The House From Hell
It’s Thursday night and I’m sitting in the living room when I hear my phone ding. It’s a message from the vacation rental company. I leave for Shreveport in roughly 36 hours and the message simply reads “Call me”. I think to myself, “Oh No!” I call expecting the worst. I am told that the house we booked is not available. Mind you, we booked the house back in November. But she assured me that there would be a house for us that would handle our entire group. Friday evening, 12 hours before I hit the road I was texted an address and a lock box code, that was it. The nightmare of the house was just beginning.
The drive down to Shreveport was relatively uneventful. I made it to Cincinnati Saturday evening, where I stopped to visit my cousin for the night. It was great having a home cooked meal and a bed to sleep in; rather than fast food and sleeping in hotel F-150. I hit the road early Sunday to finish the drive. I just wanted to get to Shreveport, get settled, and get my game plan finalized for prefishing.
I rolled into the house about 5:00 PM. Most of my housemates were already there, and so was the homeowner. They were trying to move furniture in and finish getting the house ready. There was the smell of gas and fresh paint. The house was certainly not ready for occupancy, but apparently there were no other options. (I still wish I had driven by the house we were supposed to have to see if another group was staying there). We decided we would have to make due and deal with it the best we could. A trip out to dinner got our minds off it and we were back in fishing mode.
The first morning (monday) the saga of the house continued. There was no hot water, and the stove was not working. There were clearly issues with the gas. We contacted the owner and let her know our concerns. The hot water was eventually fixed (2 days later and by putting in an electric hot water heater), but the stove was never replaced. You know… this will get long fast talking about the house, I’ll just summarize the rest of the issues before getting into the good fishing stuff. The handles on the shower were completely busted, we had to use vice grips to turn them. The sewer was repeatedly backed up, meaning you showered in 4 inches of water and you couldn’t flush the toilet for an hour after someone showered. The cabinet doors were falling off. There was dust and garbage under the sofas and in the cabinets. Oh and I almost forgot the worst part. We were NOT in a very good neighborhood. We were supposed to be close to downtown, by bars and restaurants and shops and such. No, we were in a sketchy, “hear gunshots at night” type area.
But enough about the house, let’s talk about fishing!
Monday was just a basic recon day. I spent the entire morning driving. On the map, these lakes look pretty close, but when you start going from one to another, you realize quick that lake hopping during the tourney might not be an option. It was a 45 minutes drive each time I checked out a new spot.
I started my recon up on Caddo lake. I didn’t plan on fishing Caddo, but I wanted a backup launch spot just in case. I knew I wanted to put in at a bridge crossing on LA Route 2. I pulled up around 10:00 AM and there were no vehicles parked there. There were no signs saying no parking, and it was clear this was a common public launching area. I put that spot in my back pocket and moved on (I was told not an hour later there were four vehicles parked there launching kayaks). From there I drove to Cypress Bayou. I investigated some bridge crossings but there were blowdowns and logs across the water. It was obvious that I wouldn’t be able to get out to the main lake from there. Lastly I went to Bistineau. I checked one public launch up the creek near Sibley. There were at least six vehicles with KBF stickers, some with trailers. I knew this would be an option, but I continued exploring. I checked some more bridges, but they were in the same condition as the one on Cypress. I could launch, but I would never get out to the main lake.
It was about noon and I was itching to get on the water. I had my new Hobie Outback in tow and I still had never put it in the water. I pulled into the Pine Bluff boat ramp and decided this would be where I would start my prefishing. There was one other truck in the lot and it had a kayak trailer on the back. I was pleasantly surprised there weren’t more.
I launched immediately into the cypress. I was told that the best bet was bouncing senko’s off the trees. I trusted that info, but I wanted to see what other patterns might work. (I hate soaking senkos). I threw a spinnerbait in and around the cypress for an hour with no bites. I decided to go exploring. I pedaled out to Peggy’s Island. I wanted to see how the new kayak handled open water. She handled great! It was a lot faster than my old outback. There was so much more room. I was loving it, and was slowly adjusting my rigging and getting it more to my liking.
I reached Peggy’s Island and switched up my tactic. I texas rigged a Yum Wooly Bug and started throwing it into the shallows around the island. I got a few bites, but missed them. I knew the bass were on beds and figured they were just moving the bait off, not actually taking it. I found some grass on the north end of the island and decided to try my new Booyah Melee bladed jigs. I tied on a black and blue and started throwing. It didn’t take long and I felt the *THUNK* of a bass taking it. I set the hook and then it jumped. It was a decent fish, not a giant, but my first fish of the trip. I got it up to the boat and I reached over my left shoulder to where I USED to keep my net on my old kayak. Crap, not there! Oh yeah, it’s right in front of me. I turn back to reach down, it jumped, and was gone. Oh well, I’m just prefishing. It was a good sign.
I continued to alternate between the Wooly Bug and the Melee. I got a few more bites on the bug, but nothing solid. I cruised around a bit and started to head back in. At least I thought I was heading toward the ramp. I popped the map up on my Helix unit just in time. I was heading the wrong way! It’s so easy to get turned around in the cypress.
I got back to the launch and decided to cast around a little bit in that area. I cruised over toward some docks; and there, swimming 50 yards ahead of me, was the biggest water moccasin I have ever seen. It was at least 6-feet long with a 2-inch girth. I stopped, watched which tree it slithered up, and gave it a WIDE berth. Maybe this wasn’t an area I wanted to fish around in too much. I packed it up, made note of what I learned and headed back to the house.
Day two of prefishing was meant to be an intense day of fishing. I hoped to nail down a location and pattern I could run for the tourney. I started my day out on Black Bayou Reservoir. I wasn’t worried about getting to the ramp super early. When I arrived there were a few kayaks and bass boats launching. It’s amazing how friendly everyone was down there. Every fisherman I encountered at the ramp seemed eager to talk. I briefly spoke with a gentleman at the ramp who was putting his bass boat in. As I pushed away from the dock I hear an “Oh Crap”. I turn around to see his boat floating away from the ramp. He had forgotten to tie it off so when he backed down the ramp, it just floated off the trailer. I laughed as I spun my kayak around and pedaled over to push his boat back over to the dock.
After rescuing the bass boat, I pedaled up the north end of the lake. There was a creek arm I wanted to explore. I fished around the flat in front of the creek a little with no real bites. I worked my way into the creek throwing the wooly bug. I pitched over to a tree root and i felt the *tick*. I set the hook and land a 12” bass. Nothing big, but it was a fish, and the first bass I actually landed of the trip. I worked my way further into the creek and a few pitches later another *tick*. I set the hook and came back with nothing. No bait, no hook, not even a leader! I inspected the braid and it didn’t appear the knot had slipped. I didn’t know what happened. But I sat, retied, and continued on.
I explored the creek making a few pitches, but it was more scouting at that point. I had caught one and got another bite on the same bait so I was confident in the pattern. I came back out and decided to hit a few docks just to see what was on them. I came to the first dock and worked my way from the front to back. Nothing on the front posts, pitched up under the middle nothing, worked my way to the back and BANG a hit. I set the hook and poof! My leader was gone again. And again it appeared my braid was cut? There was no crinkle in the line like the knot had pulled. I still don’t know what happened. But again I retied and started working my way out. I was finding fish and getting bites. It was all that mattered at that point.
I decided it was time for a change of scenery. It was time to hit the lake I was most excited about: Wallace! It was a swamp and I thought this was my kind of fishing. I launched into the thickest of cypress. There was vegetation everywhere. Duckweed, scattered millfoil, lily pads, salvinia. It was beautiful. I fished there all afternoon. I pitched to the pads, punched the salvinia, dragged a worm in the open, pulled a chatterbait through the millfoil, threw a frog in the cheese and duckweed. Every textbook pattern for fishing grass and plants I knew, I threw. Not a bite. Not even a nibble. I was bummed. That was supposed to be my lake but I couldn’t make it happen. I was tired and ready for dinner! After trying to take a shortcut back to ramp and hitting a dead end I left Wallace for good. Disappointed, I had one more morning of fishing. I needed to find something more solid and I was running out of time.
Wednesday morning I had time to hit one more spot. I decided to check out Cypress Bayou Reservoir. I pulled into the launch and I was instantly transported back to New York. We don’t have a lot of reservoirs here, but there are a few near where I grew up and this was identical to them. Docks, creek arms, weed flats. It felt like home, it felt right. I made a little run down to a creek arm that looked promising. I started working the bank and I saw fish busting out in the middle of the arm. I cruised out there and started throwing a chatterbait. A HIT! Missed him, dang. Another hit! Missed that one too. Ok they’re biting here. Let’s check out the docks.
I cruised over to a few docks. I remembered from on Black Bayou they were tucked in the back of the dock. I got in there and skipped a Biospawn Exostick all the way to the back. I felt it go tight and reeled into it. After a quick fight a 14” bass was in the net. Nice. I moved on to the next dock. Skipped it back in there and again, felt the bite. It was a 12” bass. One is chance, two is a pattern. There was an open water bite, a dock bite, and I was confident. This lake fished like home and felt like home. I was ready to start the tournament and felt good. I had my spot, I had my patterns, and I was getting excited. I thought if I had a chance of putting up a reasonable bag day 1, it was here….. I was wrong.
Stay tuned for the completion of my NC experience.