Sometimes the best thing you can do to move forward is to just stop and see where you are.
That applies to a lot of things in life. Brett Preuett figured it was a good philosophy to apply to his professional fishing career.
In 2021, the Monroe angler traded wrangling bass for wrangling cows and bulls on his farm and made hay while the sun shined. Now he’s focused on returning to competition in 2022 on the BASS Open trail with a renewed enthusiasm and some skills he honed fishing right around his home area. His ultimate goal, make the Bassmaster Classic again.
While the thought of fishing all the time for a living, driving a big fancy matched bass boat and truck and getting all kinds of free bass baits and tackle sounds pretty glamorous, there’s a lot more to it than that. It’s work. In all kinds of weather, starting at 3 a.m. in the morning and going into the late night hours. Over and over again. All week long.
Preuett’s layoff has given a hidden benefit for Louisiana fishermen, too. We were able to catch up with him and ask him how we can catch more fish here at home. On his year off, Preuett spent a lot of time on Louisiana lakes just fishing for fun. He was glad to share his favorite techniques and tricks to catch more bass.
The cows know
For starters, Preuett addressed perhaps the biggest axiom in freshwater fishing. You know. I bet you’ve heard it. It’s one he says is 100 percent true….and, with a laugh, “at least 90 percent of the time.”
“Yes, there is no doubt,” he said. “When the cows are up and feeding, the bass usually are, too. There’s something about Mother Nature’s clock that ticks all across the outdoors. There’s something about the weather and the barometric pressure – things we don’t always see or feel – that affects cows and bass. I use that to my advantage. If I head for the lake and see the cows up and feeding and being kind of frisky, I know the fish will be the same way. Likewise, if everything is still and the whole herd of cows are laying up, I start mentally preparing for having to fish with a little more finesse when I get to the lake. It’s a real thing.”
In his time off, Preuett focused on several lakes, from giant Toledo Bend to lunker incubator Caney Lake to cypress-filled Iatt Lake, where he actually learned to fish starting at age three. Here are his best bets to help you be a better February bass wrangler.
Tough on Toledo
There’s no question about it, the bass fishing on massive Toledo Bend can be tougher this time of year than ever, especially with changing weather and hardly any grass left in the lake. But the rewards of spending time to find them pay big dividends. Bass are there in numbers and in huge sizes.
“I like to start on the northern end of the lake because that is where they move in and spawn first,” he said. “That end of the lake warms quicker and once the water temperature gets to 62 degrees, you know they will be shallow. I like to just keep it simple and grab a flippin’ stick, put on a 3/8-ounce Creme Speed Scremer and toss it in the heaviest cover I can find. My favorite colors are black and blue or green pumpkin. They will be up on the bank, in the bushes and around cypress knees. They will get up in places you think a bass couldn’t get, but don’t let them fool you.”
Preuett has a simple technique for that lure. He pitches it in the cover, pumps it about three or four times and if he doesn’t get a bite, he reels it in and goes to the next cast. He covers water fast until he finds an area where he gets bit, then he slows down and works it thoroughly.
“If the weather moves them out deeper again, I’ll move out to the creek channels near the bank or the points and throw a Rat-L-Trap or one of Bill Lewis’ new MR-12 crankbaits,” he said. “The new Strawberry Craw color is amazing. Those outer areas are also a great place to fish an umbrella rig out on the deepest end of shorter points.”
Be sneaky on Caney
It sounds odd, but Preuett’s approach on Caney Lake this month is to stay as far away from the bass as he can, sort of. But he still pitches his bait right up on their head.
“Caney is so clear that I stay back as far as I can and still see the beds,” he said. “Sight fishing is awesome here this month and when you spot a bed, you want to make sure the fish doesn’t spot you. I cast a Creme Whacky Stick right up in the bed. When the big ones are on the bed, you can see them. But sometimes they ease off to the side especially when the bed is surrounded by grass.”
When fish scatter or stage deeper, he likes to throw a traditional chrome, blue back or red color Rat-L-Trap along the grass beds, barely tapping the grass tops and then ripping it away to earn a reaction strike.
Preuett said just because you see bass doesn’t mean they will bite. It’s a tough way to fish. Sometimes he has to make a dozen casts to the bed to trigger a strike. Sometimes he throws it in the bed and just lets it sit. Often a smaller male bass will run up and try to move the bait off the bed.
“You just have to pay real close attention all the time,” he said. “And you can’t always rely on feeling the bite. You better keep your eye on the bait and if it moves or disappears, a big one probably grabbed it and you didn’t feel it. You have a fraction of a second to set the hook or it is all over.”
Hit the cypress
If there is one thing Louisiana waters are known for, it’s cypress trees. Lakes all across the state are full of cypress trees, knees and roots and they are prime bass territory this month.
“I grew up on Lake Iatt in Grant Parish and it is full of cypress trees,” Preuett said. “It fishes just like other cypress lakes like Caddo, Bistineau and Saline-Larto. They are going to be spawning on those trees in the flats in one to four feet of water. I always pay close attention to what depth I’m fishing and if I catch a bass in three feet of water, then I concentrate on the cypress in three feet of water. I hit the left side, the middle and the right side of the tree every time. And if one boils up or ticks the bait but misses, I’ll stay there until he gives up and bites or finally I do.”
Iatt has battled vegetation issues, but is still very fishable. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries stocked Iatt with more than 550,000 Florida largemouth bass fry in late 2019 to improve fishing.
Preuett fishes jigs, swim baits and hard plastics here also. And if the fish move off the trees due to weather fronts, he’ll find them on the flats near grass with a Bill Lewis SB-57 crankbait in red or crawfish colors.
A story that almost never happened
Brett Preuett was one whiffle ball game away from probably never being a professional bass fisherman.
He had just graduated from high school and was headed to play baseball in college when he gathered with a group of friends for a game of whiffle ball, the game played with plastic bats and balls. The ball got hit to him and instead of throwing the ball at the runner, he playfully dove and tagged him out. But in the process, the other player’s elbow slammed perfectly into Preuett’s right eye. The terrible accident tore the optic nerve and left him permanently blind in that eye. His baseball career was over.
He was not in a good place, but a coach invited him to go fish in a bass tournament. He did. And he funneled his energy back into the sport he loved as a kid.
Even on the water, Preuett met with adversity. While fishing for a spot in the Bassmaster Classic as a member of the University of Louisiana Monroe fishing team, Preuett put a little extra into a long cast for schooling bass. Only the bait never reached the fish. The back treble hook hit him square in the back of the neck and buried to the point of needing on-the-water medical attention. He stayed. He fished. He won the Classic berth and he was off on his pro bass career.
Preutt is sponsored on the pro tour by Bill Lewis Lures, Creme, Shimano, Lowrance, Tree Shaker Tackle, Falcon Boats, JPS Ford, Power Pole, Bob’s Machine Shop and Bayou Rattler.