The Ouachita River runs some 90 miles from the Arkansas line south to the upper-end of Catahoula Parish. This time of the year, fishing has slowed down quite a bit, but it isn’t the fish — it’s the fishermen.
“Fishing is tough sometimes on the river in August, but it’s more about the fishermen not wanting to go in the heat than it is about the fish biting,” said Stuart Baum, a veteran river crappie angler.
And since the river is so big, Baum likes to concentrate on the area between the I-20 bridge at Monroe and just south of Columbia. He catches fish consistently using two methods this time of year.
“You are going to have a lot of crappie bunched up in the tops in the river itself,” Baum explained. “There are all kinds of tops, but I concentrate on the ones I call ‘slick’ tops. Those are the treetops that have been in the water a year or two and the grit and mud in the current have washed all the bark off the limbs, making them more desirable for fish. They are also easier to drop a jig or minnow down in without getting hung up. When you work a top, start at the deeper water end and work your way in. Don’t be surprised if you find fish way up near the bank in 2 feet of water even though it is hot as blue blazes.”
Baum also gets off the river in some of the deeper backwater lakes and sloughs and fishes a spider rig, a system employing four to eight poles at once to scour an area quickly.
“The key to making spider rigs work is to find the deeper water and find the schools of shad on your electronics,” he said. “These schools will be on the move, so you have to move with them. One thing that is important to remember is that these fish for the most part will be high in the water column, usually 2 to 3 feet deep.”
Baum is partial to the double-minnow rig for spider rig setups, and likes to use single-rigged minnows in the tops. One thing that’s important this time of year is to also keep a live minnow on your hook. That’s no easy task in 80- to 90-degree water, but it is important. He also uses jigs — his favorites are a red-head jig with a Mid-South pearl and red plastic body, or a white-head jig with a Garland blue thunder plastic body.