Ever heard of a marsh bass?

Published 9:08 pm Saturday, May 9, 2009

Have you ever heard the term “marsh bass” and wondered ‘huh’?

You probably know of largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, striped bass, white bass and yellow bass but a marsh bass?

A marsh bass is simply a largemouth bass that lives in coastal marshes and pretty much looks and behaves as other bass do. The only difference is these bass rarely get to legal size and are just as comfortable hanging out with redfish as with crappie. They typically dwell in the areas north of bay systems, where salt and freshwater are in a constant struggle for dominance.

Frank Moore of Orangefield fishes for marsh bass frequently, searching for fish in areas that have shallow water with mud or sand banks, and deeper water nearby. Another characteristic that he looks for is debris stacked up in the shallows.

“Anywhere that you can find leaves or other debris just seems to be a magnet for these fish. This stuff will normally stack up in the back corners of the area and in pockets off the main body of water,” he said.

According to Moore, anglers should be very aware of the location of the good fishing areas they find.

“Once you find a good fishing spot, you should write it down or mark it on a map and be mindful of what the conditions were when you caught them. The fish will return to these areas during the some conditions, as long as the area does not go through some drastic change. I have some spots that I can catch 100 bass a day with no problem.”

Moore’s favorite method is ultralight spinning tackle. He prefers light line, a D.O.A. shrimp skipped across the surface, or Wacky Worms.

“Worms are good bait, but I like to fish them kind of weird and skip them across the surface. I guess it is because you see them attack bugs on the surface so much. It just seems to be the natural thing to fish with.”

My favorite spots to fish for coastal bass are in the marshes south of Interstate 10 near my hometown of Orange on the Sabine and Neches rivers. There is similar top-quality fishing in the brackish areas of other rivers. The good thing is, the patterns are pretty much the same.

The hottest action comes during the upcoming heat of summer. That is when large schools of shad gather in these areas, and bass feed on them heavily. There are two bites, early morning and afternoon. The morning bite produces some of the bigger fish.

For anglers looking to enhance the challenge, a fly rod is the way to go. While the late June trip described at the beginning of the story was successful, the fact that I fished exclusively with a fly rod definitely made it more challenging—and fun. My eight-year-old fishing partner out-fished me at least three to one, but that is not the point. Catching bass on a fly is just plain fun.

While a 6-weight rod is probably the best all-rounder, especially if you hang into a hefty bass, you get more sport out of a 2- to 4-weight rod. This is the fly-fishing equivalent of an ultralight spinning rod rated for 1- to 4-pound line.

In that same vein, marsh bass respond best to small lures, poppers about 1/4-inch across the face, rubber spiders, dry flies, and wet flies in sizes 10-14.

I use poppers in yellow, black, and red; rubber spiders in black, yellow, green, and orange; dry flies in No. 12, crickets in No. 8-10. If I do not get fish within 10 minutes, I begin switching lures to see what they want.

There was a time when any self -respecting angler would never admit liking to catch marsh bass. A few years ago, most freshwater anglers had only trophies on their minds.

Marsh bass, to those aware of them, carried the stigma of carp, but that seems to be changing. More anglers seem to be searching for the innocent fun that marsh bass provide. If you are in the mood to try something different, drive down to the brackish marshes and go bass fishing. It is not always about Lake Fork and 10-pounders. Sometimes it is just about having fun.

Chester Moore, Jr. is the Port Arthur News Outdoors Editor. To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at cmoore@fishgame.com. You can hear him on the radio Fridays from 6-7 p.m. on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at www.klvi.com.

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