River woes

SHREVEPORT, La. —High, muddy water, floating debris, steamy humidity, and sizzling temperatures have made practice tough this week for anglers hoping to gain ground in the Bassmaster Central Division when the second Open of the season begins here Thursday on the Red River.

"Two weeks ago, the river was fabulous, and catching 20 bass a day was the norm," noted Elite pro Clark Rheem, who's fishing the three Central Division Opens this season and who has fished the Red River for years. "Now, however, a lot of anglers are struggling to catch just five.

"These conditions are some of the toughest I've ever seen here."

The location of numerous BASS events over the years, including the 2009 Bassmaster Classic, heavy rains in recent weeks throughout north Texas and Oklahoma — the Red River forms part of the boundary between the two states — have turned the river its namesake red. While the water has been high, levels have been slowly falling the past few days, just in time to coincide with the hottest temperatures of the year.

"One question I've been hearing a lot during practice is 'What do you do after 9 a.m. when the morning bite stops?'" continues Reehm, who finished second in the first Central Division event of the year at Lake Amistad and wants a strong finish here to help his chances for gaining a spot in the 2011 Classic. "Throwing small topwaters, frogs, and even spinnerbaits may catch a few small fish in the backwater areas, but once the temperature starts climbing, everything stops."

"Unfortunately, the normal summer bite on the river isn't working at all now, but even in the backwater sloughs the action comes to a standstill once the temperature starts climbing. With water temperatures as high as 95 degrees in some places, we really need wind to help make the fish a little more active, but we're not getting it."

The most encouraging aspect of practice, which will probably continue through the tournament, is that the bass are extremely shallow, and the majority will probably be caught in five feet or less. The timber and brush—filled backwater sloughs are tailor—made for shallow water techniques.

With daily launches at Red River South Marina in Pool 5, anglers can maximize their fishing time by running straight across the river into one of the backwaters, or continue downriver a few miles to another backwater, Caspiana Lake, where Skeet Reese won the Classic.

Other options include locking downriver into Pool 4 and even into Pool 3, but with fishing as difficult as it has been, Rheem doesn't think the long runs and time lost while locking are worth the gamble. He thinks a total of just 14 pounds a day will be needed to win, and as little as 16 pounds over two days could be enough to qualify for Saturday's final round when only the top 30 anglers fish.

"If you're fishing for points to qualify for the Bassmaster Classic or the Elite circuit, then the strategy will simply be to try to catch five bass a day," Reehm concludes, "but if you're going for a win, you have to try for big bites. Someone may bring in a 16 or 17-pound catch the first day, but right now, the chances of doing that all three days look pretty slim." 

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