By Steve Graf
The Red River also known as the J. Bennett Johnston Waterway is a 200 mile stretch from the Mississippi River to Shreveport, Louisiana. It consists of 5 lock and dam structures design for industrial navigation. But as industrial ports continue to develop, the Corp of Engineers invested nearly $2 million in this project which has turned into a recreational bonanza. Northwest Louisiana has taken advantage of this waterway better than anyone else as a recreational resource. Shreveport, Natchitoches and Alexandria have brought in major professional bass and crappie tournaments like the Bassmaster Classic, the greatest bass tournament in the world. They’ve welcomed the Forest Wood Cup (the World Championship for FLW), Costa Series and several BFL events that boasts some of the best professional anglers on the planet.
Now I’m going to give you my perspective of what the Red River has meant to me as an angler. Red River holds special memories for me as a lot of my success has come on this waterway. Why, not really sure but it seems to fit my style of fishing. Once it opened in 1994, I decided to become a river rat and I took the time to learn how to fish a river system. Fishing a river system is different than fishing a normal inland reservoir. Current or water flow plays a big role in how, when and where you fish when it comes to any river system. My first experience with a river system was back in early ‘90s when the Angler’s Choice (American Bass Organization) put their regional championship on the Arkansas River out of Pine Bluff. I learned really quick that river fishing is a different animal as my team partner, and I boated a grand total of 4 fish in four days of hard fishing. It was through this butt whipping experience on the Arkansas River that motivated me to learn how to fish the Red River.
The Red River has gone through a lot of changes especially in 2016 when record floods hit, and the river reached levels never seen in the last 100 years. These floods occurred not once but twice in the span of about 6 months and destroyed major habitat that had made the bass fishing some of the best in the south. In the last 4 years the river habitat has been making a comeback and that along with the restocking program (compliments of the Red River Waterway Commission) fishing is on the comeback. One great thing about the Red River, is the amount of great backwater areas that hold a lot of fish. Pools 3, 4 and 5 is where the majority of the back water is located. Areas where you’ll find coontail moss, water lilies, timber and reeds along with underwater rock jetties that are fish magnets. In early spring, this is where you’ll catch quality bass and tournament winning stringers. But once the hot summer days take hold, the main river is where you can catch good numbers of bass.
If you talk with ten people who have fished the Red River, you might get ten different opinions about this waterway. One thing you’ll hear is how hard it is on a boat, which is true. You’ll hear how dangerous it can be, which is true if you run your boat wide open in certain areas. For me, it’s like any other body of water, you have to learn it, just like I do on other bodies of water I’m not familiar with. Take your time and idle through areas you’re not sure about. The Red River is no different, you have to learn where you can and cannot run wide open. During high water periods, be careful and watch for what we call “floaters”(trees and logs coming down the river) especially when you’re running the main river channel. But when the river is stable and normal, there’s not much trouble you can get into other than shallow sand bars. Always pay attention to watercolor when your running; dark water usually means deep water but when you come across muddy brownish water, that can mean you running across a shallow sand bar. Bottom line just be careful and again take your time and learn the lay of the river and backwater areas. Another way to learn is to watch other anglers and see where they are running.
I’m here to tell you, if you’re looking for some good fishing (bass or crappie) that’s not getting a lot of pressure, hook up the boat and head for the Red River. Once again, I want to thank the Red River Waterway Commission for their dedication and commitment to bring the bass fishing back to a high level. The Red River truly is a great resource for all of Northwest Louisiana and has had a huge economic impact for this region. Next time you see one of the guys from the Red River Waterway Commission, make sure to say “thank you” for a job well done. You’ll find great Corp of Engineers top quality boat ramp facilities all up and down the Red River design to accommodate fishermen, skiers and campers. Till next time, don’t forget to set the hook! To learn more about the Red River and other area lakes, check out hutdshow.com. The official web site of the Hook’N Up & Track’N Down Show heard every Wednesday from 11:00 till 1:00 on AM 1130 The Tiger KWKH…home of LSU Sports!
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