Houses of the Holy

These three lakes hold 10-pound bass — the Holy Grail of bass fishing — for anglers who fish smart this month.

The Holy Grail of bass fishing can be found in North Louisiana. Didn’t know there was a Holy Grail of bass fishing, much less that it could be found in your own back yard?

You’re not alone. Angling adventurers from North Louisiana often travel to far-off destinations tempting fate, and cold fronts, just to try to wrap their hands around the Grail.

The puzzling thing to North Louisiana anglers having already found the Grail is why these adventurers try to find it in far-off lakes. They say there are plenty of places to find the Holy Grail of bass fishing right here — and they ought to know since they’ve already succeeded in finding it.What, you ask, is the Holy Grail of bass fishing? Eddie Halbrook, Steve Talley and Homer Humphreys Jr. will tell you that the Holy Grail of bass fishing is a 10-pound bass. And they’ll be quick to tell you that you don’t have to go to Texas to catch a 10-pounder.

In fact, they say that Caney Lake, Lake D’Arbonne and Caddo Lake all produce 10-pound bass. And, to make it even better, they say the best month to catch a big one is February.

Each of these anglers have achieved a level of success that most of us can only hope to reach, and they were willing to share their thoughts, tips and secrets to try to help you catch your own 10-pound bass this month.


Caney Lake

Through a collaborative effort between the Caney Lake Commission and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, this lake is once again producing trophy size fish. In fact, there are whispers around the lake that regulars are catching 10-pound fish again; they just aren’t talking about it.

“Kenny Cobb, the new Lake Commission president, and Mike Wood from the Monroe office of the LDWF have bent over backward to help the lake get back to what it used to be,” said Caney guide Eddie Halbrook.

Halbrook has caught his share of trophy fish from Caney. And, although he didn’t breach the 10-pound mark in 2004, he has caught enough of them in the past to prove his big-bass mettle.

“My personal best was a 9 last year,” said Halbrook. “It was lacking just one of those big Caney Lake chinquapin from being a 10-pounder.”

When Halbrook looks back at his religiously kept bass fishing log, he finds that February is when the big bass start biting at Caney.

“I start catching the trophy fish about the middle to end of the month,” he said. “This is when these bass begin migrating to the spawning flats. They’re just like a big buck in that they follow the same migration routes every year.

“The key to catching a big fish, and doing it consistently is to study a topographic map to find key migration routes like creek channels. Then you’ve got to get on the lake and find those routes with your electronics — then fish until you find a big one.”

The process of elimination helps Halbrook discover how far along the bass are in their migrations. He begins fishing at the mouths of the feeder creeks — mainly Smith Branch, Boggy and Hancock. Halbrook will move to the middle of the creeks if he doesn’t get bit at the mouths. He’ll then move to the backs of the creeks if he fails to find any fish in the midsections.

Over the years, Halbrook has learned that the big fish tend to run with the small fish at Caney. He recalled a guide trip he had one February.

“We were catching a bunch of small fish in the 1- to 2-pound range,” he said. “Then, all of sudden, this guy catches a 9. If we would have left because we were only catching small fish, he’d have never caught that fish.”

This experience taught Halbrook to buck conventional wisdom that says trophy anglers should move if they’re catching only small fish. He stays put as long as he’s getting bit until he either catches a trophy or convinces himself that he’s not going to get a big bite at that location.

If Halbrook could select only one lure for catching a February trophy from Caney, he would have to go with a jig.

“The key to fishing the jig this month is to just barely crawl it across the bottom along the edges of those creeks,” he said. “I stay with dark colors like black/red or black/blue because the water gets a little color in it from the late-winter rains.”

If allowed a few more choices, Halbrook would select Texas-rigged soft plastics, a black, chartreuse or orange spinnerbait and an orange crankbait.

“I like that orange color because I think it looks like either a crawfish or a red-ear sunfish,” said Halbrook. “And there isn’t a big bass alive that will turn down either of those two meals.”

Weather plays an important role in Halbrook’s quest for trophy fish. In his opinion, the worse the weather is in February, the better the chance of catching a big fish.

“And the afternoon hours are better than the morning,” he added, “because the water gets a little warmer and the fish get more active. Combine that with a little rough weather, and your odds of catching a trophy go way up.”

Even though Caney has been down a while, it’s not out. It’s still one of the best trophy lakes around, and you’ve got a better chance to catch a 10-pound bass there than any other lake in North Louisiana.


Lake D’Arbonne

While the fortunes and misfortunes of Caney have been well recorded, its neighbor to the north, Lake D’Arbonne, has largely gone unnoticed. This lack of attention seems to suit the D’Arbonne regulars fine since it allows them to have the lake’s 10-pound bass all to themselves.

One of these regulars, Steve Talley, has caught so many trophy bass from D’Arbonne he has trouble remembering when they were caught or how much they weighed. One thing he does remember, though, is that he caught an 11-pounder and a 13-pounder just last year. Both were caught near the end of February.

If Talley has a secret to catching big D’Arbonne bass, it is that he narrows his search to areas within 1,000 yards of the Highway 33 bridge — typically Stowe Creek and Tech Lane.

Talley breaks Stowe Creek down into two sections. The first section is the east bank on the main-lake side of the Stowe Creek bridge.

“There are lots of docks and cypress trees over there that serve as a migration route for bass heading to the back of Stowe to spawn,” he said. “Some fish will use the creek channel to migrate, but I’ve caught enough of them off those trees in that shallow water to know that big bass use that bank as they head to the back of the creek.”

Once the bass get to the back of Stowe Creek, Talley said they would find a veritable jungle of cover.

“The best time to fish the back of Stowe is when the water hyacinth is just starting to grow,” said Talley. “I like it when it’s thin enough I can still get my boat through it, and that’s typically what it’s like in February.”

There is one section in the back of Stowe Creek where Talley says his big-bass dreams usually come to life. This area of the creek is in the back, right-hand corner, and isn’t affected by the numerous smaller creeks that run through the area. This area isn’t as affected by the typical February current making it ideal for harboring 10-pound bass.

Given one choice, Talley says he would pick a jig to catch a 10-pounder during February.

“I use light jigs,” he said. “A 5/16-ounce is my favorite size for February. I like to match that light jig with a chunky trailer, whether pork or plastic, to make it fall slow. I’m looking for a combination that falls slow, but that also falls to the base of a cypress tree.”

Talley says he wants his jig to stay around the base of a tree for as long as possible.

“Where a lot of people go wrong,” he said, “is in moving the bait away from the tree too fast. They pitch it in there, let it hit bottom, and then get it out. They’re doing exactly what that big bass wants them to do.

“I really try to concentrate on working the jig around the tree without taking it away from the fish too quick. The longer I can leave it in there, the more likely I am to catch a bigger fish.”

Given his druthers, Talley says he’d like to take another bait with him.

“A Texas-rigged crawfish can be the ticket when they don’t eat the jig,” he said. “I’ll sometimes rig a V&M Bayou Craw with a 5/0 hook and a 1/16- or 1/8-ounce weight. In fact, this combination is what I caught the two big bass on last year.

“I’ll vary from pegging the weight to allowing it to slide freely with a bead or two between the weight and the bait. Those beads give it a subtle, clicking sound much like the natural sounds of a live crawfish.”

Talley says the best time to fish during February is on a 65- to 68-degree day that is partly cloudy. He also believes that there is no need to go fishing before noon during February.

“Once the sun gets up and starts heating those trees, it can get really good,” he said. “Those green cypress trees hold heat in the tree and root system better than the dead trees do.”

The only other secret Talley harbors is that he fishes scattered cypress trees.

“Not too many people take the time to fish a small group of two or three trees that are way out by themselves,” he said. “That’s why there’s often very big bass on them.

“The best advice I can give somebody wanting to catch a 10-pounder this month is to fish those isolated groups of trees then motor to the next isolated group. Do that, and you’ll generally catch bigger bass on D’Arbonne during February.”

Caddo Lake

This Northwest Louisiana lake shares a portion of its water and shoreline with Texas. You know what they say about Texas … everything is bigger there. We may not have the same claim to fame in Louisiana, but Caddo Lake has had a little bit of that saying rub off on it over the years.

There has been a parade of big bass coming from the lake recently, thanks in large part to it being fully stocked with Florida bass, and the immense hydrilla beds.

It is the combination of Florida bass, hydrilla, cypress trees and shallow water that should make Caddo the premiere destination for anglers looking for their own 10-pounder. Bass pro Homer Humphreys from Minden has fished all over the country, and says that Caddo ranks right up there on the list of banner big-bass lakes.

“I’d have to say the No. 1 thing that makes Caddo such a good February trophy lake is the fact that it averages only 5 feet deep,” he said. “Those big fish live in that depth of water all year long. They don’t have any deep water to migrate to like they would somewhere like Sam Rayburn.

“Therefore, they become accustomed to the temperature changes, fronts and wind. These fish aren’t nearly as affected by these conditions as they might be at another lake.”

Hydrilla has a tendency at Caddo to grow in large beds that have open holes scattered throughout the flat. These holes may be the result of a depth change or a different kind of bottom. Why they exist isn’t as important as what anglers can find in them.

Humphreys says that the big bass at Caddo will hang out around the edge of the grass that forms these holes. They will cruise the grass line on most days, but when a front blows through they will back up into the grass with just their noses sticking out into the open water.

“Some of the best places to find these holes during February are Ames Springs and Alligator Bayou,” said Humphreys. “Those areas tend to be best because the grass in those sloughs and drains over there may be 6 inches to a foot deeper — not much of a depth change anywhere but Caddo.”

Humphreys says that anybody can go to the grass holes and catch fish — as long as they don’t mind going against the grain.

“The bait to throw on Caddo during February is a Rat-L-Trap,” he said. “It kind of goes against typical wisdom, but you can burn that Trap over that grass, and the big bass will eat it. Get in the middle of the hole and go around the edge burning that Trap the entire time.

Sometimes you may get on a “spot within the spot” by finding a point of grass extending out into the hole. If you find that, you’ve found an excellent spot to catch a 10-pounder.”

Most anglers use 1/2-ounce lipless crankbaits, according to Humphreys. That’s precisely why he uses a 3/4-ounce burnt orange or bleeding shad Trap most of the time.

“I fish that bigger bait on 20- or 25-pound-test McCoy line to help me keep the bait up. I can fish it in the same areas as a 1/2-ounce model, but I’ve got a bigger profile and more noise than those fishing the smaller bait — a perfect recipe for a big bass.”

Humphreys’ last key to triggering a lunker was to let the Trap get bogged down in the grass. When you feel your rod loading up with the weight of the grass, rip your rod in an effort to clear the grass from the bait.

“That technique has produced more big bass over the years at Caddo,” said Humphreys. “And if you’re really intent on catching a 10-pounder, I’d say to rip that 3/4 Trap like that all day long during February. You just might find yourself gripping the lip of your own Holy Grail.”

About Chris Ginn 778 Articles
Chris Ginn has been covering hunting and fishing in Louisiana since 1998. He lives with his wife Jennifer and children Matthew and Rebecca along the Bogue Chitto River in rural Washington Parish. His blog can be found at