Spinnerbait, crankbait, worm are tops
When the nation’s last great overflow swamp finally falls to a fishable level, one of Louisiana’s bass pros will rely on three artificial lures to catch bass in the Atchafalaya Basin.
No. 1 is a spinnerbait with two Colorado blades. No. 2 is a crankbait. No. 3 is a plastic worm.
Those are about as basic and fundamental choices as could be but time-proven for Cliff “The Cajun Baby” Crochet of Pierre Part.
“Topwaters like Lunker Lures, finesse baits, you can do a million things … but those are basic things,” he said.
Like hundreds of outdoorsmen who fish for bass the Atchafalaya Basin, Crochet wonders if he is going to get to fish the vast fishery — where he won a major bass tournament that launched his pro career.
The Atchafalaya Basin, also known as the Spillway, has been unfishably high since it rose inexplicably in October. It’s been too high for anything but crawfishing ever since. As summer approached, the Atchafalaya River stage at Morgan City was at 8.19 feet, a little more than 2 feet above flood stage, and 20.1 feet at Butte La Rose, a hair above minor flood stage. With the water that high, gamefish have room to roam over more of the 800,000-acre overflow swamp, out of the reach of fishermen.
Basically, it needs to fall at least 4 feet at the Morgan City gauge and 8 feet at the BLR gauge before bass anglers venture between the West Atchafalaya Basin Protection Levee and the East Atchafalaya Basin Protection Levee, the latter which winds near his hometown.
“Yeah, it’s been high forever. I don’t know what that’s about,” he said.
Years of spillway experience
Crochet has fished the overflow swamp most of his life.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in that Basin. I remember the first time I crossed over the levee with my dad. I took a big, deep breath,” he said, recalling how as a young boy going over the levee to one of many boat landings, probably Belle River, it seemed like going up and down a small mountain.
It was then he became familiar with the basics: spinnerbaits, crankbaits and plastic worms.
“The last 10 years fishing on a national level, I’ve seen tricks and tactics. These basics are awesome. Something I was taught in the ’90s, you were in the ’70s and all the way to the ’40s. You can be as basic as you want,” he said. “It sounds pretty simple. It’s good to know when the water falls it can be pretty simple. You don’t have to have a special bait.”
Why? Because when the water falls for the first time and the bass follow it, the bite is on big-time most of the time.
‘”The whole deal, no doubt, when the Basin starts dropping, it’s all about mixing water and points,” he said. “Yeah, that is the time to catch them but you’ve got to have conservation in mind and do it responsibly.”
No. 1 choice is spinnerbait
Crochet plans to catch and release plenty of bass when he gets the opportunity to fish the Basin. His first choice is a ¼-ounce, double-bladed Santone Lures spinnerbait with two Colorado blades.
“I like double Colorado blades because you get everything; you get good vibration and good flash,” he said, adding his favorite skirt color is a “Red River Special.”
Most of the time, he fishes it right out of the pack and doesn’t add any kind of soft-plastic trailer.
Small crankbaits are great
Crochet prefers a small crankbait as his second choice, either a Luck-E-Strike Rick Clunn Series 3 to probe drains and sloughs or a Luck-E-Strike Rick Clunn Smoothie. The former works the 4- to 6-foot depths, while the latter is a deep-diver. What’s his favorite color? He said when the crankbait that just nailed a bass is so deep in the fish’s throat you have to use needle nose pliers to extract it, “That’s the right color.” When it’s barely hooked in the lip, “That’s the wrong color.”
“Color’s always a question. You can drive yourself crazy,” he said.
That said, he’s a big fan of black/chartreuse and crawfish hues.
Plastic worm: oldie goldie
His third choice, he said, is a no-brainer and as old as the hills.
“The last once is the most basic fishing thing of all time: a Texas-rigged plastic worm. I’ve been catching fish in the Basin on a plastic worm for a long, long time,” Crochet said.
“Let me tell you something about the worm. Everybody’s forgotten about the worm,” he said, noting everybody, himself included, throws Beavers, Brush Hogs and the like.
His favorite plastic worm is a 7- to 7 ½-inch Luck-E-Strike Baby Huey or a Luck-E-Strike Ringworm.
In summary, he said, “Here’s the best thing about fishing the Basin in this whole conversation .… It’s so simple, basic fishing — spinnerbait, crankbait and worm. You can’t go wrong. You can’t reinvent the wheel.”