January 27, 2016

Catching Bass Makes Better Inshore Anglers


Our inshore fishery is the greatest in the nation, but it has all of us terribly spoiled. We catch nice coolers of redfish and speckled trout year round. For those of us who are used to doing things a certain way it can be hard to pick up new techniques. Bass fishing helps us overcome that.

There we were, years ago, on a stereotypical "successful" fishing trip in the marsh. It was October, the sky was partly cloudy and the water temperature had finally dropped low enough that speckled trout were coming closer to the dock. We were indeed close to the dock; I could hear boats launching as we were steadily putting trout in the boat. There wasn't much size to them, we had a lot of throwbacks, but we were slowly reaching our limit.

Our arsenal of tackle wasn't much to brag about. There was not a single baitcaster in the boat and all of the rods were outfitted with popping corks, ready to launch live shrimp across the water towards the mouths of hungry speckled trout. Only one spinning rod had an artificial lure on it: a modest, but effective, glow chartreuse sparkle beetle on a 1/4 oz jighead.

In a few hours the fiftieth speckled trout hit the ice and we thought we were heroes of the marsh. In actuality our fishing performance was average at best, having scratched out a limit under good conditions using live shrimp. I'll admit that I was not yet "Fishing Smarter" and could have done better despite having so much fun.

Fast forward years later to a different fishing trip.

Conditions were similar but this time we were standing high above the water, on a platform lashed down to the bow of a shallow-drafting aluminum boat. Two of us pressed against the sissy bar of the platform; we were working our way across a shallow pond on the hunt for redfish. I operated the trolling motor and shallow water anchor as I pointed out the golden bronze beasts to my friend.

This particular friend is a life long angler of the Louisiana marsh and has caught speckled trout and redfish in the past. In fact, he has caught a lot of them. The only thing is that he has always caught those fish the same way: using a popping cork with live or dead shrimp. Sometimes he would throw artificial lures but always with the same basic retrieve.

"There's one," I'd say as I subtly pointed out the fish, being careful not to spook her. Sometimes I would see the redfish first, sometimes my friend would. When we were close enough, he'd flip the bail on his spool, finger the line and make a cast....a cast that put the lure directly on the forehead of the unsuspecting redfish.

I laughed. Not at my friend, but at the poor redfish who was minding her own business before getting thwacked in the face by a jighead. Predictably, she shot down the shoreline in terror, spooking a few of her friends in the process.

We were having a blast, watching all kinds of fish from the vantage point of the platform and catching them. Alas, my poor friend only caught one. It's not that we didn't see a good deal of redfish, we saw 34, it's just that catching them from a stand is slightly technical; it can be more difficult. A lot of my friend's casts were like the one that hit the redfish in the forehead: they were too close or too far away, rarely were they on the money. He was accustomed to cork fishing, not sight fishing. Casting a popping cork into open water is easy, but making a precision cast and presentation is not. I know, I used to be horrible at sight fishing reds and today I believe I am "okay." We can always get better at our passion.

On another trip I had brought along an avid bass angler. He had moved to Louisiana from Georgia and this was his first time going sight fishing for redfish. Conditions were great and he was nailing redfish left and right, making awesome casts, both near and far, careful not to spook the bronze beauties and perfectly present the lure to them in a manner that was irresistible. He was doing so well because he learned to fish on a lake for a finicky and elusive fish, whereas my friend grew up using only a couple techniques to target fish that were much easier to catch.

Looking back on my own journey as an angler I can tell you the people who walk into inshore fishing and do well are bass anglers. While inshore anglers are soaking shrimp, waiting for a cork to go under bass anglers are pitching, flipping, jigging, twitching and doing whatever else it takes to put that bass in the boat. I whole heartedly believe in taking a break from speckled trout and redfish to pursue a species that will teach you more about fishing and accelerate your angling education. I have done this and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

devin denman largemouth bass pearl river louisiana

This largemouth bass was had close to home and would only strike a crankbait being deflected off of aquatic grass.

How does bass fishing make you a better inshore angler?

Bass fishing is more difficult for a number of different reasons. Because of this you will be forced to become a better angler. Afterwards you can return to the marsh with your new skills and enjoy success with speckled trout and redfish. You will have more fun than you have ever had!

Bass fishing will hone your casting skills

Bass are had across the nation and found in a wide spectrum of habitat, from fresh to brackish and from shallow to deep. Their habitat can be so different that it will force you to use different kinds of equipment, tackle and techniques in order to land them. Casting across open water towards a shoreline in the marsh is easy, but things become much more difficult when you have to pitch under docks or overhanging trees.

gabe minnich largemouth bass angler louisiana

Gabe was able to land this nice bass because he can toss a baitcaster like a pro.

Having to work around obstacles and benthic structure like pilings, sunken trees and lily pads poses new challenges that require precision casting. To succeed in fishing these environments an angler must acquire new skills.

You get to try new lures

When you are fishing speckled trout the aim is to find a horde of dumb trout in a feeding frenzy ready to bite anything. However, I have been on plenty of fishing trips where we caught limits of trout that wanted a specific lure, color or presentation. If we had not been Fishing Smarter we would have struck out or only caught a few.

I cannot tell you how many lures I have retrieved across a spot before the right one caused the bass to come out and nail it. Bass fishing is the ultimate experience in persistence fishing.

With bass fishing you will try Texas-rigged worms, deep diving crankbaits and more. Most bass lures are really just redfish lures and vice versa. I have found that my favorite redfish baits started life in the bass angling world. I know I talk about throwing crawfish-imitation soft plastics for redfish, but I really like throwing a Mann's Baby 1 Minus, too. I have caught redfish and bass on both.

Mann's Baby Crankbait 1 Minus largemouth bass

This bass couldn't resist the Baby One Minus...

Mann's Crankbait Baby Minus One Redfish

...and neither could this redfish.

You will learn new techniques

In many places bass are fished so much that there is a lot of pressure on them. They become wise to the ways of the bass angler and adapt in order to not get caught. On the other hand, speckled trout wandering the vastness of the Louisiana marsh may have never seen a Vudu Shrimp hanging lifelessly from a cork before in their life and will quickly strike.

Bass anglers are found far and wide, fishing everything from deep, rocky lakes to shallow and murky swamps. They have all developed their own techniques for locating and catching bass that will give you new tools to add to your inshore fishing arsenal. You can learn how to pitch, flip, work a suspending lure, twitch a worm and much more. Frequent fishing forums and you may find something new to try out on specks or reds.

Lock One Pearl River Louisiana waterfall

Fishing for bass can present unique challenges like this outlet on Lock One in Pearl River, Louisiana.

Setting the hook on bass improved my hook sets on redfish, seeing they both have hard mouths, unlike a speck, and need that hook driven into and through it. I stopped losing redfish when I went to a larger hook size that I'd drive through the side of their mouth.

You will be able to fish more often

Right now, in January 2016, fishing for speckled trout is a little tougher with cold fronts and high river water. Last week's cold front was a doozy according to our Inshore Fishing Forecast and really muddied up a lot of water in the marsh. It can be tough fishing in 20 knot winds in the marsh, but you have cover from the wind when you are in the swamp or an enclosed pond. This is one way bass anglers have it easier! You can spend time fishing, not fighting a nasty wind.

Chicot Lake Largemouth Bass louisiana angler freshwater cypress trees

This largemouth bass was taken in Chicot State Park on a Mister Twister Poc'it Craw. Note the cypress trees that break a strong spring wind. We don't always have this advantage in the marsh.

It's part of growing as an angler

I love going to new places and trying new things and will never get bored of fishing because of this. If you spend enough time watching fishing report forums you will see usernames come and go. They try fishing, have a good trip or two (like the one I had at the top of the page), post some reports, then the conditions change and they fail to adapt, failing to catch fish and, consequently, fail to have fun. Some people just get tired of doing the same thing and leave to pick up golf or bowling. If you catch a big largemouth bass on a crankbait for your first time you will have fun trying to catch redfish and trout on one, too.

For these reasons bass fishing will make you a better inshore angler. I started life out in the inshore world and rarely fished freshwater. There was even a time I mistakenly looked down on freshwater fishing and I regret that. Today I see the opportunity to target bass as an opportunity to become a better angler and open new doors; new doors that lead to sight fishing redfish and targeting big speckled trout. This is a part of my journey of Fishing Smarter and it can be yours, too.

If you are looking for places to fish for bass in Louisiana, then just visit our forum at Louisiana Fishing Reports and post a topic or look for bass fishing reports.

Captain Devin

About the Author

Devin is a veteran of the Iraq War and former fishing guide. He founded Louisiana Fishing Blog in 2012 to share his ideas as a charter captain and still writes in it today. Since then he's created a fishing university — LAFB Elite — where he teaches inshore anglers how to safely navigate Louisiana's coast and catch more fish.

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