Shorty Richter made sure we were on Caddo Lake, near Shreveport, LA when the sun^s rays were first detectable on the horizon. Like most largemouth fishermen, he feels that the magic times are first light and last light.
Conditions were perfect as the lanky angler eased his boat into a cypress stand with the trolling motor. The windless morning made the west Louisiana lake like a big mirror that reflected the new born day. Shorty was confident that the bass he had found two days earlier would still be in the cypress stand.
We carefully flipped plastic worms into the openings in the moss beds close to the trees. With just about each cast, Shorty recounted the good fortune he had there earlier in the week. A little over an hour later, Shorty was shaking his head and mumbling. We had carefully worked the entire cypress stand without a single strike.
"I can^t believe those fish have moved," Shorty groaned.
"But they must have. Let^s try something else."
Shorty fired up the outboard and took off for another spot which he knew usually held bass. The second spot was a long cypress point with lily pads on one side. We worked the lily pads carefully with plastic worms for another hour and still had not felt the first tap.
By this time, Shorty was showing some frustration at the lake that monopolizes most of his fishing time.
"I can^t believe we didn^t catch a fish in either one of those spots," Shorty remarked. "But don^t worry, I^ve got one more trick to try that usually works when all else fails. We^ll try the duck blinds."
Shorty fired up the engine and headed for open water, setting a course for the closest duck blind. When he was almost within casting distance, he killed the engine and moved in with the trolling motor. In the meantime, he had put aside his flipping rod and picked up a shorter casting rod with a crank bait tied to the line.
"You can keep that worm on for working the outside of the blind," Shorty advised as he maneuvered the boat into position where he could make an underhand cast into the area that concealed duck hunters^ boat just a few months ago. The cast had to be underhand because the aging brush on the top of the blind demanded a cast that was low to the water.
His first cast plunked down near the brush in the back of the blind and he only made about two or three turns on his reel handle when the retrieve came to a jolting halt.
"There he is," Shorty yelled as his bent rod indicated he had a respectable member of the largemouth family on the end of his line.
Richter put all the pressure his tackle would stand in the initial stage of the battle as he knew it was necessary to "horse" the bass away from the blind pilings and the brush attached to them or the fight would be over before it started.
After he had literally yanked the bass into open water, Shorty eased up on the fish and let the rod do most of the fighting. When he did, the bass became air-borne and vigorously shook its entire body as it attempted to rid its mouth of the treble hooks irritating it.
A half a minute later, Shorty lip landed the three and a half pounder. It was not a lunker, but a respectable start for a day that had produced no excitement until this time.
After photographing and releasing the first catch of the day, we proceeded to work the duck blind thoroughly. We used plastic worms on the outside of the blind because they could be worked in the brush and moss. Shorty worked his crank bait inside the blind and I threw a spinner bait inside the blind every chance I could while fishing from the rear of the boat. However, we never got another strike at that blind.
"We^ll hit another one," Shorty announced as our efforts were fruitless. "Most times there is only one fish hanging on a blind, but sometimes there will be two."
We ran about 1,000 yards to the next blind where Shorty^s crank bait took another bass in the two pound range from inside the boat anchorage area. That was the only fish we caught there, but the third blind produced another pound and a half bass that gobbled up a motor oil colored plastic worm I tossed into the brush on the shady side of the blind.
"Hey, three blinds, three fish," Shorty exclaimed as I landed my bass. "If this keeps up, there are enough blinds on this lake to get a boat load of fish."
Shorty spoke too soon because the next two blinds we fished produced an absolute zero, but we caught a bass here and there to turn what had been a dud of a morning into an interesting day of fishing. We did not catch any big fish, but two and three pounders can look very big when you don^t have anything in the live well.
As confident as Shorty was when the day started, he was just as relieved when the day ended.
"The duck blind pattern saved me again," he remarked. "I resort to it when the fishing gets tough and usually I^ll put some fish in the boat. There have been a couple of tournaments when I wouldn^t have had anything to weigh in if it had not been for duck blinds.
"It^s a pattern that seems to work year round. I^m not so sure how it works during duck season. I^m allergic to No. 4 shot. But I^ve found bass on duck blinds right before and right after duck season."
Before anyone gets the idea that the only thing you have to do is run your boat up to any duck blind, make a couple casts and catch bass, it should be explained that it is not quite that simple.
Just about all, if not all, duck blinds are built in shallow water because it is easier to sink the blind frame work when the water is not too deep. However, many of them are constructed close to deep water in old creek and river beds. These are the ones the bass fishermen want to seek out because even duck blind bass are more comfortable with some deep water near by to escape in.
Naturally, the blinds located closest to the deep water will be the most productive over the long run. Likewise, the blinds in flat bottom coves that might offer plenty of gunning opportunities for duck hunters are not choice locations for bass fishermen.
Shorty lives on the lake and, from spending a lot of time fishing there, knows exactly which duck blinds are most likely to hold bass. A person who does not know the lake so well is well advised to spend a little time studying the bottom before attempting this type of technique.
It is a good idea to obtain a map of the lake and spend a little time looking at the bottom and how it relates to the duck blinds. If you have a contour map, you can put X^s to mark the approximate locations of the blinds and it is obvious that the ones closest to the drop offs should be the most productive. If you don^t have a contour map, you could make red X^s for the blinds near drop offs and blue for those blinds in flat areas. A little time with a depth finder and a map could save you a lot of fishing time on those days when you might want to resort to the duck blind pattern.
Another good idea is to spend a little time each day checking out the blinds. When the fishing drops off, check the blinds in the area you are fishing and put the information on a map or store it in your mind. It doesn^t take long before you will have compiled a considerable amount of information on duck blinds. You just might want to resort to duck blind fishing some slow day and will be glad you have the information.
And don^t think Caddo Lake is the only lake where bass will hang around duck blinds. Bass are partial to wooden structure. We all know this or we would not have spent so many hours over the years casting to stumps, cypress trees, blow downs, docks and any other piece of wood we found in the water.
Why not duck blinds?
Something that is special about most Caddo Lake duck blinds is that they are in the open water and therefore must be large enough to hide the boats needed for retrieving ducks inside the blind.
The benefits to bass fishermen are two fold. First, they are large enough to provide a substantial piece of wooden structure.
Secondly, the platform that the hunters shoot from and the heavy brush keeps sunlight from hitting a section of the water and this retards the growth of hydrilla inside the blinds. The lack of weeds allows the use of crank baits and spinner baits.
On the day we were fishing, Shorty used a crank bait painted to resemble a rainbow trout. I questioned him on the use of this particular color scheme because rainbow trout are as alien as polar bears to Caddo Lake.
"I don^t know why they hit it," Shorty replied. "They just do. Maybe it^s because they^ve never seen anything like it. Sometimes I will use a silver and black lure that resembles shad, which is a natural bait, but there are times when they seem to prefer the rainbow trout pattern. I just give them what they seem to want."
Spinner baits with silver blades and either white or yellow skirts are the most productive. Adding a yellow twister tail to the hook will usually make the spinners more effective.
During late spring and summer months, shallow running spinners like Rapalas and Rebels can be used while fishing inside the blinds. Silver sided lures with either black or blue backs are the most popular.
Usually, Shorty will approach a blind so that his first cast is inside the blind. As we said before, this requires underhand casting in order to get the lure as far back in the blind as possible.
If several casts do not produce a strike, he will circle the blind casting to the brush. During the summer, this will usually mean plastic worms because of the aquatic growth, but when the grass is down in the winter spinner baits and crank baits can be used. Most of the casts are directed at the corners or the blind where the brush is thickest and the blind posts are located.
After circling the blind twice, he will usually move on to the next blind even if he catches a bass or two.
Shorty grew up on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay and when his job brought him to Louisiana, he had dreams of operating a fish camp. With Wayne Bernard a long-time friend and partner, he purchased a run-down fish camp on Caddo Lake. However, he soon realized that if he put in the time necessary to rebuild the camp and run it properly, there would be no time left for fishing.
Faced with the possibility of not having time to fish, Shorty and Wayne abandoned there plans to operate a fish camp and this gave Shorty the time he wanted to spend on Caddo Lake.
He doesn^t spend most of his time around duck blinds, but when the bass are hard to find he knows that he should head for the duck blinds. And the only decoys he needs are on the end of his line.