The lower Basin bass are in pre-spawn, spawn mode

On an Indian Summer day in January, bass anglers can get their hands on a bass of a lifetime in the lower Atchafalaya Basin or on the other side of the levee around Lake Verret.

Derek Hudnall has many favorites to choose from when he wants to catch bass during January within a reasonable driving distance from his home in Denham Springs.

Unfortunately for Hudnall, one of his most choice options got scratched from his list when the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service announced that Okhissa Lake would be closed through March 15, 2023, while a drawdown and other efforts are made to improve the lake in southwest Mississippi. The 1,100-acre lake is 1 hour, 20 minutes from his home.

The Bassmaster Elite Series pro about to embark on his fourth-year on the circuit took the lake’s elimination from consideration in stride when he talked about top bodies of water for bassin’ in January. He ticked off some of his perennial go-to places like False River, Tickfaw River, Amite River, Henderson Lake, Lake Verret and the lower Atchafalaya Basin. However, Hurricane Ida caused fish kills on the Tickfaw and Amite rivers, he said, which further narrows the field for this month.

Each of those bass fishing destinations usually come into play in the offseason when he conducts “educational” guide trips for young bass anglers, many who fish on junior and high school bass fishing circuits that are so popular.

Fishing and teaching

“I like teaching the educational aspect of it,” Hudnall said, noting his on-the-water lessons are based on a youth’s skill set and what he or she wants to get out of the trip.

Hudnall, 41, really warmed to the subject of January bass fishing when he discussed Lake Verret and the lower Atchafalaya Basin, where he’s been targeting bass during winters most of his life. He narrowed it down to the Spillway, if the Atchafalaya River stage isn’t higher than 4-foot at Morgan City.

“Anything below 4-foot and falling the lower end of the Basin will be at its best. I’d concentrate on the south end between Flat Lake and Bayou Pigeon,” he said, adding his go-to spot in that area would be Bear Bayou.

Preferably, he likes to fish Bear Bayou on an outgoing tide in the morning with a chartreuse/white Humdinger or Delta Lures spinnerbait and a red or chartreuse Spro Little John MD 50 crankbait. He works those moving baits around the edges of grass beds and cypress trees.

The same patterns often work around the northwest corner of Flat Lake, he said.

“Keep the baits wet because the bites won’t come as frequently as you want them to, but this time of year you can catch the fish of a lifetime,” he said. “Those fat females want to eat.”

How’s that? Fish of a lifetime? Sure, he said, as locals and others know the bass in this region spawn early.

Getting in spawn mode

From Bayou Black to the lower Spillway and the Lake Verret area bass are in pre-spawn and spawn modes.

“They’re really wanting to feed (pre-spawn),” he said. “They start moving up. You can have some incredible days. You can catch really good fish in that area.”

Henderson Lake, another potential hotspot farther north along the West Atchafalaya Basin Protection Levee, is another viable hotspot, even if the Atchafalaya River stage is around 14 or 15 feet at Butte La Rose. In fact, Hudnall prefers it at that height in January.

“I like it when it’s really high. When it’s 14 or 15 foot high, there’s three feet of water on the ridges (banks of canals). I like to punch them because fish position themselves on the ridges. The treelines … that’s where the lilies raft up,” he said, noting he punches a black neon Missile Baits D-Bomb under a 1 ½- or 1 ¼-ounce weight.

Hudnall goes into January on a high note after finishing second with Ron Hueston of Naples, Florida, in the Yamaha Bassmaster Redfish Cup Championship held Nov. 12-14 out of Port Aransas, Texas. They finished the three-day tournament with 40 pounds, 8 ounces.

“The rest of the offseason has been pretty quiet other than the Redfish Cup,” he said. “I had a good time up there. I’m back home and I’ve got to get through January and hit the ground running for the Bassmaster Elite Series opener Feb. 11-14 on the St. Johns River at Palatka, Florida.”

But, first, he’ll tap the bass at some of his favorite hotspots in January, starting with the lower end of the Atchafalaya Basin.

About Don Shoopman 560 Articles
Don Shoopman fishes for freshwater and saltwater species mostly in and around the Atchafalaya Basin and Vermilion Bay. He moved to the Sportsman’s Paradise in 1976, and he and his wife June live in New Iberia. They have two grown sons.