Reds on the run at Keith Lake

Christian Frillou of Orangefield caught this largemouth bass weighing 11.1 lbs o

Keith Lake fish pass was loaded with fishermen on Good Friday. Some were on the bank, but most were in boats and fishing with anything from live shrimp to fresh-caught mullet. The only problem was a lack of fish. After Rocky Chase had caught a couple of undersized reds, we made the decision to crank up and head across Keith Lake to the south shoreline and fish protected water with jigs, topwater plugs and Wakers. That’s where we found a limit of reds.

The go-to lure was a gold and black Mann’s Waker. It’s one of many wake baits that are absolute death on reds, and sometimes trout. This is a lure that can be cast a country mile. It’s shaped like a football and is built with two treble hooks. It’s a very shallow running crank bait that runs about 2 inches under the surface and creates a wake. When reeled in on a steady retrieve, this lure has a tight wobble and a built-in rattle. Reds love to pounce on them. Last Friday, we caught several up to 27 inches.

The surprising thing was the number of boats that had been launched at the new ramp on Keith Lake. I counted 56 boat trailers in the parking lot. The ramps are at the Keith Lake Fish Pass on Highway 87. This ramp is a Jefferson County public recreation site project. Funding assistance came from a portion of state sales tax on sporting goods through the local park grant program administered by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The state of Texas contributed $500,000, and the city, county and district paid $500,000. The ramp is first class with plenty of parking, and just about any size bay boat can be launched.

The only glitch is that some of the vehicles at this boat ramp are getting vandalized. Be sure and lock everything up, turn on the alarms and take your valuables with you while fishing.

We ended up fishing in Keith Lake, but there are many miles of other lakes that offer top-notch fishing for reds, trout and flounder. These lakes aren’t lakes at all, but rather backwater estuary areas. From the relatively new three-lane boat ramp at the fish pass, head west across Keith Lake, cut through Redfish Pass and continue into Johnson Lake. At that point, you have the option of heading north into Shell Lake or going south into Mud Lake, Salt Lake and Fence Lake. Located between Mud and Fence Lakes is Salt Bayou, aka Ten Mile Cut, which will take you into McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge.

That’s about 20 miles of estuary lakes, bayous and marsh with some of the best red-fish water along the entire Texas coast. They get very little fishing pressure, yet the backwater areas hold lots of tailing and waking reds.

Catches of reds are excellent in these lakes throughout the warm months. If you’re looking to catch a mix of trout, reds and flounder, fish the pass. Jigs are best in the pass if you’ll be using lures. Mullet and shrimp are the top live baits.

Woodpeckers used as bait gets anglers in trouble

A game warden patrolling for fishing and water safety violations inspected a small aluminum boat and then checked the fishermen’s licenses and catches. When he asked the fishermen what they were using as bait, they said woodpeckers. Sure enough, there were three dead woodpeckers in their cooler. Further investigation led to the fishermen admitting to killing an eight-point buck without a license the previous year, and using it as fish bait as well. Water safety, fishing and hunting citations were issued. Charges and restitution for the deer and birds are pending.

Toledo Bend bass best on jerkbaits

After spending 11 seasons fishing the Bassmaster Elite Series without a win, John Murray was starting to think his window of opportunity might have already closed.

Now, he knows better. The West Coast native weighed in a last-day catch of bass weighing 24 pounds, 15 ounces to win the recent Bassmaster Elite held on Toledo Bend. His final four-day catch weighed just over 77 pounds.

Murray had one spot on the south end of the lake where he knew there were some big fish — and he found them. But when he wasn’t able to put them in the boat, he decided to rely more on a spot back near the launch site at Cypress Bend Park that’s been good to him through the years.

“I lost a couple of big ones the first two days that cost me a lot,” said Murray, who had two wins with B.A.S.S. before the creation of the Elite Series, including a 2003 Open Championship on Toledo Bend. “The third day, I decided I wasn’t going south.”

He used large jerkbaits and a crankbait to target big largemouth bass that were feeding on small white bass along a ridge. He said the spot had about 4 or 5 feet of water on top and some type of old housing foundation that was holding fish.

“I think they were feeding on baby white bass,” Murray said. “I think the white bass were in there feeding on shad, and then the bigger bass were feeding on the white bass.”

Murray’s lures of choice were two 30-year-old Smithwick Rogues, a Strike King 5XD crankbait and a Lucky Craft 128 Pointer jerkbait.

Murray’s best two bass weighed 7-9 and 7-7. Heaviest bass of the tourney weighed 9-12.