FLW Tour marches south into summertime on the Red River - Major League Fishing

FLW Tour marches south into summertime on the Red River

May 15, 2001 • Rob Newell • Archives

Water clarity will affect angler’s strategies

SHREVEPORT-BOSSIER, La. – The FLW Tour has reached its fifth stop of the season in Shreveport and summer is in full swing on the backwater bayous of the Red River. Ninety-degree air temperatures and swampy humidity are in sharp contrast to the cool crisp air FLW Tour anglers enjoyed just a few weeks ago during the last tour stop on Beaver Lake.

Along with entirely different weather, anglers will also be faced with a bewildering terrain. The challenge will be to navigate the Red River’s treacherous and immense backwaters to find good fishing holes.

The Red River was dammed up near Shreveport with two lock and dam structures in December of 1995. The water spilled over into the adjacent lowlands, flooding thousands of acres of forest floor and creating dozens of oxbows. These swampy areas are nearly impassable due to the massive amount of flooded timber and floating logs that wedge in between the standing trees.

The scenery is majestic but torturous for anglers trying to get into these backwater areas to locate fish. Anglers frequently get their boats stuck on the myriad stumps and floating logs. Sometimes anglers even have to get out of the boat to push the boat out of a severe jam.

Oh, and watch your step! These swamps are loaded with snakes – hundreds of snakes. Most are non-poisonous banded water snakes, but the large numbers of them look like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. Seeing 30 to 40 of the slithery, no-shouldered creatures per day is common.

The Red River has a reputation for rewarding innovative and fearless tournament anglers who are willing to spend the time and effort it takes to gain access to these obscure backwater areas far off the main river. Some anglers take this quest to an extreme level, hiring pilots to fly them over the river to spot hidden backwaters from the air.

Other anglers might spend hours, even days, literally digging their way through the swampy terrain to gain access to a small unpressured backwater pond. Several anglers have acquired small aluminum boats especially for this tournament to make the journey through the watery jungle easier.

Once anglers get to their coveted spots, they will have to don heavy tackle to do battle with the bass in the submerged forests. This means flipping sticks, heavy line, big jigs, and spinnerbaits.

But plowing back into snaky swamps is not the only way to catch fish on the Red River. The main river features plenty off riprap and rocky wing dams that hold bass. In fact, Dion Hibdon won the 2000 FLW Tour Championship on the Red River last fall by fishing the main river.

The problem, however, is water color. The Red River is living up to its name this week. The water in the main river is indeed red and it has anglers searching for cleaner water.

“I think the winner will come from a backwater area,” says Tim Horton, the 2000 B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year who is fishing the FLW Tour this year. “They had a lot of high water here this spring and I think that has pushed many of these fish back into the backwaters. The guy who does his homework and finds a backwater with clean water could walk away with this tournament.”

Gary Clark, owner of Clark’s Red River Marina, says that the Red River was near flood stage in Shreveport during January and February. “This spring we had the highest water we have had since the dams were built,” reports Clark. “The river is just now getting back to normal in terms of water level and clarity.”

Like Horton, Clark also believes the winner will come from a backwater area. “It will probably be won in the backwater, but with the river conditions improving daily, the main river is due to turn on anytime now,” says Clark.

The tournament will take off from Clark’s Marina located in pool 5. From there anglers can lock down into pool 4, which is 30 miles long and offers more backwater. Those who don’t mind giving up fishing time can even lock into pool 3, but the journey might take as much as 2 hours.

During the FLW Championship last September the top-10 weight cut on the pro side was 22 pounds, 15 ounces and Dion Hibdon won the tournament with 10 pounds, 7 ounces. Tim Horton believes the weight cut will be a little lower for this tournament. He thinks 20 to 21 pounds will make the cut.

Anglers fishing on the Red River this week should pack plenty of sunscreen and cold water. With warmer weather on the way, this Louisiana bass fishing shootout on the Red River is going to be a hot one.