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Tidal Bass Tactics
While practicing for an important bass tournament a couple of years ago, Terry Adams had a serious problem. He was catching too many largemouth bass. He was catching 80 to 100 keeper size bass a day, but so was everyone else. Terry removed himself from the crowds of people and crowds of bass to win the state bass championship by more than 10 pounds. Another unusual aspect of 28 year old Patterson, Louisiana resident^s success story is that he was fishing the strange tidal waters of the Venice area south of New Orleans. He had never seen these Mississippi Delta waters until about a month before the tournament. Tidewater bassing was no mystery to Terry. He had grown up fishing the rising and falling waters of the Atchafalaya River. But he had never fished the Venice area, which is a three and a half hour drive from where he lives. Terry decided to fish the Venice area three weekends before the tournament. It didn^t take Terry long to realize that catching bass was not a problem in the Mississippi River. There was all the small bass he needed to cull limits out every day. However, he also realized that these same fish were available and easy to catch for the other participants. He needed bigger fish. The first thing he did was to get away from everybody. They could have all the fun they wanted catching those small fish. Terry was looking for areas with less fish, but bigger bass. He found these areas in saltier water. "I was really surprised that bass would stay in water that salty," Terry related. "It was so salty that if you picked up some in your hand and put it in your mouth you would blow it out." He found another factor was to seek out ponds and bayous off the river that had cane reeds (rosos) with grass in front of them. Most of the bigger bass were in the roots of the cane reeds, but some of them were in the grass. Terry^s daily catch total dropped dramatically during practice from around 100 to 25 to 35 bass a day. However, the average size was much better. In fact, Terry had a practice stringer of seven fished that totaled 26 pounds just missing a four pound average. Terry used this information to weigh in a consistent 17.97 pounds, 17.63 pounds and 17.53 pounds for a tournament total of 53.16 pounds. This was ten pounds better than the second place finisher. Only one other angler broke 17 pounds in one day and that angler fished with Terry. Interestingly, a severe electrical storm came up on the third day of the tournament and cancellation of the final day of competition was being considered. "Since you had a comfortable lead and the tournament locked up, were you hoping they would cancel the last day?",Terry was asked. "Not as all," Terry replied. "I had saved my best spot for the last day and I was confident I had it won whether they fished or not. On the last day, I had my seven fish limit early and with the agreement of my fishing partner came in an hour early for weigh in. I was sure I had it won and didn^t want to take a chance on motor problems or anything else." While Terry dominated the event, he had some bad luck on bigger fish due to barnacles. More than one bass estimated at four pounds or better broke line even though Terry used 30 pound test line in an attempt to combat the barnacles. Terry caught several three pounders with his largest for the tournament weighing in at three and a half pounds. Terry^s techniques should increase your chances of catching bigger bass in this fish rich delta area. The first thing he did was to read every article he could find on the area and to talk to every fishermen he knew that had fished the area. He was surprised how much good information was available just for the asking. That is how he learned that Dennis Pass and Sawdust Bay were reputed to produce bigger bass than other areas. Next he found that water color was important. He looked for ponds and bayous where the cane reeds were standing in black water, but the water outside of the grass, which was in front of the cane reeds and right on drop offs, was bright green. Tide was another important factor. The falling or out going tide always produced the best action. When the black water starts coming out of the cane reeds towards the grass, the grass will usually become alive with bait fish. Needless to say, the bait fish attracted bass. In tournaments, the hours of fishing are established by the rules of the tournament. However, when fishing for fun when you can select the time you start fishing it is a good idea to be where you want to fish when the tide is just starting to fall. A good source of information on tides and other fishing information is Dave and Debby Ballay of Venice Marina. There telephone number is 504 534 9357. Terry found them extremely helpful during his practice for the tournament. The next consideration is tackle selection. Terry used a stout, stiff action bait casting rod. His reel was filled with a limber 30 pound test line. This may sound like you are loaded for bear to hunt rabbits, but the heavy line is necessary in the areas of high salinity because of the barnacle growth. The sharp edges of the shells of barnacles will cut the line and the heavy line is a buffer that could allow you to land some of the larger bass. Terry used only plastic worms during his quest for the title. Therefore his terminal tackle was simple. He used a nickel plated 3/0 Tru turn hook and a half ounce sliding sinker rigged Texas style. Terry pointed out that he had to use the heavy sinker even though he was fishing in only four feet of water most of the time to get his plastic worms down into the cane reed roots. Smaller sinkers would hang up before they got the lure down to where the fish were. His most productive worm was the Gilraker in red shad pattern. The worm has a black back and red belly. This popular plastic worm in the coastal area of Louisiana is slightly fatter than other eight inch worms. "I would usually start out with the red shad, but it seemed after you caught a few fish, they would want something different," Terry related. "Then I would switch to Jaw Tec crawl worms in plum with blue flake or tequila patterns." It should not be a surprise to anyone that presentation is the most critical segment of Terry^s technique. If you work a plastic worm in the normal manner, you may as well stay out in the Mississippi River and catch all of those little fish on whatever you feel like casting. At least, that is the way Terry Adams feels. "You flip the worm right back into those cane reed roots behind the grass and just let it settle into the roots," Terry instructed. "If it doesn^t look like the worm went all of the way to the bottom, just jiggle your rod tip slightly until the worm falls. "When those bass are aggressive they will usually hit the worm on the fall and then it is just a matter of getting the slack out of your line as quick as you can and setting the hook as hard as you can. "If a bass doesn^t hit the worm on the fall, just let it lay there for a while. Don^t do anything. After maybe a half a minute just jiggle the end of the rod. I mean barely move the rod tip. You only want to move the worm two or three inches. "Most people have no concept of how far a lure will move in reaction to a rod tip. You can move a rod tip two inches and the lure will move a foot. The best way to see what a rod tip does to a lure is to practice in a swimming pool. Try to walk a worm across the bottom of a swimming pool in no more than six inch hops and see how hard it is to do because you have no idea how the lure reacts to even the slightest tip action. It will take some practice to get a worm to just move two or three inches in a pool, but you might never perfect this technique if you don^t practice where you can see the lure." Terry^s reasoning for this very slight twitch of the worm is that the bigger bass are lazy and will not chase anything too far. There is plenty of bait around so why should they chase something that is dashing across the bottom when all they have to do is wait a few minutes for a meal to swim within easy gulping distance. Slowly Terry moves the worm out from the cane reed roots into the grass that also holds a lot of fish because of all the bait that is using the grass for cover. When you feel the tap, the gulp or the run, set the hook and you will have an idea how Terry won the state tournament. The Venice area has an unbelievable number of largemouth bass, particularly in the Mississippi River. Terry believes there are bigger bass in the river current but few people get a chance to catch them because the smaller bass are so aggressive that they attack the lures before the sluggish four, five and six pounders have an opportunity. It is a year round fishery that will produce culled limits any month of the year. The first time I heard about it was in mid January about ten years ago.I was visiting New Orleans for the SHOT Show and had lined up a woodcock hunt right after the show. My guide on the hunt had fished the area on the day before he took me hunting. He claimed he had caught and released more than 200 bass on the day before the hunt. I was kind of skeptical then, but I believe him now. That was in mid January, which is not one of the best months to fish there. The best fishing is in the spring and fall, just like most other fisheries. But when you talk about numbers, even the off seasons will provide more action than most people are accustomed to experiencing on a daily basis. However, there are some good ones to be caught. Terry Adams proved it and now you have all his secrets to how it is done. If you get caught bringing in a stringer of dinks, shame on you. You are not working at it.

Uploaded: 2/21/2004
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