A fourth birthday party worth waiting for by big bass anglers

Sid Wilde of Robert and his son, Jaylon, were fishing at Bussey Brake Reservoir on March 8 when Sid caught a new lake record bass that weighed 15.78 pounds.

Not many 66-year-olds have the luxury of celebrating a fourth birthday twice, but this old friend does.

Happy Birthday to my old friend, Bussey Brake Reservoir. It was just four years ago that you were reopened to public fishing and what a splash you’ve made.

Following a lengthy renovation project, Bussey Brake became available for fishing and other recreational activities on July 15, 2020. The 2,200-acre reservoir is the focal point of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries first “mainly fishing” WMA, which is primarily managed for quality fishing — namely 10-pound bass.

Stuck off in the midst of the corn and cotton fields of northeast Louisiana’s Morehouse Parish, Bussey has become a national bass trophy lake headline.

Where is this lake?

It’s not in the middle of nowhere, but you can see the middle of nowhere from there. People are always posting on social media, “where is this Bussey Brake.” Fewer and fewer are having to ask, though.

While Caney Lake and Toledo Bend are big bass havens in the spring, Bussey’s big bass parade has carried right through to the summer the past three years. No reason to think it won’t continue this summer, too.

Make sure if you catch a big one this summer, you weigh it and handle it with care. Hot weather releases require more attention to protect the big bass stock.

Primary focus

Bussey has a bright future, too. But like other “collaborations” between man and Mother Nature, the more planning and care put into it, the better. LDWF said it is ready to do its part, but the Louisiana Legislature has to fund initiatives above and beyond your normal creek and swamp bottom to make Bussey continue to be great again.

“Our primary focus on Bussey Brake WMA is managing a quality fishery. After receiving the property, we decided to prioritize fishing and renovate the reservoir,” the LDWF stated. “The reservoir was constructed in a forested area in the late 1950s and provided a tremendous fishery for many years. However, natural habitat loss and the introduction of undesirable fish species led to a decline in the productivity of the reservoir and fishing suffered. Our renovation involved almost completely draining the lake and removing the existing fish population.

“While the lake was lowered, we created boat lanes and constructed a new fishing pier, boat dock, and wave break. In addition, during the drawdown, abundant woody and herbaceous vegetation grew on the lake bottom, providing new habitat for fish. We will maintain this habitat to ensure a quality fishery on Bussey Brake for years to come.”

I hope as we celebrate this milestone that the LDWF and the state’s legislature will look ahead to what can keep Bussey going strong BEFORE we start having problems.

Challenges in the future

Bussey is King of the Hill right now, but it faces challenges. Maintaining the level, especially in the critical hot months of summer, is not easy. Bussey receives no runoff except rainwater. The pumps that bring water from Bayou Bartholomew are not adequate to reach lower bayou levels in the summer and the pump size and hose are not designed to reach the water.

It’s hard to believe right now with all the new growth small trees and bushes and acres of lily pad fields, but Bussey one day soon will face a structure problem as they die back. It’s just Mother Nature. As that happens, we’ll lose forage fish and fish will scatter, making them harder to catch — especially the big ones.

Now no need to panic. This isn’t an impending issue. But addressing it sooner rather than later helps keep Bussey going strong.

Start thinking this way

If you have any contacts with your elected officials, now is a good time to get them thinking the same way.

Back in the day, Bussey became so muddy that fish couldn’t spawn. That’s mainly because of an abundance of carp. Unfortunately, the carp population is growing again. More poisoning was scheduled before the rebuild of Bussey, but that LDWF administration was broke and they didn’t get them all.

One thing that bothers me is the large number of prehistoric looking gators in the lake. I can only imagine how many 10-pound bass they obliterate each year for lunch and dinner. But checking the science, it seems like they eat more carp and buffalo and turtles than anything else. At least that’s a good thing.

Bussey isn’t a one-fish wonder, either. Bass like Sid Wilde’s 15.78 lake record and Robert Rush’s 15.36 lunker are stealing the headlines. But bream and white perch are coming on and more and more anglers are catching them. In 2017, LDWF began stocking the lake with fish such as largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill and redear sunfish.

The lake has already produced the No. 6 black crappie and four of the five top white crappie in the state.

There’s lots more to come.

Hopefully man and Mother Nature can continue to work together. And the “man” part includes anglers following limits, taking care of the resource and working with LDWF, not just as constant critics via Facebook and social media warriors hiding behind the keyboard.

Bussey’s in great shape. Let’s all work to look ahead to see just how many ways we can continue to make it great again for many, many more Happy Birthdays.

About Kinny Haddox 597 Articles
Kinny Haddox has been writing magazine and newspaper articles about the outdoors in Louisiana for 45 years. He publishes a daily website, lakedarbonnelife.com and is a member of the Louisiana Chapter of the Outdoor Legends Hall of Fame. He and his wife, DiAnne, live in West Monroe.