Hot weather makes Red River smoke

Schooling hybrid stripers fight like steam trains, providing summertime relief at Lake Claiborne.

When the weather turns extremely hot, your best chances for catching bass will be on river systems. My pick for productive August fishing in Louisiana is the Red River and its five pools that run from Shreveport to Alexandria. An advantage to fishing river systems is that there’s some movement in the water, and when you’re fishing during the hottest part of the year, water movement can trigger bass to bite. Other advantages are that river fish stay shallow, are cover-oriented, are much-more predictable than lake fish and generally will bite if the water’s moving.

I’ll start by fishing with top-water baits in the backwater sections around wood and grass. I’ll fish the Strike King Premier Plus 3/8-ounce Double Take black buzz bait with a Perfect Skirt, which has a built-in trailer hook. I never throw a buzz bait or a spinnerbait without trailer hooks. If a bass misses, or I set the hook too quickly, I need a trailer hook.

I can pull the Double Take slowly and quickly or bend the blades together so they clack. I’ll primarily fish the abundant laydowns, grass and standing cover with a 7-foot Quantum cranking rod and a Quantum PT Burner reel and 50-pound-test braided line. This line doesn’t stretch, it’s small, and it casts well. I’ve found that my catch-to-bite ratio is much higher with this rod/reel/line combination than with any other setup.

Sun comes up

I enjoy fishing the lower end of pool five around Clarks early in the morning, and I like fishing the backwaters on the east and the west sides of the river.

As the sun rises, I’ll ease out of shallow water and move toward deeper water, sampling some of the deeper-timber regions and targeting spots with moving water. In August, the bass will suspend above the creek channels, and will hold on some of the fallen timber.

Once the sun’s up, I’ll flip a Strike King Bleeding Bait Tube, which will entice more bites for anglers who are flipping than a jig will. I’ll Texas rig my tube with a 3/8- or a 1/2-ounce Tru-Tungsten sinker, and fish 20-pound-test Gamma Fluorocarbon Line in clear water or 50-pound-test line in water with color. At this time of year, the bass will be close to shade.

When you’re fishing in standing timber, most of the timber will be upright, so I’ll look for trees that are falling over or a larger, thicker tree than the other surrounding trees. If I can find structure on a primary creek channel, then I know the bass will be there, feeding close to the creek channel where the shad and other baitfish will travel in August.

The water color will dictate the type of lure I’ll fish. The water tends to be green in August, so a green pumpkin or a black neon tube will work great. The suspended bass will take the tube halfway between the top of the river and the bottom. Once I get my first bite, I’ll determine the depth at which the fish has taken my jig, which will tell me the depth where the bass are, and rule out other sections of the water.

Next, I’ll fish a Strike King Series 4 crankbait, which won’t dig the bottom and will run in 3 to 5 feet of water. If I don’t get any bites cranking that Series 4, I’ll fish the Series 5 in chartreuse/black and Tennessee shad on 20-pound-test line, and it will run about 7 or 8 feet deep.

In August, I’ll use a medium to a fast retrieve since the water’s hot, and the bass will be active. I’ll bang my crankbait around on the wood to entice a reaction strike. Usually, you’ll get a bite when the bait bounces off the wood, or when you speed up your retrieve to imitate a baitfish running away from something.

Middle of the day

I’ll move out on the main river to fish rock jetties or sandbar breaks. If there’s any water moving, it will be on the main river, because every time someone passes through the lock’s dam, the water moves slightly, and the bass start feeding.

If fishing has been really tough that morning, I’ll probably downsize to a Series 3 crankbait, a smaller version of the Series 4, or I may fish George Cochran’s favorite crankbait, the Series 1. This crankbait is very small, and I simply need to get a bite, if I’m not doing well.

Remember, the bass that live on the main lake will generally be slightly smaller than the bass that live in the backwater regions, so I’ll need to downsize. But if I can make the bass bite in the backwater, I won’t go out on the main river.

The other bait I’ll depend on to catch these main-river fish is a shaky-head Strike King 3X Finesse Worm that I’ll Texas rig and hop. I like the Tru-Tungsten 3/16- or 1/4-ounce Ikey Head jig in a green pumpkin or a junebug color on 10- to 12-pound-test fluorocarbon line. I’ll cast the worm out, hop it 6 inches to 1 foot up off the bottom, and then let it fall back to the bottom. Most of the time, I won’t feel the bite, because the bass will take the bait either as it comes off the bottom or as it starts to fall back.

When you’re fishing out on the main river, you can expect to catch bass weighing from 1/2 to 3 pounds each, with an occasional 5-pounder. In the backwaters, you can catch bass weighing up to about 7 pounds. The Red River is the best bass river in Louisiana.

Late afternoon

To be honest, if I haven’t caught a bass by now, I’ll probably head home. But you do want to imitate fish feeding with splashing and big wakes to make the bass think another bass is chasing the bait.

The Luhr-Jensen Big Game Woodchoppers, the Lucky Craft Sammys and the Heddon Spooks are all great big baits for creating this illusion. If you’ve ever looked inside a bass’s belly, it’ll often have either big shad or big bream in it. In hot weather, the fish want to eat as much as possible.

On an average day in August, on the Red River, you may catch 15 or more bass. You’ll have a legitimate chance of catching a few bass weighing 5 pounds each or more, but an average bass in the backwater weighs about 2 1/2 or more, which represents the weight of the majority of fish in the river at this time of year.

I’ve fished bass tournaments on the Red River in August and had a stringer of fish weighing 20 pounds. If you’re planning to bag big bass during the heat of August, head to Louisiana’s Red River.