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Flood backwater home to Okatibbee bass

By By Mike Giles / outdoors writer
May 9, 2003
A quick trip to Okatibbee Reservoir brought back old memories this week. With the rising waters, the fishing areas quickly expanded to the woodlands, fields and backwater areas that hadn't seen any water, much less fish, in recent years.
Back in the seventies, I spent many a late spring day in the bushes at Okatibbee Lake. In those days, when it came to springtime fishing, anglers headed to the flooded willows and buck brush. Most of the time the water stayed in these backwater areas for a long time, unlike now when they drain it down as quickly as possible.
During one high water period in May and June I fished the lake with David Pierce, a friend from my community and ball team.
Now David had really gotten into bass fishing while we were both attending MCC and MSU Meridian respectively. We met by chance one day at school and planned a fishing trip.
During our first trip we launched our boat and didn't stop until we had motored north of the Pine Springs Road. In those days, you didn't encounter many other fishermen on the water during the week, so we had the water to ourselves.
We were heading for the flooded willow trees when we suddenly came upon a school of bass that were stacked up on the edge of a willow point.
For the next hour or so, David and I matched cast for cast, while catching bass on almost every throw. Most of the schooling bass were in the two to three pound range and really put up a fight.
After following the school for awhile, we finally let them rest and started working the flooded willows.
Back in those days we didn't throw too many bass back. We usually cleaned and ate most of them. Turns out that the bass weighed almost eight pounds, which was really big in the days before the Florida strain bass came to Mississippi.
Parking lots, roads and beaver ponds
When the water got up as high as it is now, the bass moved back and related to different structures that were formerly high and dry.
Many a bass was caught on the roadbed coming off the old Collinsville landing. Still others were caught along the roadway leading to the Twiltley Branch Campground. In those days the road was gravel but it has since been paved.
The bass would stack up in the ditches along the edge of the roads. Other places found the bass scattered alongside every bush. Spinnerbaits and small crankbaits were the ticket when the bass were active. Pierce had a favorite color crankbait that quickly became a part of my arsenal as well. It was a rainbow trout colored bait.
I preferred the Bomber model 7A version. For years after that I caught bass on that bait almost everywhere I fished. In fact, I won a tournament on the Tombigbee River by fishing that very crankbait.
On one particular fishing trip we caught bass in an old beaver pond that had been flooded. Previously the pond was located way off the water and miles from the road. However, the high waters afforded us a chance to explore new territory.
On still another afternoon we motored up near an old hay field that had flooded and we quickly caught our limit while fishing spinnerbaits and worms in the grass. David loved bass fishing like a kid loves ice cream and he was really good at it, too.
When the action slowed and the fishing got tough we would head for the thickest willows and brush that we could find. We flipped worms and lizards in and around the brush catching bass after bass. In those days the term flipping wasn't yet introduced around here, but that is what we did.
Sometimes I long for those days once again. Our priorities were fishing and fishing some more. Although I'll never be able to join David on the water again, the good memories remain. And you know something, the bass are still out there and they are back in those bushes once again. All you need is a handful of plastic baits, a spinnerbait or two, a topwater plug and a friend to join you. Just head for the bushes and cast until you find em.