With the start of the Bassmaster Classic a week away, conditions appear to be lining up for a slugfest on the Red River.
Local ace and Bassmaster Open pro Homer Humphreys of Linden, La., is less than half an hour from the Red and spends more than 150 days each year plying its murky waters searching for bass.
"I think it is going to be a blowout," Humphreys said. "The river is in great shape and the weather is shaping up to be the best we have seen at a Classic. It has been close to 70 degrees during the day and we are sleeping with the windows open at night."
The warmer weather has also helped the water shoot into the low 50s already and some big bags of bass are showing up at local tournament weigh-ins. Humphreys cited a recent tournament-winning bag of 28 pounds as evidence that Classic records could very likely be broken next week.
"It is going to take 60-70 pounds to win," Humphreys said. "That's just what I think I could catch if I was fishing in it."
Humphreys nearly qualified for the Classic this year through the Central Opens, but a stumble in the final tournament on Lake Texoma dropped him out of contention. Even though there is no true local in the field, he still expects good bags to come from the backwaters of the Red.
Expect a variety of techniques to produce fish, but Humphreys likes the chances of an angler who can finesse flip a Sweet Beaver or Paca Craw in 1-6 feet of water. For bigger fish, a square-billed crankbait is hard to beat, and he said that the river produces three to five bass over 10 pounds each year.
"The tournament will be won in Pool 5," Humphreys said. "You are probably going to have a few of them run north to some small lakes and probably at least 10 will lock through to pool 4. Pool 3, you just lose so much time, I don't believe anybody will go there. The fish seem to get smaller the farther you lock down."
Another reason to avoid locking is that he expects the better fishing to occur after 10 a.m. Also, don't bother fishing the main river. While a few fish can be caught there, right now it is dirty enough that "you could probably track coons across it." The clarity in the backwaters is closer to a foot, and there are certain areas up to two feet of visibility.
Even though Humphreys expects big bags of bass to cross the scales, he expects that the biggest challenge for anglers will come from spectators. Some of the more popular pros might have an armada of boats following them and even the slightest disturbance through the stump fields could turn a good area sour.
"I'm hoping the spectators won't go out in the stumps where the pros are at," Humphreys said. "If they do that, the big fish are going to shut off on the guys. The more they disturb them by banging their boats and hitting stumps with trolling motors, the worse it is going to get.
"If a spectator follows a leader through the stumps and the angler expects to turn around and fish back down that stretch, the water that he wants to go back through will be eliminated from him. Sound travels 400-500 feet from wherever it comes from. I have seen it time and time again, with the weekend angler beating and a banging and they just shut off and you have to go someplace else."
Humphreys wasn't taking any shots at the spectators, which often represent a core group of bass fishing fanatics who keep the sport going, and he emphasized that they are really there to cheer on their favorite anglers.
"Those spectators just want to be out there supporting the anglers that are their heroes," Humphreys said. "All you can do is explain to them what is going on and keep your cool. I would immediately explain to them what the situation is as soon as the first one falls in line behind me. Then he will pass that on to the others and they will respect your water.
"If an angler is arrogant, the spectators are likely to crank up and go right through where you are fishing and then go home and cuss pro fishermen for the rest of their lives."
With all these variables to contend with, Humphreys had a select list of those anglers he would stack his BASS Fantasy Fishing line-up with:
• Rick Clunn — "Rick is really seasoned when it comes to this type of water. I expect that he could pick up his square-billed crankbait and not have to touch another rod."
• Mike Iaconelli — "Ike has won a Federation Nation tournament out here and he understands the backwaters."
• Terry Scroggins — "The Big Show is schooled in this type of fishing."
When asked about a possible dark-horse pick, he immediately brought up Kim Bain-Moore, who he thinks really has a good shot at doing well if she can "keep her head on." Apparently, Humphreys saw Bain-Moore out on the river and knows she is in the right spot.
Click here to pick a fantasy team for the Bassmaster Classic.