Mississippi River a September hotspot

Head out after sunset, and put your skills as a marksman to the test while you fill a cooler with redfish and sheepshead.

My No. 1 pick this month will be the Venice region because usually at this time of year, the Mississippi River’s down, the water has greened up and moving water will be at the edges of the passes. My favorite places to fish out of Venice are South Pass and Pass a Loutre, and I also like Caddo Lake this month.

Although I make my living as a tournament bass angler, I’m first and foremost a fisherman. I like to catch fish — lots of fish and all kinds of fish. When you fish out of Venice this month, on one cast, you may catch a bass, on the next cast, you may take a redfish, and on the third cast, you may have on a speckled trout.

Fishing the Venice region in September means you’ll easily catch and release 50-100 fish in a day. Regardless of the kind of fish you want to catch, catching a lot of fish is better than catching only a few or no fish, in my opinion.

The bass I’ll take in these spots around Venice in September generally will weigh 2 to 4 pounds each. Occasionally I’ll catch one bigger than 4 pounds. But the main reason I’m choosing this region this month is for the sheer number of bass you can catch and release there — 50-60 bass per day or only 25 on a bad day.

The tide will be the critical key as to what type of lure you fish. On a low tide, I’ll be fishing the edges of the matted grass.

I’ll start my morning fishing with a buzz bait in either chartreuse/white on a sunny day or black if the day’s overcast and cloudy, and I’ll throw it around the edges of the grass, primarily milfoil and hyacinths.

Also, on low tide, I’ll use a black-neon Strike King tube with red metal flake to punch through the grass. I rig the tube Texas-style with a No. 5/0 hook, and the size of the slip sinker I use varies with the thickness of the grass. In thin, sparse grass, I’ll fish a 3/8-ounce sinker, but in the thick mats, I like a 1-ounce sinker.

However, when the tide’s high, I’ll be fishing in the grass with a rubber frog, preferably white but sometimes green, or some kind of creature bait, like the Wild Thang or a tube. When I fish with creature baits, I prefer a Tru-Tungsten sinker, depending on the thickness of the grass, to get my bait through the grass to the bass under that grass.

When I’m fishing a rubber frog, I usually will fish with 50-pound-test braided line.

Remember never to set the hook on a frog until you feel the bass. Most people try to set the hook when the bass blows-up on the frog. But if you do that, often you’ll pull the frog away from the fish before it has a chance to eat it.

When you fish a rubber frog in the grass this month, you may catch a different type of fish on each cast, including bass and redfish. Redfish will eat a frog, a buzz bait or a creature bait flipped into the grass. You may get a big blow-up on the frog you’re fishing, set the hook, think you’ve got a 10-pound bass and then learn that you’ve actually got an 8-pound redfish.

In the middle of the day, if the place I’m fishing has a strong current, I’ll probably be fishing a crankbait around the points and cuts. In these current spots, I’ll fish either a Strike King Series 1 or a Series 3 crankbait in shiny colors like a chrome/black back, a chrome/blue back or a Tennessee shad.

If the water has more color, I prefer to fish chartreuse/blue crankbaits. I’ll cast the crankbait upcurrent with 12- to 14-pound-test line, and swim my baits back to the boat on a medium retrieve in the mouths of cuts and passes, points, piling and oil derricks — all places that break the current and are very productive spots to fish crankbaits.

My second choice to fish this month for bass is off the Mississippi River in the old part of the river at Morganza. The bass in the old section of the Mississippi will be relating to wood in September. In the mornings, I’ll either fish a Strike King buzz bait or some kind of big, walking bait like the Super Spook.

But after that early morning, topwater bite is over, I’ll be cranking most of the day, usually with a Strike King Series 4 crankbait and 20-pound-test Gamma fluorocarbon line. I’ll target every piece of wood I can find.

The real trick to fishing a crankbait successfully in this water is to crash it into the cover. I want that crankbait to deflect off the lay-downs, the cypress trees and the stumps as much as possible.

You won’t catch as many bass here as you do around Venice. However, you’ll have the opportunity to catch bigger bass, generally 2- to 6-pounders. On a good day, you may catch only eight to 10 bass, but they’ll be quality fish.

Just because the weather’s still hot in September doesn’t mean you can’t catch bass. Since I’m a Louisiana boy, I like to eat fish. As a tournament bass fisherman, I like to throw my bass back. However, when I go to Venice in September, I can get the best of both worlds. I can put a limit of specks and reds in my cooler to bring home to eat, and I can catch and release bass all day. A Louisiana fisherman’s life doesn’t get any better than that.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Winning angler-of-the-year on the FLW tour proves that Gonzales resident Greg Hackney knows how to catch bass. Although Hackney has fished professionally for less than a decade, he’s competed in tournaments since the age of 11. Hackney won the Lake Sam Rayburn Bass Tournament in 2006 and placed second in the four-day Bassmaster Legends tournament held on the Arkansas River near Little Rock. Hackney also has made 35 top-10 finishes on the Bassmaster circuit, and in July finished fifth at the Bassmaster Lake Erie tournament.