While most of the nation is shivering and snooping around deeper haunts for wintering bass, anglers follow a different set of rules for largemouth inhabiting Southern Louisiana waters. With mostly warm conditions accommodating shorts and t-shirts right through Santa’s visit, the fish are usually in a cooperative mood — even in the colder times.
For an insider’s look, we asked a trio of Louisiana-based Elites for their favorite ways to enjoy the Bayou State bounty.
Knock 'em out
In renowned hotspots like the Atchafalaya Basin, Bayou Black and lakes Cataouatche, Caddo and Chicot, Caleb Sumrall spends many December days punching isolated mats tucked amid cypress trees. Such scenarios, he said, are usually few and far between, but they’re definitely worth the search.
“Typically, you’re not going to find a lot, but when you do find mats between trees and the bank — especially at the mouths of ditches, drains or marsh outlets — it’s going to be money,” said the pro from New Iberia. “The mat is a roof; it’s the first thing to warm up in the morning when we have colder nights. When that sun hits it, that mat is like a heating blanket for the fish.
“In the wintertime, I’ve sat on one mat and caught 30 fish without moving my boat.”
Sumrall does his punching work with a Missile Baits D-Bomb rigged on a 4/0 Gamakatsu Super Heavy Cover Flipping Hook with a 3/4- to 2-ounce weight and 60-pound Sunline X-Plasma braid. If he’s getting short strikes, or if the water’s super clear, he’ll downsize to a Baby D-Bomb and a 3/0 hook. Top colors are Bruiser Flash, California Love and green pumpkin.
“I keep it simple. I really don’t think the fish notice the bait color that much; it’s more of a reaction bite,” Sumrall said. “If I feel like I need more bulk, I’ll add a Delta Lures punch skirt.”
Technique tip: Pay attention to the soak time. The punch-drop-repeat routine may work in the warmer season, but this time of year, Sumrall reminds himself to vary his presentations to determine what triggers the fish.
“The (stocked) Florida-strain largemouth really get lethargic in the wintertime, so you really have to pay attention to what they want,” he said. “I may flip the bait in there, yo-yo it three or four times and the next time, I might pull it up to the mat and shake it for about five seconds and leave it in there a little longer.
“If I get a bite on a four-second soak, I might try to concentrate on that (timing). That’s the most important thing in the wintertime — forcing lethargic fish to bite.”
Also important to Sumrall — the lightest weight that will pull his bait through the mat. And don’t interrupt the fall, he said. If the fish feels your resistance before you feel the fish, that’s usually a blown opportunity.
Also a fan of punching those cypress swamp mats, Robbie Latuso of Gonzales, La., shows the trees some Christmas love, too. For him, pitching a 1/2-ounce black/blue Missile Baits Ike Flipping Jig with a black/blue Zoom Super Chunk around the base of these distinctive trees is the best way to connect with a good one.