NATCHITOCHES, La. — Talented teams from across the country will head to Louisiana for the final stop of the 2023 Strike King Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops. Teams will be competing May 4-5 on the mighty Red River, a fishery where shallow-water anglers can thrive, according to Bassmaster Elite Series rookie Logan Latuso.
Over the years the Red River has played host to some of the most iconic moments in B.A.S.S. history, with Chris Lane and Skeet Reese both notching their only victories in the Bassmaster Classic there.
More recently, the St. Croix Bassmaster Opens have made a couple of visits, with Patrick Walters and Keith Poche winning in 2018 and 2022, respectively.
The College Series will launch from Natchitoches in Pool 3, and Pools 2, 3, 4 and 5 will serve as eligible waters for the competition days. Latuso said there are a couple of differences as you move down the river to the different pools.
“Pool 5 in Shreveport is pretty much all backwaters,” he explained. “Pool 4 has less backwaters and a lot more river until you get to the bottom end. Then Pool 3 has fewer backwaters and they are far between. There aren’t as many shallow-stump backwaters (in Pool 3) as there are in Pool 5.”
At the beginning of May, bass historically will be finishing up their spawning routine and those that aren’t still on bed will be moving out of the backwater areas to the main-river flow. The river should be stable unless there is a big rain event in Oklahoma.
“You’ll have some late spawners,” Latuso said. “I feel like the biggest fish in the Red River always live in the backwaters for some reason. It doesn’t matter if it is August and 120 degrees. The first week of May, I think it could be a really good river bite.”
One of the most important aspects of this tournament will likely be a shad spawn, and Latuso believes anglers will be able to capitalize on that early in the morning.
“We had a fairly warm winter, so the shad spawn bite should be starting in the river,” he said. “You find a good shad spawn bite along the riprap, but the deal with that is they are there one day and gone the next. The shad roam in the river.”
For the main-river bite, isolated wood and logjams will hold bass as well as wing dams and sandbars. Topwater presentations — along with spinnerbaits and squarebills — are productive baits that time of the year.
“Ever since the river started flooding, there are a lot of sandbars now, and the shad will get on the sandbars and the bass will push the shad on top,” Latuso said. “They started to become a big player in the last couple of years.”
In the backwater areas, wood cover plays a big role, as well as hyacinth mats and lily pads. Latuso added that there will be a bluegill spawn happening as well.
“You have pad fields where you can throw frogs and anything you can flip and punch; a Missile Baits D Bomb or some kind of creature bait is really good,” Latuso said. “I keep it pretty simple. It is river fishing.”
The full field of 275 boats will launch from the Grand ECORE Recreational Area in Natchitoches at 6:10 a.m. CT and return for weigh-in at 2:10 p.m. Full coverage will be available on Bassmaster.com.
The Emmanuel College team of Max Heaton and his partner Brooks Anderson, a member of the 2020 Bassmaster High School All-American Fishing Team presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors, will look to lock-up College Team of the Year honors on the Red River. They currently have a 12-point lead over the second-place team of Hunter Fillmore and another 2020 All-American, Dylan Fogarty, from Bethel University. The two Team of the Year anglers earn an automatic berth into the Bassmaster College Classic Bracket, a head-to-head, elimination-style tournament, where they’ll fish for a spot in the 2024 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota.
Following the College Series event, the Strike King Bassmaster High School Series presented by Academy Sports + Outdoors and the Junior Series will take the stage on May 7.
The tournaments are being hosted by the Red River Waterway Commission.