The Atchafalaya Basin, part 1

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Steve Bowman

The last Central Open is coming up at the end of the month. It’s on the Atchafalaya Basin, one of the most interesting fisheries in the United States. It deserves some attention. And, in fairness, I think this year’s Central Open schedule deserves some attention, too.

I don’t always fish Opens, but I’m going to fish the Basin. It’s near my house, and I have a little time this fall. Those are pluses. The biggest deal, though, is the Basin itself. For openers, it’s one of the few places that can handle a 200 boat professional level tournament.

In most of the Opens what you have is that towards the end there will almost always be two, three or four boats fishing the same spot. The angler who catches the most fish from that spot will win. Not so in the Basin. You might fish all three days and never see another competitor except at the ramp.

That’s my kind of tournament, and I’m not the only one who thinks that way. I’d guess that at least 50 anglers are fishing the Central Opens this year because of this tournament and because of the overall schedule.

If you’re from my part of the country, you understand what I just said. The first Central Open was on the Arkansas River. The second was on the Red River and this one’s in a swamp. For a Southern angler wanting to qualify for the Elite Series or for someone who wants to fish a Classic this is about as good as it gets. B.A.S.S. did us right this year.

Enough of that. Let’s get back to the Atchafalaya Basin.

Unless you’ve fished it or studied a map closely it’s hard to visualize how much water is really there. It’s fed by the Mississippi River along with a couple of smaller rivers. There are a series of locks that divert about 30 percent of that water into the Atchafalaya River which flows west of the Mississippi and into the Basin.

From where we’re going to launch you can run about a hundred miles in any direction. The area north is full of canals, deeper water and lots and lots of Cypress trees. To the south it’s more like a swamp with not so much wood but with an unlimited amount of grass. The areas east and west are just as good.

On any of those runs you’ll see at least a hundred places where the tournament can be won. This is a seriously target rich environment. Everywhere you look there’s a place that looks good, and if it looks good we’ll be throwing at it.

With the water down and little rain predicted between now and the tournament, I’m expecting a good bite. Huge numbers of anglers will catch limits. In fact, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if every angler caught a limit. It’s that good.  Now, to be fair, the bass aren’t giants. Nevertheless, there’s no doubt there’ll be dozens of anglers with 10 pounds each day. That won’t be enough to win, but it’ll keep you in the running.

We’ll talk some more about this great fishery next week.

Editor's note: Read part 2.