Warm days invite anglers to Basin

Deer numbers are getting too high on these productive WMAs, and the LDWF wants your assistance to thin them out.

At this time of year, the Atchafalaya River is fairly low, and the fishing in the Basin is better when the water’s low and cool.Most years, winter doesn’t start until January in this section of the state. The bass will be pulling out of the channels and moving into the dead-end canals to find the warmest, clearest water. They’ll be spawning in these spots in a month or two.

If the weather’s really cold, the bass often will be holding in the grass in the middle of the canals. On warmer days, they’ll move right up against the banks like they do in the spring and begin to feed. They’ll usually be concentrating on cypress trees, stumps, logs or other wood, generally along the banks, since that wood holds heat.

Deep water in most of these canals will be about 8 feet. But you’ll catch most of the bass in 2 to 5 feet of water. For this reason, weather conditions are critical as to where you’ll find the bass in the basin.

What to fish

On warm days, I like a Strike King Denny Brauer Pro Model jig in black, blue, black/blue or black/brown/amber, depending on the water color. The bass in the basin will be feeding heavily on crawfish, which often will have a blue color. So you can’t go wrong fishing blue or black jigs. Some crawfish are also a dark red at this time of year, making black neon another productive jig color for fishing there.

Pitch jigs at targets like stumps, logs, tree roots or other wood cover, shallow grass or dead hyacinth patches. On clear, warm days, my fishing will be cover-oriented. During certain days in January, the bass will be so shallow that they’ll come to the surface and hit the jigs just as they enter the water.

Louisiana can have water temperatures in the high 50s or low 60s at this time of year. If we have a week of really warm weather, don’t be afraid to try a frog or buzz bait or slow-roll a spinnerbait. Bass will come up into that shallow water and feed on top.

Another good warm-weather January tactic is fishing the Red Eye Shad, a lipless crankbait, along the edges of that dead grass.

To find where the bass are holding, I’ll start right at the mouth of a dead-end canal, and fish my way to the back end. Many times, those bass will be holding just off the current, right on the edge of that dead water.

However, if the weather is extremely cold, I’ll be looking for structure, wood and grass, 6- to 8-feet deep, out in the centers of the canals. Also, fish oil platforms in the deep water, which can be highly-productive January places.

A bad cold front in January will nearly shut down the bass bite. If we get one of those cold fronts, I’ll start fishing a flat-sided crankbait like Strike King’s Stealth Shad in chartreuse/black or red/orange on a slow to medium retrieve, and bounce the bait off the cover to give it an erratic action. In extremely clear water in the backs of those canals, you may want to use a jerkbait.

I may make 10 casts to the same target by moving my bait around that target from different directions before I move and look for a new target. For instance, if I find an underwater log in that 6- to 8-foot-deep channel, I’ll run my Stealth Shad down one side of the log, cast it to the other side and bring it parallel to the log, fish both ends of the log, come across the log from six different directions and finally run the bait down the top of the log. Those 10 casts have allowed the bait to pass over the log at every different point.

In really cold weather, I catch the most bass during the last three to four hours of daylight because the canal’s been warming all day and may not experience a major temperature until the end of the day.

What you’ll catch

On a warm day at the Atchafalaya Basin, you can catch 20 to 25 bass because the fish tend to be bunched up and not scattered.

On a cold day, I’ll be happy with six or eight bass.

Between duck season, deer season and football, you won’t have much competition for the fish. If you like to bass fish, definitely go to Morgan City during January, and fish the Basin.