It was late July 1993 and I had just settled into my new home south of New Orleans, just off the banks of the Mississippi. It was the middle of the afternoon and extremely hot for my first official fishing trip out in the Bayou but I didn’t let that stop me from the opportunity to fish. I found a little bait shack just off a Bayou around the Jean Laffite area and I dropped in for some intel and bait for my first fishing trip. I’ll never forget the old man sitting on a rocking chair under the porch at the shaded entrance to the old cedar plank store. He was tall, old and slender, appearing weathered from years in the sun. He had an old box fan sitting on a milk crate in the corner blowing air across the porch and an old ragged cat was lying at his feet. I introduced myself and told him I was new to the area and looking for a good spot to fish. To this day I’ll never forget him looking at me with a puzzled look and asking “Is you crazy boy?” “The only thing we do around here this time of the afternoon is sit in the shade with a cold drink”. The fact that I was standing there asking pretty much answered his question so he probably felt sorry for me and gave me some solid advice on where to go. Turns out that my first redfish was a bull redfish from the bank and at the exact spot the old man told me to go with the bait he told me to use.
I don’t know about ya’ll but the heat this week out on the lake has been staggering. Just walking out the door early in the morning is a reminder of living down in the Big Easy and that humid gulf heat hitting me in the face going to work every summer morning. It’s like that brutal humid heat is an outside house guest that has followed me here from New Orleans and won’t take the hint to leave.
This week has been the week that I have trained for my whole life. The heat that has plagued us this week is pale in comparison to the fighter jet filled tarmac in the heart of the Nevada valley desert on a hot July afternoon where the temps can reach upwards of 150 degrees during the launch sequence for a mission. I also have a sauna and spend time in my sauna about 4-5 times a week where temps go from 135 degrees when I enter the sauna to 175 degrees some 30 minutes later when I come out. I’ve been utilizing the sauna for years and I’ve become accustom to heat so running around out on the lake in the heat doesn’t really bother me as much as I let on. I usually just stock up on water, cover my body from the sun, put the heat out of my mind and head out to see what I can figure out with the bass.
It’s typical summertime on Lanier and it’s just about like any other summer right now, the thermocline is setting up and the topwater is starting to dwindle as the oxygen levels decrease near the surface. I’m still seeing some big schools of bluebacks being pushed to the surface and this will probably continue as the fish know that the bluebacks are a slower target when the surface temps warm. The problem with that scenario is that there will be very little oxygen at the surface so the bass and stripers won’t stay up on the surface long and the bluebacks tend to go a little deeper in the water column as the summer progresses. If I was in the right place at the right time this week I could make a cast with my popper or the Ima skimmer and pick off a nice bass when they were schooling near the surface. That’s why I always recommend having your topwater handy because time is critical when these fish surface chasing bluebacks. I pretty much made a morning out of running and gunning with the popper this week but I am mixing in more and more spybait and drop shot on every trip. If the topwater bite continues to slow I’ll just focus more on making good casts with the spybait and spending more time with the drop shot. I’m mainly concentrating on the main lake early in the morning and coming back into the creek midday to fish the brush piles in the creek on the way home. It seems like the fish in the creek are on a different feeding schedule from the fish out on the main lake this week. The big fish on the main lake points and humps are up early and chasing bluebacks on or near the surface and the big fish in the creek don’t get going till mid to late morning. If I was lucky this week I could find areas on the main lake where there was a little chop on the surface which was just enough distortion to fool a bass or a group of bass. If there wasn’t any wind and the surface was flat I would generally pick up the spybait and start fan casting areas around brush and over the crown of humps on the main lake. Bringing the spybait over the top of a brush pile accounted for a few of my nice fish this week but also I would bring the spybait across the crown of humps both out on the main lake and in the creek for a few good fish. Sometime while I was fishing an area the surface would go from flat to a little chop and I’ll pull out the popper and work the popper down wind and bring it back up wind and against the grain. If I’m using the popper at least 75% of the time I’m bringing it back up wind to create more surface disruption and attention. If an area goes flat while I’m using topwater, generally I’ll switch to the spybait and start fan casting. Spybaits come in all shapes and sizes now so you just need to pick out one that catches your eye and give it a shot.
Right now the drop shot is taking more of a roll in my boat and I’m spending more and more time sitting over brush and dropping after the topwater and spybait have run their course. The drop shot is working best for me the slower I work it. The Lanier Baits Blue Lily is all I used this week and if you really want to spice up the action dip the tail in JJ’s clear garlic dip. That’s been the key to dead sticking blue lily for big fish in the brush is a little garlic dip on the tail. It seems like these bigger spotted bass hold the worm longer and are more aggressive when I use the garlic scent.
All in all the topwater is slowing as the temps rise but hopefully the cooldown next week will get things rolling on the surface for me again. Water temps yesterday were 88 and on the rise and the lake is at full pool. The corps has been generating for a few hours in the afternoon and evening. Here’s some of my more memorable fish this week.