Pascagoula will fish “small” - Major League Fishing

Pascagoula will fish “small”

February 13, 2001 • Rob Newell • Archives

D’IBERVILLE, Miss. – “Small” was the bass fishing buzzword this past week during the practice round of the second FLW Tour stop on the Pascagoula River in Mississippi. That is because a majority of the bass in the Pascagoula and Biloxi tidal river systems tend to be in the 1- to 2-pound weight class. Giant largemouth bass, like some of those caught at the FLW Tour opener at Okeechobee, will be not be a factor here. A 4- to 5-pound largemouth is considered a trophy fish on these two tidal rivers.

Small is a term that is also being used to describe the amount of productive fishing areas available to the 350 pro and co-angler entrants this year. Unlike last season, when tournament waters were restricted only by boat gas capacities, this year’s tournament waters have been restricted to the Pascagoula, Biloxi, and Tchoutacabouffa waterways within the state of Mississippi.

Last year’s Pascagoula event found tournament anglers traveling as far as Louisiana and Alabama, via the Gulf of Mexico, in search of bigger fish. Mobile Bay rendered three of the top five finalists, including eventual winner Scott Martin.

In addition to the rules limiting fishable water, Mother Nature has cinched the noose on the productive water, as well. Some anglers claim that drought has allowed saltwater to encroach farther up into the tidal marshes and creeks, making them less productive. Others say a very cold winter has pushed many bass into the main tributaries.

Whether it is saltwater or cold weather, one thing is evident: many of the marsh backwaters and tidal creeks do not have the clear water and lush vegetation they harbored last year. As a result, the upper ends of the tributaries are likely to receive the most fishing pressure during the tournament.

Water temperatures in both river systems have been ranging from 58 to 62 degrees. The Pascagoula’s water color is muddier than last year, while the Biloxi River offers good water clarity. Another variable, not usually a factor in FLW events, is tides. Tidal fluctuations, up to two feet, have an impact on the feeding habits of these delta-oriented bass.

Some pros want a rising tide to position fish around wood cover, while others desire a falling tide which increases water flow in the rivers and positions fish in predictable locations. Regardless, tide tables call for rising tides during all four competition days.

Small fish and small fishable waters mean small weights. Last year, the top-10 cut on the pro side, after two days, was 16 pounds. Three-time FLW winner Rick Clunn looks for the weight cut to drop to 14 or 15 pounds this year. “I have not caught near as many fish in practice this year as I did last year,” comments Clunn. “Decreased productivity and increased fishing pressure means a lower weight tournament. I think if an angler catches 7 1/2 pounds each day, he will be in the top 10.”

Another aspect of the Pascagoula FLW tournament that should prove interesting is two completely different launch sites. On days 1 and 2, the tournament will put in at Indian Point Marina on the Pascagoula River. On days 3 and 4, the tournament will launch into Biloxi Bay at the D’Iberville City Marina. The Biloxi and Pascagoula river systems are separated by the Mississippi Sound and Gulf of Mexico. Anglers running from one river to the other will have to run in the exposed waters of the Mississippi sound for 25 miles and sacrifice anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours of fishing time, depending on the conditions.

An angler who chooses to fish the Biloxi River will have to make the long run through the Sound the first two days, but should he make the top 10, will launch right into the Biloxi River on days 3 and 4. Conversely, anglers that fish in the Pascagoula the first two days will have to make a long run the last two days. Considering the Mississippi Sound could become impassable due to high winds on any of the four days, an angler had best know how to coax fish from both rivers.

It is a unique situation that FLW Tour mainstay Bernie Schultz takes into account strategically. “Obviously the best deal would be to know good places in both rivers so you never have to make the long run,” says Schultz. “That way you never lose any fishing time. The quality of fish is about the same in both rivers, so it may come down to who gets to fish the longest.”

Schultz adds that an angler could gain as much as four hours of fishing time over the course of four days if he is proficient in both rivers and does not have to spend time running across the Mississippi Sound.

Whether it is the Biloxi River or the Pascagoula River, fishing techniques will be similar. Small fish mean small baits. The FLW Tour’s version of the “all you can eat buffet” is likely to be serving up a multitude of small crankbaits, spinnerbaits and worms to the two rivers’ miserly bass.

Warmer weather, which appears to be settling in for the tournament, is likely to improve catches throughout the week. Though the weather is not going to help bring giant bass to the scales, it should help improve the number of five-bass limits weighed in.