Bet on Bayou Black for January bass

Vermilion Parish is ground zero for the best goose hunting in the entire United States. Use these veteran techniques to make sure your bag is nice and heavy.

Bayou Black, located 15 minutes south of Houma off Highway 90, is one of the southernmost places to catch bass in the state. In January, central and northern Louisiana generally have cold weather. However, near the Bayou Black area, the weather may be just seasonally mild.

There’s a lot of protected water there, because of the maze of canals. In January, I start searching for spawning bass in the backs of dead-end canals. If you’re fishing during the full-moon phase in January, and the weather’s warm, reaching the 60-degree range, there’s a good chance some bass will be on the beds.

Marsh bass in Bayou Black are some of the earliest-spawning bass in Louisiana, because this area warms up much more quickly than waters in other parts of the state. Fishing Bayou Black is much like fishing waters in Florida, since the bass start spawning when the water cools down, not when it warms up.

The 2011 Bassmaster Classic will be held in February out of New Orleans, and I’m convinced that Bayou Black is one of the five key spots where the Classic will be won.

Bayou Black once was one of the best areas of Louisiana to fish for bass. I remember fishing a tournament there in February years ago, and bringing in five bass that weighed a total of 18 pounds.

But Bayou Black has been beat up pretty bad by hurricanes, and in 1998, this section had a drought, causing saltwater intrusion. Then high Atchafalaya River levels helped remove some of the effects of the salt water. In the last couple of years, the bass in Bayou Black have had some good spawns, so you may catch and release 100 bass in a day from one spot.

My No. 1 bait at this time of year will be the Strike King Redfish Magic because it produces more vibration than most other types of spinnerbaits, making the bait easier for the bass to find and eat. The lure comes with a nickel or gold blade. I prefer the gold blade on cloudy days and the nickel blade on sunny days, regardless of the water color.

Instead of a skirt, the Redfish Magic has a rubber fish-type body. When I’m fishing a nickel-plated blade on the Redfish Magic, I prefer a pearl-colored body. On dark days, when the weather’s cloudy, I prefer a gold blade with a black body, a chartreuse tail and a red head.

Before I go to Bayou Black, I’ll get a map of the area and search for dead-end canals. However, I won’t start fishing in the backs of those canals. Instead, I’ll look for bigger canal systems that have moving water, and start fishing where the dead-end canals intersect with these bigger canals. I’ve found that in normal weather conditions, bass usually will be holding more at the mouths of those dead-end canals than at the backs of the canals.

If the area has extremely cold weather this month, the bass will migrate to the backs of the canals, where they’ll find warmer water.

I’ll generally start fishing from the intersection of the canals, and then to the back of any dead-ends. On a low tide, I’ll be casting and retrieving the Redfish Magic, but on high tides, I’ll be flipping the Strike King Perfect Plastic Rodent.

At this time of year, I’ll also be fishing a 1/2-ounce Red Eye Shad in red craw/chartreuse, gold/sexy-shad or chrome/sexy-shad colors. On sunny days, I’ll be fishing sexy shad or red craw/chartreuse, and on overcast days, I’ll be fishing the gold/sexy-shad color. I’ll fish around dead vegetation, pennywort mats and logs in a high tide.

If I find plenty of thick cover, I’ll be punching those mats with a black/blue-flake or a black-neon Perfect Plastic Rodent on a 1/4- or 3/4-ounce Tru Tungsten slip sinker. If I have to fish really heavy cover, I may use a 1- or a 1 3/4-ounce Tru Tungsten silver slip sinker and 65-pound-test braided line. But if the grass isn’t very heavy, I’ll be fishing 50-pound-test line. If I’m fishing the Red Eye Shad or the Redfish Magic, I’ll use 20-pound-test fluorocarbon line with a 6.3:1 gear-ratio Quantum Tour Edition PT reel. When I’m fishing the Redfish Magic, I prefer a 7-foot medium-heavy-action Quantum Smoke PT Rod, and with the Red Eye Shad, I’ll be fishing a 7-foot medium-action Quantum Energy PT rod. When I’m flipping the Rodent, I’ll use a 7-foot, 11-inch heavy-action Quantum Tour Greg Hackney rod.

If there’s bad weather conditions and bad tides, I expect to catch only 10 bass. But with good weather and good tides, I expect to catch 30 to 50 bass, with a number of those fish weighing from 2 to 2 1/2 pounds each. But you also can catch some 4- and 5-pounders at Bayou Black in January.