BY GLYNN HARRIS
Although the sun had not yet appeared over the horizon, the air was already warm and sticky, typical of the onset of another hot day in Louisiana. This would have been a good day to work on articles in my air conditioned office but fishing guide and friend Eddie Halbrook’s call the night before had a sense of urgency about it.
“I don’t care what you have planned for tomorrow, put it off” Halbrook said. “The bass are schooling on Grand Bayou and you need to come with me.”
The “Grand Bayou” Halbrook mentioned is Grand Bayou Reservoir, a small 2500 acre impoundment located 50 miles south of Shreveport. I don’t mind admitting a degree of skepticism when Halbrook mentioned that for the past week, he’d been catching at least a hundred bass a day. Skeptical or not, I found myself in the back of Halbrook’s boat as the bright, and soon to be hot, sun made its appearance in a cloudless late spring sky.
Somewhere around 7 am, Halbrook caught the first bass of the day. At a little past noon, I released bass number 100. We had, indeed, hit the century mark with bass in a half day of fishing that can only be described as “hot”…in more ways than one.
Grand Bayou Reservoir is like so many lakes around the country. The lake has a thriving population of baitfish, in this case, threadfin shad, that seek the highest levels of oxygen. In warm months, oxygen is more plentiful in the top of the water column. Wave action near the surface continues to replenish dissolved oxygen and huge schools of baitfish move about in comfort just beneath the surface.
For predator fish like largemouth bass, these roaming pods of baitfish are seen as a gourmet feast there for the taking. Slashing into baitfish schools, bass gorge themselves and in the process, make their presence known to alert bass fishermen from hundreds of yards away. Their feeding activity agitates the surface, often sending plumes of water flying in all directions.
Fishing for schooling bass can be at the same time exciting and frustrating. Here’s a typical scenario … a couple of anglers see a school of feeding bass erupt from 100 yards away. Starting the engine, they rush to within casting distance of the school only to see the surface become quiet again before the first cast is made. Looking back to where they just came from, they’re frustrated to see the fish thrashing the surface back there.
Thus, patience is one of the key ingredients in fishing for schooling bass. When the fish are active, the best bet is to avoid the temptation of dashing from school to school. Just be patient; they’ll soon be thrashing the water’s surface where you are.
If you take a youngster along, there is no better way to spark an interest in bass fishing that could last a lifetime than to introduce him/her/them to fishing for school bass.
For starters, school bass are generally easy to catch, the fishing experience is filled with spine-tingling excitement, and the neophyte angler is almost always anxious to do it all over again another day. Equipment needs are simple and can be easily handled by a less-experienced angler.
As bass slash into baitfish on the surface, some of the bait will be injured or killed in the process and will likely be floating in the area. Scoop up a couple and determine their color but more importantly, the size. If they’re silver in color, as most baitfish are, and are two inches long, it’s not brain surgery to know what to do next. Simply dig in your tackle box and select a silvery lure, two inches in length. If you’re hungry for an ice cream cone, you’re not likely to head for the refrigerator and go slap-happy over a celery stick. Bass are no different; they want what they want when they want it.
If you get excited at the sight of bass exploding on the surface all around you; if you thrill to strike after strike; if you get pleasure at the look on the face of your youngster fighting a tenacious bass, then school bass fishing may be right up your alley.