Huge bass taken in the Calcasieu River this spring and summer were quite the surprise to most anglers who regularly fish this scenic stream located north and east of Lake Charles, La.
The lunker largemouth that made the most headlines this summer was a bass at 10.6- pounds taken by 36-year-old Johnny Watkins of Lake Charles on June 4. It may be the largest recorded bass ever taken on the river.
“I caught the bass on the north end of the river after launching from White Oak Park (Ward 8),” said Watkins. “This bass was taken next to a cypress tree with a good ring of cypress knees around it near a cut.”
Watkins caught his Calcasieu River trophy when flipping a ½-ounce, black/blue Stanley flipping jig with a 3 ½- inch black/blue Y-NOT trailer. He was certainly not expecting to catch a bass of this size in the Calcasieu, although he had taken four bass over 9- pounds on Toledo Bend earlier in the year.
“Prior to this fish, my largest bass on the Calcasieu River was a 6-pounder,” he said.
Earlier in March, another double-digit bass was taken by 28-year-old Shane Cormier of Topsy.
The fish weighed 10.24- pounds and was taken on April 14.
“I was flipping Reaction Innovations’ Sweet Beaver and tube jigs in scattered patches of grass and near floating water hyacinths,” said Cormier. “I caught her on about my 10th flip on a ¾- oz. weighted tube jig.
“The waters were about 1 ½- feet higher than it normally is, and this happened during a quick afternoon trip (2:30 p.m.to 4:30 p.m.) on the Calcasieu,” he said. “I was really surprised, and every time I got her close to the boat the fish would go under it.
“I finally got her in, weighed her and measured the bass at 26- inches,” he said.
Cormier is also no stranger to catching big bass as he has taken two bass over 10- pounds at Toledo Bend – an 11.0- pounder taken on July 15 and another 10.24- pounder taken on September 24, 2012. Both of these huge Toledo Bend bass were entered into the Toledo Bend Lunker Bass Program which is sponsored by the Toledo Bend Lake Association. The group offers free replicas to anglers catching double-digit bass if they allow the fish to be released.
As for the Calcasieu River this year, Cormier and fishing partner Craig Byrley also weighed in the third largest three-fish limit ever taken during the Calcasieu River Dogfights hosted by Lake Charles’ Ron Castille – 12.88- pounds of bass.
“Before this year, it would have taken 6- pounds to win this tournament on the Calcasieu River,” explained Castille. “This year that weight has been bumped up to 7 ½- pounds – an improvement.”
“Also there have been probably four fish over 10- pounds taken on the Calcasieu River recently,” added Castille.
Late fall and winter bassin’ locations and expectations
Avid bass angler Watkins endears spending fall days fishing cuts in the central and northern portions of Calcasieu River in November.
In a recent fishing trip, he concentrated his efforts near cuts south and north of White Oak Park.
“I like what I am seeing,” said Watkins referring to the many schools of small menhaden (pogies) working along the banks, cuts and tributary bays.
His main approach was to work small naturalistic perch- and shad colored- Storm Chug Bugs in the interior of the cuts and up to 20- yards into the river.
Taking three bass in a couple of the cuts, Watkins then started casting a Stanley Ball Buster Buzzbait.
“I really enjoy casting topwaters and buzzbaits,” said Watkins. “They’re very productive in the river in the fall.
Watkins also found schools of baitfish that were under attack by both bass and ladyfish in Burnett Bay, Goss Bay and Old Town Bay. The baitfish were easily spotted hurtling out of the water as bass would literally cut through the schools of fish.
He threw the aforementioned Chug Bugs and small baby bass colored Bandit crankbaits into the fray resulting in more than just a couple of bass in every location.
“I would advise anglers that these areas can be great in the fall,” said Watkins.
“But it’s mainly about the cuts,” he explained. “The bass become conditioned to the fronts blowing all the water and bait out of the marsh cuts and swamps.
“Fish the cuts and key on large structures such as cypress trees and laydowns on the edges,” he explained. “The first 20 yards or so on either side of a cut can also be productive. In this area I would throw crankbaits, spinnerbaits, topwaters, and jigs.”
Topsy’s Shane Cormier shared his fishing ideas for bass fishing in November in the Calcasieu River.
“I would fish it slow with plastics and jigs,” he said. “I would use a Sweet Beaver by Reaction Innovations and punching this and jigs in and round the grass. I will also use Chug Bugs for bass working baitfish.”
Cormier focusses his bass fishing from White Oak Park upwards toward the Hecker area on the river.
“At that time I am fishing laydowns and patches of grass in this area,” he said. “I would use the Chug Bug in the cuts especially when black water is pouring out of the cuts after rain and frontal systems pass.”
According to the angler, many of his good bass have been taken on the Chug Bug. Admittedly, his larger bass have ranged from 2 ½- pounds upwards to an occasional 7- pounder.
“I’ll also find them schooling up on baitfish in the middle of various sections of the river,” he added.
“And I would certainly not pass up offshore structure in 30- feet of water both south and north of White Oak,” he described. “Cast a Chug Bug on the eddy side of the structures, and you can be really surprised about the bass you can catch.
“In the West Fork area, work any structures such as bridge pilings and there should be bass there,” he added.
All waters mentioned above can be easily reached by launching at White Oak Park (Ward 8) located near the West Fork of the Calcasieu River just 4 miles off Interstate 10 east of Lake Charles. White Oak Park’s address is 5584 River Road, Lake Charles.
(Note by author: Portions of this author’s story ran in the October issue of Louisiana Sportsman magazine)