To win the 2012 Red River Classic, an angler is going to have to be versatile and patient at the same time. I have fished the Red River for over a dozen years, and I can attest to the fact that there are huge bass lurking in the red, muddy, stump filled, backwaters of the Red River. Typically the Red River will have a water temperature around 45 degrees, give or take two or three degrees. The mild winter the country has experienced is no different here. This has prevented the main river waters from cooling to normal winter temperatures. This also has allowed the backwaters and oxbows to remain warmer than normal. The extended forecast for the area is calling for upper 60’s for day time highs and mid 40’s for night time lows all three days of competition. What does this mean for the tournament anglers, the spawn is starting! I talked before how this is shaping up to be the perfect storm of bass fishing and that storm keeps brewing.
The angler that finds the ditch, drain, or cut that runs between a spawning flat and deep water (remember relativity, 10 feet is deep water here) and can exploit pre spawn and spawning bass over the course of three days is going to be our victor. Bass will be migrating in big numbers into these areas. An angler willing to stay put and methodically work a spawning flat and the travel route leading to it will do very well. Over these three days, bass will be moving along these routes all day long. While it is just the nature of some of the anglers to run and gun, I think this may be a mistake for this event. An angler that capitalizes on one area waiting for the fish to move to him, like a deer hunter in a tree stand, is going to do very well.
Anglers like KVD have made a living at the run and gun pace fishing and have mastered it to a degree that I will probably never understand. In this event, I think a run and gun will cost you valuable casts. However, a possible option that will fit into the anglers that would rather cover water versus stake out an area is the massive spawning grounds the Red River Oxbows have to offer. Some of these flats are so large that an average angler couldn’t possibly cover them in a day. These kind of areas are perfect for the machine like anglers competing in the Classic. Hit as many stumps as you can in a day and cull up to the biggest five. An angler could literally play this angle and never hit the same stump twice in 3 days of competition.
The last classic on the Red River was won by Skeet Reese; he fished the same area all day long. The majority of this area was a ridge that went from 8-10 feet of water up to 1.5 and 2 feet of water. There was one break in the ridge where a drain went through it that was 4 feet deep. Skeet worked back and forth along this ridge playing his intuition as to when to fish shallow or fish deep. Using cloud cover, air temperature, wind, and all the factors he could gather, Skeet would decide what bait and what depth to fish. An area like this could do it again this year.
The Red River has more oxbows, nooks and crannies than I care to list. Some of the major players should be:
Port Lake, this is where the anglers will launch. While parts of it will be off limits because it’s the host marina, the back waters of this oxbow can be fantastic. Basically the whole oxbow is a giant flat with a 10 foot ditch running the length of one side. Fish will migrate through drains in this oxbow into the buck brush and very shallow ridges. I would not be surprised to see several big fish come from this area. The biggest problem with Port Lake is it fishes small, if too many anglers stay in this area it has no chance of lasting three days. This oxbow will be as muddy as the main river, current pushes up in it very easily.
Heading south, next up would be the Do Not Dredge oxbow. While this area fishes smaller than Port Lake, it has some fantastic spawning grounds in the far northern reaches of the oxbow. It’s difficult to find your way through the massive stump infestation; however, it’s well worth the trip. Only a couple hundred acres in this area, if one had it to himself, it could win. There will be some clearer water in the far reaches of this oxbow, with two ponds that do not see river water at all. Rain water could have them slightly stained though.
Still heading south is one of my favorites, White House. This is a large oxbow with all the habitat to sustain bass year round. There are three different spawning ground in this oxbow with ridges and drains scattered throughout. White House has hundreds of acres of spawning possibilities and even the likes of KVD’s casting ability couldn’t fish it all in a day. This oxbow has current from the main river in it when the river is high, like now. This causes White House to be a little more muddy than the rest of the oxbows. I have found that his can help, the areas out of the current will warm quickly because of the muddy water, and the bass are less spooky. Pick up a jig and spinnerbait and get after it. In the White House area, the actual original oxbow will be fairly clear, and there might be some sight fishing to be had there.
Heading south there are numerous small cuts and ditches running behind levees and sand bars. These areas will hold some fish but nothing that will be Classic worthy.
McDade oxbow was recently dredged out. Before this, it was very difficult to get into, and someone willing to spend an hour trying was rewarded with solid limits. However, now it’s become very popular with the easy access and while it still has quality fish, they are a lot more pressured. This oxbow usually has some of the clearest water available on the river this time of year.
Next up will be Caspiana. This is a gigantic area that can be broken down into Caspiana Oxbow, Shaw Lake, Gator hole, and BoBo hole. They are all connected, and encompass miles of stump filled ridges and flats. This is the area Skeet was in for the last classic on the Red. Many other anglers were in this area of the river. Boyd Duckett opened the last classic with a 20+ pound bag fishing in Shaw Lake. Rick Clunn, Aaron Martin, and many others were here. Parts of this area have access to the main river and will be muddy with some current on them. The clearest of this entire area will be the Caspiana Oxbow it’s self, it has steeper banks that are covered in standing timber and laydowns. Usually to steep for spawning activity but the far end of it tapers and will have sight fishing possibilities; however it’s a very small portion.
To more major areas in pool 5 that normally don’t see much play are Knee Knock and Bishops. Bishops rarely produces and is pretty much current swept making it a better summer area. Knee Knock has the potential.
There are many different oxbows, and it would take me a book to describe them. I’ll going to talk about a couple. Just through the lock is Casons, this is pretty void of stumps; however, the locals plant a lot of brush tops, it’s easy access and will allow for a quick run and gun style of fishing once the tops are found.
The two major areas to watch for out of pool 4 will be Sulivans and the Jungle. Last year Horton and Fralick fished the Jungle and managed very good bags. Fralick was within another good fish or two of winning. The areas they fished in the Jungle are just as I described in the opening, flats with drains. Sulivans is where Ike, came in second. When I fish pool 4 this is where I head. The area is big enough that you can fish it all day and not see the same tree twice. It is full of ridges ranging from 1 to 6 foot of water. Filled with lilly pad stems, timber and dotted with cypress trees, sulivan’s has all a bass could want.
Two options I don’t know much about but could be players are going north of Shreveport. At this point, I don’t know if B.A.S.S. will allow them to do that. Typically pool 5 is considered from the lock and dam north to the highway 220 bridge and if this is the case then running north will not be an option that will produce a winning stringer. Lastly is pool 3, I have never fished it. I know Ish Monroe and Shaw Grigsby have water they like to fish in pool 3, but making that run is going to be a serious commitment. By the time an angler made it to pool 3, there would only be maybe two hours to fish.