds them deep-diving crankbaits and plastic worms. Another top producer for him is a gold/orange Long-A.

Still, Begnaud can’t wait for the topwater season because the bass fishing seems to be ready to bust wide open.

“It’ll be good in May. There’s a lot of (bass) in the lake this year. We’ve had high water a long time,” Begnaud said. “I think everything will be good in the Basin. I think it’ll be a great year for bream, everything.”

If, he said, the water doesn’t fall too fast. A slow fall would be ideal, he said.

Dog Fight veteran

Begnaud, 59, and his son won the first Dog Fight of the year in early March with one bass, but it was a beauty: a 3.90-pounder that also was the mini-bass tournament’s biggest bass of the evening. That was a good way to start the new season after the Begnauds finished second in the two-day 2018 Dog Fight Classic, highlighted by their 16.78-pound five-fish stringer the first day.

At the time he volunteered his fishing report for Louisiana Sportsman, Begnaud, the former owner of Eagle Wholesale Drug Co., who currently works purchasing supplies for the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office, said there was a slight topwater bite. But he expected it to get better and better through April and into May.

Favorite spots

The Crucifix Canal, one of many canals in the oil field that makes up the Phillips Canal, is where you more than likely find the Begnauds in May. Chester said it’s one of his favorite places.

A black Whopper Plopper

“I’ll work those banks and throw in the bushes on top of the canals (mounds),” he said, noting he likes to target any lilies along the way, specifically 3-foot holes in the lilies where he can drop a bone-colored or black Whopper Plopper or Chug Bug. He also loves to chunk a buzzbait, a ½-ounce black Lunker Lure, which he still gets at Bass Pro Shops.

“It can get ugly,” the elder Begnaud said as he went over vivid images of the many bass, big and small, he has caught in openings like that over the years, blowing up on topwaters.

Henderson Lake’s bass apparently love to eat anything on or close to the surface. Last year, during one of the evening tournaments, he was getting bass out of the livewell when he noticed one of the bass had something different in its gullet. It was a hummingbird, which he showed his son and took some photographs. That small bird apparently got too close to the surface in the mix of lily pads and flowering plants.

Photos of a small hummingbird that Chester Begnaud caught while fishing around lily pads with flowering plants on Henderson Lake.
Photos of a small hummingbird that Chester Begnaud caught while fishing around lily pads with flowering plants on Henderson Lake.

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Don Shoopman
About Don Shoopman 271 Articles
Don Shoopman fishes for freshwater and saltwater species mostly in and around the Atchafalaya Basin and Vermilion Bay. He moved to the Sportsman’s Paradise in 1976, and he and his wife June live in New Iberia. They have two grown sons.