Subtle depth differences at Bussey Brake are a big deal

Bradley Roy battles a big bass on Bussey Brake. (Photo courtesy MLF/Garrick Dixon)

Louisiana hosted the 2022 season opening Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour event with anglers fishing three lakes — D’Arbonne in Farmerville, Caney in Chatham and Bussey Brake in Bastrop. Louisiana Sportsman caught up with champion Bradley Roy of Lancaster, Ky., and fellow pro anglers Jared Lintner of Covington, Ga., and Jacob Wheeler of Harrison, Tenn., to get exclusive fishing reports on how they would fish here this month.

The first key to finding and catching bass this month at Bussey Brake is water temperature. It’s hard to pinpoint an exact day or week when bass spawn, but Bradley Roy said the bass spawn will still be going on at this 2,200 acre lake in April. That means a lot of them will be in shallow protected waters, or hanging close by right after the spawn.

One thing Roy points out quickly about Bussey is that it is mostly a shallow lake and even the slightest depth changes can be one of the keys to finding and catching largemouths.

“There’s one thing that there is plenty of at Bussey and that’s good springtime cover,” he said. “But that also gives you the problem of trying to figure out which cover is best. I think it simply comes down to trying two approaches. First of all, if the bass are still spawning, they need sunlight to do that so they will be in the shallower bushes. If it is cloudy or they are hanging out right after the spawn, they’ll be on the deeper bushes. Now that may not be a lot deeper, but instead of 2-3 feet deep on the spawn, maybe 3-5 feet deep after the spawn. One good thing is there is not much water level fluctuation on this lake, so fish can hold steady.”

Roy said bait options are many. Pitching and flipping bulky soft plastics like Beaver type baits deep in the bushes would be the top choice. That’s how he took home the $100,000 first prize recently and he said it will still work. But there are plenty of bushes to run a spinnerbait past when the fish are aggressive.

“I know one thing,” he said. “I would not go to Bussey this time of year without a swim jig tied on. Anything could work from a Beaver or Brush Hawg type bait to a straight tail plastic worm.”

Jared Lintner agrees with Roy’s assessment of the structure and reminds fishermen that trying to find areas near some sort of dug out area or ditch is important this time of year.

“Late season cold snaps can drive them to deeper water, so the closer you can find spawning areas to deeper spots, the more likely you are to find good numbers of fish,” Lintner said. “One thing I wouldn’t pass by is a horizontal laying willow where you can pitch back up in there at the base of the tree in shallow water.”

Lintner said if the fish aren’t in the thick stuff, you can get them to blow up on a buzzbait or some sort of frog fished around the edges. His favorite color pick for Bussey would be black or a dark pattern.

Jacob Wheeler likes the frog idea, too.

“There are just so many targets here and with the lake at the stage it is at, those shallower bushes are going to be the top target,” he said. “And the fish can get way up in the cover. All those lily pad stems are a great place to look for fish in the spawning period. You could even get the aggressive fish to hit there on some sort of stick type topwater if the plastic bite is not on.”

One thing Wheeler saw at Bussey that could help you catch more bass is to watch water depths, much like Roy said. He saw three zones that he would target and when he caught one in a “zone,” he’d stick with that depth. Of course, he said, that can vary from day to day.

“In lakes like this without a lot of defined depth change, it’s important to lock in on subtle hints as to where the bass are,” he said. “At Bussey, there are scrubby willows in 1-3 feet of water; bushes and tops in 4-5 feet of water and deeper trees and shade lines where fish can hang out in 5-7 feet of water. Find the right depth and concentrate on it. And later in the day, look for isolated bushes the same depth, especially for the big fish.”

Bonus tip:

Randy Howell with his Bussey hawg, a 12-pound, 14-ounce lunker that was big bass of the tournament, his personal best and a new Bussey Lake record. (Photo courtesy Randy Howell Fishing)
Randy Howell with his Bussey hawg, a 12-pound, 14-ounce lunker that was big bass of the tournament, his personal best and a new Bussey Lake record. (Photo courtesy Randy Howell Fishing)

During the tournament, Randy Howell from Guntersville, Ala., set the MLF record big bass at Caney Lake with a 10-pound, 11-ounce bass on Wednesday. Then he broke the record again Thursday at Bussey with a 12-pound, 14-ounce bass. It was a catch of a lifetime… twice. His main advice for the big bass havens, Caney and Bussey?

“When you are fishing a big bass lake like these, never give up and always pay attention. Every cast is important,” he said. ““Both Bussey and Caney have the potential for you to put a double digit bass in the boat anytime you fish there.

“Make sure your gear is ready. And no matter how you fish there, my best advice is to just keep on fishing. Catching those two big ones was like a dream. I mean, did I dream this happened? Fishing keeps us coming back for more because you never know what that next bite could be!”

About Kinny Haddox 592 Articles
Kinny Haddox has been writing magazine and newspaper articles about the outdoors in Louisiana for 45 years. He publishes a daily website, and is a member of the Louisiana Chapter of the Outdoor Legends Hall of Fame. He and his wife, DiAnne, live in West Monroe.