Anglers target Lake Cataouatche during Bassmaster Classic
Terry Butcher fished Lake Cataouatche and the Salvador Management Area during practice day.
In fact, Bassmaster Classic icons Kevin VanDam, Mike Iaconellis, Skeet Reese, Boyd Duckett and others fished in local waters throughout the competition.
For VanDam, who ended up with the $500,000 prize, it was a matter of rolling the dice and sticking to his game plan. Though he wasn't able to scout and practice the area, VanDam gathered information from other anglers and used maps that pointed him in the direction of Lake Cataouatche's Tank Pond.
Several factors have made the Tank Pond one of the top fishing spots in the area. It was formally a leveled section of a farming plantation, so there are still old stumps scattered throughout the area. Combine that prime real estate with the opening of the Davis Pond Diversion and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ genetic Florida -strain bass program, which has loaded thousands of bass into the area in the last few years.
"The Cataouatche area was like a fishing time bomb waiting to go off!" Brian LaClair, a pro angler from Denton, Md. said.
Two weeks ago the water temperature in Lake Cataouatche was 39 degrees. The conditions at the mouth of the river were in the mid 40s and fish were being caught on a regular basis.
On Wednesday, during practice day, Terry Butcher of Talala, Okla. fished a few hundred yards from VanDam, Duckett and Brent Chapman in Lake Cataouatche. He did not catch a fish and decided to eliminate the local water and instead fish the Venice area.
That was a big mistake.
The waters in Lake Cataouatche continued to rise each day from the start on Friday through Sunday. On Sunday the lake temperature had reached 65 degrees.
"This is the temperature big bass like to start spawning." Shawn Grisby, a pro angler, said.
"It was an easy decision for me to stay in Lake Cataouatche, which was a short run," he said. "Going to the mouth of the river was a 240-mile round trip. I spent most of the time fishing."
As for this Crazy Cajun, I was able to become an observer. Observers were assigned to ride with each pro fisherman and traveled on the water each day. We were the eyes of the BASS Association in each boat.
Observers rode along to make sure each fisherman was following the rules of the tournament.
On Wednesday, which was a practice day, I rode with Oklahoma native Butcher. I boarded his 21-foot Bass Cat outfitted with a 250 horse power OptiMax Merc. The boat also had a new Lowrance broadband low frequency radar mounted in the rear of the boat.
"This radar/GPS/depth finder gives me the ability to travel in the fog and see what's around and ahead of me," Butcher said.
He fished the Tank Pond in Lake Cataouatche, the Salvador Management Area, and Lake Long near Houma. Most of the pros used the practice day to eliminate or add areas to their game plan.
For the start, Butcher decided to fish the mouth of the Mississippi. He finished in 33rd place with 19 pounds , 1 ounce.
I was unable to serve as an observer on Friday, but on Saturday I was assigned to Brian LaClair. We boarded his 21-foot Triton outfitted with a 250 horse power Optimax ProXS Mercury motor.
LaClair decided to stay close and fished the Salvador Management Area. Cruising around 65 miles per hour to his first stop, LaClair began fishing in the Alligator Pond off the Gulf Canal. He started throwing a Booyah white spinner bait with gold willow leaf blades on the points around the area. As the morning went on, LaClair used the new Berkley Havoc baits.
He pitched Gary Klein's, The Deuce in junebug and Bobby Lane's Watermelon Craw Fatty. All of his fish were in the 1-2 pound range.
He finished the day with 6 pounds, 2 ounces and a two-day total of 16 pounds, 5 ounces, which put him in 38th place.
On Sunday morning, I was assigned to Terry Scroggins, from Palatka, Fla.
After a 20-minute fog delay, we left the Bayou Segnette dock and headed to Blue Point, across the Pen in Lafitte. His 21-foot Yellow/Black Triton boat, outfitted with a 250 horse power Tournament Series Mercury XSPRO cruised around 65 mph.
He threw white spinner baits; black/ blue pitching jigs, and punched a few grass beds with a black Havoc Pit Boss. Without catching a bass, Scroggins decided to head to Des Allemands.
In 30 minutes, we crossed Lake Salvador, ran up Bayou Des Allemands through Bayou Gauche, across Mud Lake and Des Allemands itself.
"We are going to fish in Humble in the Bayou," he said. "This is where I have been catching my fish."
Scroggins began throwing the Booyah red belly frog against the cypress and light green algae and within a few minutes he reeled in a 3-pound bass.
"I told you they are in here," he said. "It's going to be a good day. Sixteen pounds of fish will move me way up!"
The Booyah Red Belly frog caught most of his 18 fish for the day and he went back to the weigh-ins with five fish weighing 18 pounds, 6 ounces. The weight moved him up to 17th place overall and a total weight of 41 pounds.
At the conclusion to the Bassmasters Classic Elite Tournament, VanDam hoisted the 41st Annual Bassmasters Classic Trophy in the New Orleans Arena above his head. Thousands of fishing fans rubbed elbows for five days with the top 50 best pro bass fishermen in the world.
"Louisiana should be proud of Lake Cataouatche and the Delta," VanDam said. " This is an amazing place. Please take of it. I will be back.
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