It's a hard job, but someone has to do it!
Preuette and Blackett are targeting fish in junk mats next to the bank. These mats consist of leaves and twigs mostly that floated up from the forest floor due to the flood waters. The key here though is next to the bank. There are very few places on the river right now where you can fish an actual bank. Most places theirs a hard edge of trees with water extending back in to them a couple hundred feet. With a little extra effort, ULM can skip a soft plastic bait back into the trees here and actually target fish sitting under these mats along the bank.
Caught up with Day 1 leaders ULM as they were making their way into their second stop of the morning. After a 30 minute run upriver I was just nearing the mouth of the backwater they told me they'd be in when they came scooting by. Lucky that they did because I would have never found them otherwise. Basically we just idled through a forest, over a concrete barrier and then popped out into a lake that I had no idea existed.
I asked the obvious question, could you usually get back here? The answer was no. Due to the high-water levels we were able to idle clean over a concrete barrier that usually tops out 5 feet above the water line.
Interesting day already...
Not exactly what you want to find on the other end of your line! (Photo by Drew Porto)
So far I've covered 15 miles of river and I've stuck my head in a few backwaters. I've only seen 3 boats and zero fish. Looks like a lot of teams made a long run.
Here we are on the beautiful Ouachita River for the Carhartt College Series Central Regional.
Due to heavy rainfall, the river has burst out of its banks and is rolling along over 10 feet higher than its normal pool.
Muddy, cold, swift water isn't exactly ideal when targeting bass so these college anglers definitely have their work cut out for them.
I've actually fished the Ouachita River in the past. We were here for a week in the fall a few years ago and the river was brutal on us. A lot of small fish but really hard to catch anything any size. But I had heard about how good the river could fish in the spring.
So when I heard the Carhartt College Series was coming to West Monroe, I was excited to see what these guys would do differently.
I don't think any of us were counting on 10 extra feet of water.
The Ouachita River is basically a river channel with a system of backwaters that are blanketed with stumps. In a lot of these backwaters, you could actually step from stump to stump and walk a mile. Most of these stumps are normally 6 inches under murky water. So the good news,these stumps are now 10 and a half feet underwater.
The bad news is now there are a bunch of other random hazards hidden by the high water. But at least you can go down a bank (if you can get to one) without hitting something with the trolling motor every 2 seconds.
One thing's for sure, a bass is still a bass. It's still got to do what a bass has to do regardless of the water level. And in April, it's got to lay some eggs. So the bass are going to be shallow, likely around some wood.
So somebody on this system is going to find all the pieces to the puzzle today. A little backwater with a little clearer water, a little warmer water, and an area where they can pitch and flip scattered stumps and lay downs in 1 to 4 feet of water.
Or they're going to catch them on a spinnerbait...
... or a crankbait...
... or something else.
Who knows really? All I know is that I'm going to be taking pictures. Check back later on Bassmaster.com for those and and the story about what really happened later tonight.
From the Arkansas anglers- "Making the long run close to our home state of Arkansas! University of Arkansas! Go hogs!"
On the eve of competition, Texas A&M Kingsley, University of Arkansas, and Texas Tech chow down on some good Louisiana food.
Tucker Oliver from the University of Missouri. Photo by Tyler Cooper.