Where: Caney Lake
How: Caney Lake in North Louisiana holds six of the top 10 record bass in Louisiana. All are over 15 pounds, but all were caught in the 1990s. The lake experienced a decline when all of its grass beds were destroyed by carp, but the carp are almost gone and the grass is bouncing back. So are the fish. Double-digit bass are regularly caught, and many locals are convinced there is a new state record swimming around now. Caney has many kayak-accessible areas close to launch sites, and offers a real chance at catching the bass of a lifetime from a ‘yak. The spawn usually occurs late February and on into March. On any given day, the fish may be in the shallow pockets and fingers, or out on the dropoffs in deep water. Lipless crankbaits like Rat-L-Traps are a killer lure for big Caney spawners. They allow you to cover all depth ranges with just a change in retrieval technique. Crawfish colors are particularly effective, as well as silver and natural shad colors. Search the shallow areas with a fast retrieve, and quickly ripping the bait if it gets hung in the grass often triggers a reaction strike. If the fish are on the deeper ledges and dropoffs, let it fall to the bottom and work it back with a pumping retrieve. Large soft plastics like 10- to 12-inch worms are also effective when the fish start getting on beds. Caney water is usually clear, so use lighter colors on cloudless days and darker ones if it’s overcast. Also, don’t overlook large swimbaits in natural baitfish patterns. There’s a potential for a giant bass on every cast, so don’t bring wimpy tackle: 15- to 25-pound mono is recommended, and a bit more if you’re using braid.
Launch: There are several marinas and launches around Caney. You won’t be able to cover the lake by kayak from a single launch, but each has easily accessible areas with a myriad of pockets and coves.
Brown’s Landing: $3 kayak launch fee, food, supplies, tackle and bait. RV camping with hookups. 7777 Highway 4, Jonesboro, Louisiana. (318) 259-6649
Hooks Marina: $3 kayak launch fee, food, supplies, tackle and bait. 400 Spillway Road, Chatham, Louisiana. (318) 249-2347 Facebook: Hooks Marina on Caney Lake
Jimmie Davis State Park: $3 per person daily use fee. Boat launch. Camp sites and cabin rentals (fees vary). The park is located on a peninsula on the lake and provides great paddle fishing access. 1209 State Park Road, Chatham, Louisiana. (318) 249-2595 www.crt.state.la.us
Insider tip: Don’t pass up fishing close to the launches. Double-digit bass have been caught in these overlooked areas within sight of the launch.
Where: Big Lake (Calcasieu Lake)
What: Speckled Trout
How: February can often be a slow month, but for big trout, the West Cove area of Big Lake is a not-so-secret secret. Most of these trout are caught by boat anglers that don waders and hop in. However, some of these areas are accessible by kayak and you can choose to remain in the ‘yak or wade, depending on conditions and the crowd.
If there are wade fishermen in the area, give them a wide berth. Many have perfected the art of silently fishing the areas reefs and routinely haul in some giant trout. If it’s calm, you can move in quietly and stake out a spot to fish from the kayak. However, it is generally more productive to park the kayak and quietly wade. A pair of breathable waders with shoes that won’t easily come off is recommended.
Hefty mullet imitations like Corkys, MirrOdines and the Egret Kick A Mullet are go-to favorites.
Work them slowly over reefs and near any baitfish you see. If you’re following a warm spell, don’t rule out walking your favorite topwater plug.
Launch: Free launch ramp at West Cove Recreation Unit on LA 27 south of Hackberry. *Note that the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge is closed until March 15, but you can use the launch and canal as passage into the lake only. Just don’t stop and fish any of the canals or marsh area in between.
Sabine NWR: 337-762-3816
Insider Tip: Watch for schools of bait to signal the presence of trout in the area. Use your depth finder, or poke the bottom with your stake-out pole to locate reefs.
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