MONROE-WEST MONROE, La. – Part of what makes professional anglers so good is how quickly they can figure things out on a new fishery: their ability to find prime areas in a limited amount of time is what truly separates them from other anglers. Riding with them during practice is one of the best ways to understand how they break down a new lake.
That’s what we did with Arizona pro Brett Hite as he visited Caney Creek Reservoir for the first time, the site of the Knockout Round at the B&W Trailer Hitches Stage One presented by Power-Pole.
There are many tools available for anglers to research a body of water long before they arrive. There’s a wealth of knowledge online about fisheries, whether it’s past tournament results or fishing report pages. Map study and a familiarity with Google Earth also help.
Hite dug into all of the above before putting his boat in at Caney Creek.
“I mainly studied Google Earth to see how the lake sets up,” he said. “It’s small and looks like a mini Sam Rayburn the way it sets up with the creeks and grass. Plus, I know it’s got some big ones because recent tournaments have been taking over 30 pounds to win for five fish.”
The sun was shining and temperatures hovered right around the freezing mark as Hite prepared to put in. He wasn’t in a big rush to get on the water as he removed the boat cover that was caked with a thin layer of ice.
“The biggest thing today is to tell yourself to slow down in this cold weather,” Hite said. “The water is going to be cold and it’s the second day after a big front, so the conditions aren’t great for catching much. I won’t do too much fishing and will spend a lot of time idling and looking for some areas.”
After a short run to start the day, Hite started idling and watching his Garmin electronics.
“I’m going to focus on the creek channels, a classic winter and prespawn location for bass in reservoirs,” he said. “The bass and baitfish use them as highways because it’s easy for them to move shallow and deep. I’m looking for places where the flats come to the channel or find any little secondary points that hit the channel. If I can find either of those with some grass on it, that’s the perfect scenario.”
Eventually, Hite did find some grass and no surprise, his first cast was with the bait he’s best known for, the Z-Man Evergreen Jack Hammer ChatterBait. He followed that up with a red Evergreen Flat Force crankbait.
“This kind of grass is what I have dreams of,” he said with a laugh. “It’s a little brown, but the perfect amount of it where you can get any kind of bait through it.”
Even with water temperatures in the mid-40s, Hite was committed to moving baits.
“In practice, it’s all about covering water for me,” he said. “I want to get a few bites and find a couple of areas. If I make it to the Knockout Round, I can slow down and throw a worm or something if I know there are fish in those places.”
After a few hours of scouring the lake, Hite felt like he had a pretty good handle of the fishing on the lake and believes it will be better than D’Arbonne, even though the two fisheries are a little over one hour away from each other.
“The water’s a lot more clear (at Caney) and it has some good depth, so I think it will fish alright,” he said. “Lake D’Arbonne is a shallow swamp and those places don’t do very good in the cold weather. I feel positive about my day, and I think the fishing is going to get better as it warms up this week.”
Caney Creek is 5,000 acres and much smaller than D’Arbonne, and Hite felt like he’d seen all of it in a few hours.
“I wanted to look at the lower end and up the river and find the grass, and I did that,” he said. “I wish I would have found some grass in a little deeper water, but I have a good game plan to come back to and know what to tie on. The key this time of year is not to get too locked into one thing because it changes every day even with a little bit of warmer weather.”