When the 45 qualifiers for the 2001 BASS Masters Classic gather this week near New Orleans, they'll be trying to narrow down the vast Louisiana Delta to a productive spot or two.
According to Covington, La., B.A.S.S. pro Sam Swett, the sprawling marshes, canals, river channels, and backwater swamps can be broken down into six key areas. Those areas include:
1. Bayou Black
This region between Morgan City and Houma is approximately 80 miles from the Bayou Segnette State Park launch facilities according to Swett. Anglers heading to this area, including hot spots like Bayou Penchant, Intracoastal Waterway, Orange Grove Canal, and 70 mile Bayou can expect up to one hour and 20 minute runs.
Are the canals and small lakes worth the trip? They were in 1998 for Kenyon Hill, who won the BASSMASTER Top 150 event here. In the past two years, saltwater intrusion and drought has brought low oxygen levels and dying vegetation, although Swett says that is changing.
"Right now, it's recovering from the saltwater intrusion. Houma had up to 36 inches of rain from Tropical Storm Allison, so it had a chance to flush out a lot of the toxins and saltwater that had been building up. But they've also had a lot of aerial spraying here for water hyacinth that lines the canals. Some of the areas that they didn't spray are now beginning to grow water hyacinths, so it could be the same pattern as 1999, just in a different area."
2. Des Allemands
Anglers who head in the 30 to 40 miles in this direction will have a half-hour to hour-long boat ride to the area south/southwest of Lake Pontchartrain.
Despite the lengthy boat ride, this is is a worthwhile spot since Davy Hite won the 1999 Classic here and Chet Douhit picked up the Louisiana Top 150 title here last fall. The Bayou Beouf, Lake Beouf, Mud Lake, Lake Des Allemands, and Bayou Des Allemands make up the top locations for this spot, especially where there is moving current.
Swett cautions that a run across Lake Salvador can result in treacherous waters if the wind is up.
This is the second longest boat run for Classic anglers. The location near the mouth of the Mississippi River is 90 to 125 miles and a two to two and a half-hour boat ride from the launch facility.
With good milifoil and rosseau cane growth, there is some good fishing here. But the lengthy run through a maze of bayous and canals or a run in the open Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of Cutter's Canal can be treacherous.
That's not mentioning the short window of opportunity to fish.
"The Venice area will have one key and one key only and that's the stage of the Mississippi River," said Swett. "This is a year where it will be the angler's biggest gamble."
4. Caernarvon (Delacroix)
As the crow flies, Swett said that this region is only 17 miles from the launch site. But there's no easy boat path to the spot and anglers will have to make a horseshoe shaped jaunt of 100 to 125 miles through two river locks and a portion of the Gulf of Mexico.
Top areas include Lake Lery where good milfoil should be blooming early next month, along with Spanish Lake and Oak River. With grass, current, and canals, this area should be filled with bass.
"This is a gamble too, because there is no lock schedule. Even though it's the BASS Masters Classic, a boat in the Classic is a pleasure boat and barge traffic takes precedence so an angler could be delayed in getting there.
5. Lake Salvador
Swett said this area is roughly eight to 20 miles from the launch ramp and a half-hour boat ride. Duck blinds provide some cover, as does newly growing grass.
"The grass is starting to come back now and hopefully in a month, there will be enough to pull the bass back.
6. Cutter's Canal
These old Texaco oil rig canals are roughly a half hour boat ride and 15 to 20 miles from the launch. But according to Swett, there is so much aquatic vegetation that the bass can stack up along the edge of milfoil and hydrilla flats.
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