Bayou Bartholomew Lake, the area commonly called “The Cutoff” by locals near Sterlington and in other parts of Morehouse Parish, isn’t one of the big-name fishing spots in north Louisiana. But this time of year, if you are chasing largemouth bass, it can be as good as any other.
Bayou Bartholomew itself is the world’s longest running bayou, making an almost 360 mile trek from Pine Bluff, Arkansas, all the way where it spills out into the Ouachita River above Monroe. Bayou Bartholomew Lake is a portion of the old bayou that has been cut off from the original waterway situated on the Ouachita and Morehouse Parish Line.
The waterway was dammed off on both ends of the oxbow creating a lake that offers everything a bass enthusiast looks for. Welcome to “The Cutoff.”
Cypress trees are littered across the entire lake along with plentiful grass, boat docks, and steep bluff banks. Its got every type of structure that a bass angler could want in the summertime.
Lifelong Union Parish native and ardent fisherman Nathan Pilgreen loves to fish this lake and gives us get a better grasp on what the bass are doing in the early summer months on the Cutoff.
Bream bring bass
“I like to fish The Cutoff in early June because that’s when the bream are on the beds and the shad are beginning to spawn,” Pilgreen said. “That gives the bass plenty of bait to feed on during these post-spawn months.”
With the bass being more on the move this time of year, Pilgreen likes to cover a lot of water and throw baits that mimic a bluegill or shad.
“I’ll fish trees and grass in the four foot range and throw a Smithwick Rogue in the black and gold color, a Zoom Fluke in watermelon red or watermelon pearl color because those baits mostly resemble a bream.”
Technique matters this time of the year, too.
“I’ll work those baits in a medium speed retrieve and that tends to yield the most bites,” Pilgreen said.
Pilgreen also points out that a watermelon red Senko rigged wacky style with no O ring can generally pick up a few bites.
“I like to throw the Senko on a 7 foot medium action rod paired with a spincast reel,” he said. “That allows me to skip it under tree limbs if I’m fishing cypress trees.”
Pilgreen also adds that a blue herring colored spinnerbait works well when the water has some clarity to it. Often when there is not a lot of rain, the water clears up in the lake.
“There is a channel that runs the entire length of the lake and when the shallow bite wears off, I’ll usually try to graph bass hanging on the edge of the flats where the channel makes a bend,” he said.
Getting into the thick cover is important, especially on up in the day. Pilgreen likes to pick up a Texas rigged Baby Brush Hog, also in watermelon red, and target those bass that are set up on the edge of the channel.
The lake has a solid population of largemouth and there are numerous fish in the 6-8 pound range.
Access to the lake can be found in two places. The most convenient choice is Barrett’s launch, located on Barrett’s Boat Dock Road just off of Highway 165. For a small fee you can launch your boat and be right in the middle of the lake for easy navigating. The other choice is located on the far north end of the lake on Levee Rd. This is the only free public boat launch on The Cutoff.
If you are unfamiliar with the lake, be careful running it. The channel can be deceptive as it winds from one end to the other and there is not a lot of other open water.