Fishing in a crowd at Ross Barnett

Fishing in a crowd is unavoidable at Ross Barnett.

RIDGELAND, Miss. — The noise would be deafening if all the anglers fishing within talking distance did so at the time. That’s the best way to describe the early morning scene where 38 boats are crowded on a flat at the St. Croix Bassmaster Central Open at Ross Barnett presented by Mossy Oak. 

The flat averages 2 feet and is otherwise featureless except for isolated areas of Dollarweed, Peppergrass and hydrilla. Bluegill and shad are spawning in and around the vegetation. Crawfish are abundant. And most of all, a ditch traversing the flat is the ideal migration route for largemouth coming and going from nearby spawning areas. Denser growths of vegetation are functioning as rest stops for the transitioning largemouth. 

The description reads like the perfect storm for squeezing the strike zone into a confined area, making bass easier to intercept and catch during a tournament. Yet that’s not happening now, on the second morning of the tournament. 

The photo taken by Andy Crawford is merely a snapshot of the crowd, with 38 boats and 76 anglers all casting continuously at the same casting targets, shallow-water anchors down. 

Yesterday at this same spot, approximately 20 boats were on the flat. That changed after Bassmaster Elite Series pro Lee Livesay weighed 25 pounds, 12 ounces, most of it caught by 9 a.m.

Livesay capitalized on a sweet spot—he said it was the size of a pickup bed—where the densest vegetation grows along the ditch. He chose a simple, textbook tactic for such areas, using Texas- and Carolina-rigged lizards. Livesay used the Texas rig for casting into the vegetation; the Carolina rig produced strikes as it was dragged across the ditch. 

Day 1 leader Neal Gilmore’s area matched the above description, although it’s unknown if he was there to catch his weight of 26-9. 

As this is written around 8:30 a.m., Livesay has 1 keeper in the livewell, compared to yesterday when he’d already caught most of his limit. No one else is faring any better. 

That begs the question: Are the largemouth in the classic “postspawn funk?” The answer could be yes and no. Yes, because most of the anglers reported catching postspawn largemouth during yesterday and during practice. No, because of the fishing pressure from 225 boats and numerous other tournaments held in recent weeks. 

“These fish are under so much pressure, and when you combine that with the post-spawn funk, it makes them tougher to catch,” said Livesay. 

The flat where Livesay and 37 other boats are fishing is a known community hole on Ross Barnett, where tournaments are won from spring through summer. There are a limited number of community holes on the lake, they are productive, and they fill up with boats for every derby. 

Keith Combs, 4th yesterday with 19-1, provided more evidence of the postspawn funk theory. He caught only 6 bass all day, fished three areas, using two lures, and had to grind it out from start to finish. 

“Productive water is very limited due to the fishing pressure,” the Elite Series pro said. “You have to look for something subtle, different that is being missed by other anglers.” 

Thursday’s scoreboard also tells the story of the tough fishing. In the boater division, 65 anglers failed to catch a limit, with 33 of those catching one or no largemouth. 

Unless something magical happens between now and weigh-in time, expect more of the same.