Using The Main Lake Option

It seems like just a couple months ago I was freezing my butt off dragging tiny swimbaits across the bottom of a ditch ledge at the speed of a 3 toed sloth and dreaming about the early summer topwater bite. Well, here we are, it’s early summer and the stop, pop n drop pattern is in full swing.

Last year about this time we were in a great spybait pattern but all in all the topwater was lacking. This year the spybait pattern hasn’t really took off but the topwater pattern is on fire and the popper is really showing out. Yesterday was one of those days that I could get the fish to school at every stop with the popper. A lot of times it’s just the rhythm and deep sounding popping noises that really get these summer bass worked up and yesterday the wind was just about perfect to fish the popper with success. There were a few places that the popper created enough surface disruption in dead calm water to create a strike and as the morning progressed it just got better and better. That’s another thing about these summer bass on a blueback lake; they know that the bluebacks like to come close to the surface on sunny days and once the sun gets up the gauntlet begins between the predator and prey.

Here’s a YouTube video I made yesterday. These were some of the fish I caught on the popper yesterday. I’m using a St Croix 7’1” Bass X spinning rod with a Penn Fierce III loaded with 7lb flouro.

This week was a little different for me and for a few reasons. This time of year I would be doing a lot more spybait and drop shot but this week I wanted to see if I could get a 5+ pounder for a replica wall mount. I want to do it on the popper so that makes it a bit harder. I know there are bigger profile baits out there right now that I could use and more than likely get the job done rather quickly but I want to do it on something I created so that makes it a bit tougher. I’ve mainly been fishing the main lake because of the water clarity and the boat traffic in the creek but I also know my chances of a 5+ go way up out on the main lake right now. My strategy has been to fish the places I could throw the popper where there wasn’t too much wind. A light chop is perfect so I just looked for points and humps that either had no wind or just a little wind on them. When I start throwing the popper around a moderate to larger chop my hookup percentages go way down and it get’s much harder for the fish to pick up on it. This week I’ve had a pretty solid milk run and went up the west side of the main lake to past Vanns, hit the humps on the main lake and worked my way back down the east side of the main lake. I’m mainly fishing places to I have caught big fish in the past and my electronics doesn’t play a real large part of my fishing.

I’m kinda old school and I fish a lot by memory but I do use my electronics as a reference. Let’s face it, a lot of these bass are cruising around in wolf packs right now and just throwing a loud topwater bait near brush piles could induce some schooling action on your bait. I’m using my electronics as a reference to pinpoint the brush but I’m actually working my bait all around the brush and I only move in on the brush when I feel like the topwater chances are over and it’s time to pick up the drop shot. Since it’s getting hot out, this whole scenario of pulling up and fishing and area, plus drop shotting, may only last 10-15 minutes and then I’m moving on. A lot of times the bite heats up the best in the hottest part of the day and if you can stand the heat the rewards can be worth it. Running and gunning with plenty of cold water in the boat and body coverings are the norm from now till Sept.

I also have 2 different tactics I use for the topwater pattern; first is my “Bull in the China Closet” approach where I come into an area doing a lot of splashing and popping, creating as much disruption as possible. A lot of times this will trigger the fish to start feeding and if you watch some of my popper videos you’ll see that the popper actually triggers topwater schooling around the boat. That’s the bull in the china closet approach and it’s been working well lately. My other approach is my stealth approach which also works well. I use my little 4 inch walking bait for the stealth approach and it’s more about just creating a wake and letting the bass track the wake back to the source. Waking a bait is just about as effective as popping a bait right now but sometimes one approach may work better than the other so you just need to see what works. I know a lot of folks don’t have an Emerald Popper so a good replacement is the small chug bug. It is a great choice and you can generally get the same effect as the popper. To be honest, I’d probably be using the small chug bug a lot more if I wasn’t trying to get a magnum on the popper right now.

For me the spybait bite hasn’t really taken off and I’m pretty sure it’s because we don’t have a solid thermocline yet. The stratification process is still ongoing and there is still very good oxygen near the surface, hence good topwater. Once we have a more defined line at the top end of the thermocline at 20-25 feet the fish will be more inclined to feed deeper and that’s when the spybait will really take off. It’s just around the corner and I would definitely throw it every day I’m out right now under normal circumstances. I like the Duo Realis G-fix 80 in a few different patterns. You just have to play with the colors to see what works on any given day. Just remember to count it down and fish it slow and steady around brush and out on points.

Lastly is the drop shot. It’s starting to get heated up as these fish start to pile up around their summer homes. I’m seeing more and more fish in and around the brush out on the main lake and in the creek. Right now I’ve got Lanier Baits Blue Lily worm tied on and if I see fish underneath me, I’m dropping the blue lily right on their heads. More specifically, I’m easing my boat over the brush and dropping my bait right down into the middle of the brush and dead sticking the bait. Generally there will be a bigger fish deep in the brush so don’t be scared to drop right into the thick of it. That’s where the big girls hang out.

Here’s a few pictures from my week. I did catch a lot of smaller fish that didn’t make the highlights this week but out of the 3 morning I fished this week I probably caught 30-40 fish.

They call me “Stuck-on”.

Years and years ago I worked with a guy that acquired the nickname “Stuck-on” due to the fact that he had a hard time learning from his mistakes so they claimed he was stuck on stupid. Sometimes I feel like ole Stuck-on because this week I really got stuck on throwing the popper. In terms of percentages, this week the popper probably took up about 50% of my time on the water. I’d say the little white pearl walking bait came in a close second to the popper with the fluke and spybait coming in third and the anchor was the drop shot with Blue Lily worms. The fish pictured above was caught earlier this week on the drop shot with Blue Lily.

The problem with the popper was that it wasn’t very effective this week in terms of hook-up percentages. I have to say that I only caught maybe 30% of the fish that actually schooled or blew up on the popper this week. I just couldn’t believe the amount of big fish near misses or big fish coming unbuttoned on the popper. These big fish really made it frustrating to use the popper. Another thing that really bothered me was the amount of fish following the bait without reacting to it. I literally had to quit watching my retrieve at times because it was frustrating to have fish swimming around the popper without striking at it. I think they get interested in the holographic tensile on the trailing hook swaying back and forth on the retrieve and they just follow it. At any rate, it was frustrating to watch but I just kept after it and every once in a while I could get a fish to commit to the popper so I just kept throwing it over and over and over….

This week the creek was pretty crowded so I mainly focused on the main lake and the offshore stuff. Main lake points and humps held some good fish this week and I focused on topwater being my primary pattern but I did catch some good fish on a little holographic swimbait and the G-fix 80 spybait. When I was fishing brush I caught some very nice fish throwing the weightless fluke over the brush and then when I moved in over the brush I was dropping the Blue Lily drop shot right down into the brushpile and dead sticking the worm. The bite was so subtle sometimes the fish would be on the hook when I lifted the rod without any hint of a fish eating the worm. I will say this about the drop shot bite. When I caught one deep in the brush it was a good one.

Another bait I gotta brag on this week is the little pearl white walking bait. It was a great choice early in the morning or when it was cloudy. Every once in a while a good fish would come out of nowhere and just hammer the walking bait and usually they didn’t miss so the hook up rate was pretty good. The spybait bite hasn’t really kicked off good yet but I feel like it’s coming around very soon so I keep throwing it around suspended fish that aren’t coming up or after I’ve caught a topwater fish or two and the topwater bite dies off. I think the main lake offshore bite is a little better than the creek and far less crowded so if you haven’t checked out some of the points and humps on the main lake give it a try sometime. There’s a lot less pressure out there and there are some quality fish cruising around. Lake temps are around 80 degrees right now and the lake is down about 1.5 feet. Here’s a video of my top 5-6 baits this week and some pictures from the week.

Cast Away All In Crawfish Gumbo

A few months back I discovered a new resource for frozen peeled Louisiana crawfish tails so I’ve been stockpiling the deep freeze in the garage with bag after bag for cooking all kinds of delicious recipes with crawfish. Back when I lived south of New Orleans on the West Bank I immersed myself in the local culture and a local favorite comfort food of mine was gumbo. Everyone that was local had their own special style and gumbo recipes were passed down from generation to generation. I was fortunate enough to eat a few bowls of gumbo and taste a lot of different flavors while I was there. This gumbo recipe is one that I came up with after I discovered that making a roux wasn’t my thing so I was looking for the easy button. I started using a box of gumbo base instead of creating a roux on my own. I found that my gumbo was just as tasty with a good boxed base like “Zatarain’s Gumbo Base” or “Louisiana Fish Fry Products Gumbo Base”. Those are my two favorites. Gumbo is something that I like to serve as a appetizer if we are having a seafood dish for dinner or I like a hot bowl of gumbo if I’ve been fishing on a cold winter day and l’m looking for something to warm my core. Lisa and I can make a meal out of gumbo and sliced French bread.

Ingredients

******Here are a few different brands that really give my gumbo that Louisiana taste*******.

Thomas brand Ragin Cajun Andouille Sausage in either medium or hot flavored.

Riceland brand Louisiana crawfish tails

I like to add Gumbo File’ for flavor and thickening

One of my favorites for making my base

  • 2 boneless skinless breasts or 3-4 boneless skinless thighs (about 1 1/4 pounds) cooked and cut into small pieces
  • 16 ounces of peeled crawfish tails or peeled and deveined shrimp
  • 1 pack Cajun-style andouille sausage (680g; about 8 links), sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 package Zatarain’s Gumbo Base
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper  
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen sliced okra,
  • 1/2 teaspoon filé powder, plus more as needed for serving

Cooking Directions

Here is how easy it is to make my Louisiana Gumbo… Bring water, Gumbo Base and oil to boil in large saucepot on medium heat, stirring to dissolve any lumps. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in crawfish and/or shrimp, chicken, sausage, celery, bell pepper and onion; cover. Simmer additional 30 minutes or until desired thickness. Add File’ as needed for thickness.

Serving Suggestions

I’m pretty simple when it comes to a rice bed. Here’s my favorite rice for keeping it simple. You just add a bag to boiling water and wait about 10 minutes until the rice is done and ready to drain and serve.

I prefer sliced French bread and butter as something to go with the gumbo and often times the gumbo winds up on top of the bread. Enjoy!!

Cast Away French Bread Pudding with a Kentucky Bourbon Sauce

“This is a recipe that Lisa and I came up with after a recent visit to the Bourgeois Fishing Lodge in Louisiana. We came up with the idea after talking with one of the local cooks that prepared our food for us while we were staying at the lodge. She made a delicious French bread pudding with a bourbon sauce one night and while chatting with her, she gave us some good ideas for our own personal recipe”.  

 Prep Time  10 minutes

 Cook Time 50-55 minutes

 Soaking Time overnight if possible

 Total Time  1 hour

Bread Pudding Ingredients

  • 1 loaf French bread, broken into pieces (approximately 9 cups)
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 2 ripe bananas (optional)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter melted
  • 2 tablespoons spoons ground cinnamon

Bourbon Sauce Ingredients

  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream or whole milk
  • 4 tablespoons bourbon or 2 teaspoons brandy extract

Bread and Egg Mixture Prep

  • Pinch bread into 2 inch cubes and place in a large mixing bowl Pour milk over bread, stirring to allow bread to soak up the milk.  Make sure to have enough milk to just cover the bread, being careful not to add too much milk or it will be too soupy. Thinly slice 2 bananas and fold into bread mixture.
  • In a separate bowl whisk the eggs then slowly whisk in the sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and melted butter.
  • When thoroughly blended, pour this mixture over the bread mixture and gently fold together.
  • Pour combined mixture in a metal 13×9 baking pan.
  • Cover and refrigerate 2 hours minimum but preferably overnight.

Baking Instructions

  1. Bake at 350F degrees for 50-55 minutes or until the liquid has set and the top and sides begin to brown.
  2. The outside should be a little crisp and the inside will be soft and delicious.
  3. I like to let it cool uncovered for a few minutes before serving.

Bourbon Sauce

  1. Over low heat, melt the ¼ cup of butter in a small saucepan.
  2. Whisk in 1/2 cup of brown sugar and whipping cream and continue stirring while you heat the mixture over low heat for 3 minutes.
  3. Whisk in 1/4 cup Bourbon and continue cooking over low heat for about 2 minutes. Serve immediately. The sauce should be thickened, but thin enough to pour over the bread pudding when serving.

Serve

  1. Serve warm, drizzled with the warm Bourbon Sauce.
  2. Jim also likes to add a scoop of French vanilla ice cream