Muddy water key to Spillway catches

OK, Sunday was a “mission accomplished” day for Tim Carmouche and Robbie Latuso.

Ditto for 12 other B.A.S.S. Federation members competing for spots on the Louisiana team bound for Oklahoma waters in June.

Ditto, too, for Chad Porto and Kevin Medine, who led the 60-team field in Saturday’s Angling Against Autism event.

While Carmouche and Latuso were establishing their winning stringers in Saturday’s first day of the State Federation’s last qualifying tournament, Porto and Medine were going against the grain by hauling in nearly 14 pounds of largemouth bass from the Lake Verret area to take the $2,400 first-place money in The Emerge Center fundraiser held out of Doiron’s in Stephensville.

Most of the benefit tournament’s top-10 teams fished in the Atchafalaya Spillway.

Porto, a Sunshine Bass Club veteran, said spinnerbaits and buzzbaits were the key to their winning 13.84-pound stringer. Cypress trees, grass beds and clearing, moving water were the keys in edging this year’s most successful father-son team of Willie Couch and Willie Couch II, who weighed 13 pounds from the Spillway.

Carmouche and Latuso were more to the point.

Both are members of the Ascension Area Anglers: Carmouche won with a 22.73-pound total, while Latuso’s second-place 22.11 stringer gave him the top spot on the state team.

Truth was that the Spillway threw Autism and Federation anglers a hard-breaking curve for tournament days. Water that had been falling and clearing into Friday turned rising and muddy overnight.

That helped Porto and Medine, because the Verret area wasn’t affected by southerly winds and the fishing pressure as were the prime Spillway spots, the Pigeon and Flat Lake areas.

“I tried to stay around the more stained, moving water,” Carmouche said. “I lucked up and two good (tournament) days in the spring, and I didn’t need to find the mother lode to make the state team.

“So I just hunkered down and punched 90 percent of the time with black-and-blue colored Sweet Beavers and D-Bombs.”

“Punching” has become a much-needed Spillway tactic. It involves using one-ounce or larger bullet-head weights cinched to the head of the soft-plastic lures to get those baits through heavy mats of hyacinth and hydrilla grass beds.

Then there was his secondary pattern, one Carmouche said he discovered Sunday.

“I was fishing for a (five-bass) limit and got 12 pounds the first day,” he said. “I was punching around wood (logs and brush piles). The second day I went to another spot (in the Pigeon area) and began throwing an RC 1.5 (square-billed) crankbait when I was moving between the spots where there were treetops and laydowns.

“The crankbait paid off because there were bigger fish in 3-4 feet of water around old stumps. They bit like that for about 30 minutes, and I was able to upgrade my stringer.”

Carmouche said he was throwing red, then black-chartreuse crankbaits, and took most of his first-day fish on Humdinger spinnerbaits.

Latuso said he specifically targeted muddy water.

“These were areas that had no (fishing) pressure. Everyone was running past these fish,” Latuso said of his two days on the Spillway’s south end.

“I started in Flat Lake, but there were too many boats and that’s why I went to muddy water. The bite stopped on spinnerbaits and buzzbaits, so I had to flip. I was in areas of the Spillway where I know fish live during the summer. If I didn’t know that, I wouldn’t have stopped to fish these spots.”

Latuso said he was flipping and pitching Sweet Beavers to wood: “I really have to thank partners C.J. Guidry and Billy Bates. “They let me fish my fish because they knew I had a chance to make the state team. That was a great display of sportsmanship,” he said.

Squirrels and rabbits

Nothing in the past month has changed state biologist Jimmy Stafford’s prediction about Saturday’s start of the squirrel and rabbit seasons.

For squirrels, it starts with 2013’s bumper “mast” crop, the acorns and nuts squirrels eat. He said squirrel production was solid in most areas.

He said rabbit populations benefited from abundant rain and lush vegetation that provided substantial food sources and cover from predators.