Plucking the Pearl — Keys to bass-fishing success on the Pearl River

The Pearl River offers some fantastic bass fishing, if you can decipher the maze of water. Learn the best approaches from this father/son team.

Covington’s Jason Pittman and his son Trenton worked the mouth of a canal leading into the river channel, working Mister Twister Jerk Rats — flat-bodied puffs of plastic with twin tails — across gator grass patches near points.

The baits bounced and quivered until the elder Pittman set his hook on the sound and observation of a slurp.

“You know, I like when that happens,” 38-year-old Pittman said with his trademark grin. “I knew these bass were in here. The grass mats, laydowns and the current looked really promising.”

It didn’t take long until 16-year-old Trenton scored a bass, as well.

This father-son team was plucking away at numbers of scrappy, 12- to 14-inch bass common to about all river systems in Louisiana.

As the day went on, the duo became even more excited when they found some lily pads on the edge of a pocket off the river.

With the sun setting, they cast and scratched the surfaces with their fake rats, allowing the lures to slither down on a slow, twitching fall.

Bass would hit the lures as it slowly fluttered off the edges of the pads, and both anglers had their turns working fish in.

“These fish love lily pads with that water moving in here,” the elder Pittman said. “I like the flash you see when their bodies come up to hit those baits.

“This river system is just choice with habitat and grass for bass right now.”

Approximately 400 miles long, the Pearl River begins at the junction of the Nanawaya and Tallahaga Creeks in Mississippi’s Neshoba counties, and flows through Washington and St. Tammany Parishes in Louisiana to its terminus.

Its major tributary is the Bogue Chitto River, and the East Pearl forms the dividing line between Louisiana and Mississippi before emptying into the Rigolets and Lake Borgne.

Jason Pittman knows the Pearl well. He has fished the river and its basin most of his life and is well-known for his tournament prowess on its waters.

His Pearl River tournament wins are many, and in the last few years son Trenton has become his constant teammate.

In 2014, the father-son team won first place seven times on three local circuits.

They also garnered firsts in five dogfight-style afternoon Liars & Lunkers tournaments.

“The great advantage with fishing with Trenton is having someone you trust and count on to cover or eliminate an area much quicker than fishing with someone you don’t know,” the elder Pittman said. “Having two people on the boat watching each other and making precision casts to targets not covered already covered is another plus.”

The Pittmans have fished together so much, they don’t know instinctively what the other is doing.

“Trenton and I understand the lures we work together, constantly varying our presentations and colors,” Jason Pittman said. “We have spent so much time together in family and fishing that we have sort of become automatic in the way we fish.”

The younger Pittman is as passionate about bass fishing as his father. He fluidly worked his fishing wares when picking up one of his many yellow Skeet Reese rods.

And he worked the hardware as automatically as the best young gamers using handheld gear when playing videogames.

“Growing up with Dad, and being around all the fishing and his gear at an early age helped me love bass fishing,” the younger Pittman said. “He would take me out when I was really young, teaching me just about everything he knew about bass fishing.”

The youngster recalled the early days, when his father would hand him a rod with a fish already hooked to learn how to retrieve the fish.

“Later, Dad would teach me how to feel the bass bites, and what a good feeling that was,” he said.

Eventually, the time spent together mainly on the Pearl River system began paying dividends to the father-son team during tournaments.

Their team cohesiveness could best be described when the anglers pulled up to a section of a shoreline with scattered hyacinth patches surrounded by duckweed.

The Pittmans were both using plastics with different applications for probing vegetation.

The younger Pittman was casting a watermelon seed/red flake Mister Twister Magnum SinSation attached to a light, 1/8-ounce screw-lock sinker sitting on a 4/0 EWG hook. The setup slithered atop the hyacinths, falling into the nearby duckweed.

He set the hook on more than one river bass in these patches.

The elder Pittman punched the hyacinth patches with a watermelon CPR Mister Twister Poc’it Craw under a 5/16-ounce tungsten sinker with a couple of slip sinkers above the tungsten.

A 2-pounder eventually pounced on Pittman’s Poc’it Craw, making quite a show thrashing in the hyacinths.

The complementary offerings of the two Pittmans quickly put more bass in the livewell.

Pearl River locations

In June, the Pittmans choose two major portions of the Pearl River system to find numbers of bass interspersed with some quality.

The West Pearl is probably the most-visited location by bass anglers, and the Pittmans are no exception.

“The majority of the time here on the West Pearl in June, anglers will find constant current, with water movement occurring from Bogalusa all the way down below Slidell,” Pittman said.

He emphasized that fishing conditions on the West Pearl are best on a fall tide.

“We always look at the Pearl River gauge at Pearl River,” he said. “It is ideal when it is between 9 and 7 feet, and falling.

“The water flow will fluctuate from a half to 1 ½ feet, and conditions are real favorable for catching bass when that happens.”

As proof of how much difference the tide can make, Jason Pittman pointed to a trip when waters were moving, and he and Trenton caught about 40 bass on the way to a tournament win with just less than 12 pounds.

“We found two areas on the West Pearl that held fish, and I was throwing a Texas-rigged, june bug Poc’it Craw and Trenton was working a 3/8-ounce Santone spinnerbait,” he said. “We made one pass along a shoreline bank, catching 8 pounds (of bass), then moving upriver for two miles, catching even more and culling up to that final weight.”

Along the West Pearl, Pittman and his son also will cast and retrieve Santone Swim Jigs around laydowns and other wood structure.

Jason Pittman said a trailer is important for this application.

“I will bite off about a ¼-inch of the Poc’it Craw and thread it to the shank of a ¼- or 3/8-ounce Santone Swim Jig, and use colors mimicking bream,” he said. “Our basic colors are green/pumpkin, black/blue and junebug/red.”

Pittman also has his punching rig ready with his reel spooled with 65-pound FINS Windtamer moss-green braid.

Besides Poc’it Craws, the Pittmans also punch or pitch Texas-rigged Mister Twister Flip’n OUTs.

“The Red River special color has been very effective in the Pearl River,” Jason Pittman said.

Both anglers have also successfully used the new Echo 1.75 Squarebill crankbait by Rat-L-Trap.

“I like using the Echo on the Pearl, because it triggers bass to bite when it ricochets off structure and floats up, too,” Jason Pittman said. “The chartreuse and shad colors work very well along all of the Pearl where there is wood structure.”

The many small drains are also critical during the river’s fall, as bass will bunch up in and near the drains.

Topwaters such as Chug Bugs, spinnerbaits and the Magnum SinSation will provike bass near woody structure in and near these openings.

Punching hyacinth patches and gator grass near drains with plastics also produce bass where current is running onto the points.

When the pair is looking for more quality bites, they look to the Pearl River System Lock 1 channel.

“It’s a very stable pool — a straight ditch running 12 miles,” Pittman said. “There are some little pockets and small coves to be found off the main channel that lead to fish-catching opportunities.”

Many tournaments are won in these waters north of the town of Pearl River and northeast of Hickory.

“There is no tidal influence here,” Pittman said. “This old navigational channel is about the closest it gets to a reservoir here.”

Pittman said anglers fishing here the pool this month should catch 4-pounders — and, while bass weighing 6 pounds are rare, a few are taken every year.

“There’s a strong topwater bite here in June,” he said. “Chug Bugs work well, especially early and late.

“We catch good fish in and near hydrilla and coontail, too, especially on Jerk Rats.”

The Pittmans also throw Texas-rigged plastic worms like Mister Twister’s Hang 10, the Comida and Poc’it Fry along the shorelines of the pool and on points with vegetation or wooden structure.

These plastics can also be rigged drop-shot or wacky style whenever bass are finicky and have whatever reason not to be aggressive with bites.

About Chris Berzas 368 Articles
Chris Berzas has fished and hunted in the Bayou State ever since he could hold a rod and shoot a shotgun. Berzas has been a freelancer featured in newspapers, magazines, television and DVDs since 1989.