A little known hot spot for largemouth bass fishing exist in the Red River, just south of Shreveport, Louisiana. The waterway consists of a lock and dam system that creates a series of sloughs, bayous, and pools, which make it ideal bass habitat. When I told my brother Tom about the tournaments that the B.A.S.S Federation had held on the river and some of the record weights for single day catches, he began to get stoked for an old fashioned, Huckleberry Finn type excursion on the Red. “Let me get that old Bass Tracker cleaned up and we’ll take her down the river,” I told him.
The following week we hitched up my trusty sixteen foot aluminum Tracker and began the journey from Rockwall, Texas (just east of Dallas) to Shreveport, Louisiana. “If we don’t catch any fish, we can always try our luck on some of the riverboat casinos,” I told Tom.
“Forget the casinos,” Tom replied, “Don’t you remember how those Cajun hucksters killed us at Lake Ponchartrain.”
“You’ve got a point there: let’s stay out of the casinos.”
In less than three hours, we were in Shreveport and had launched our boat at the Bass Pro Shop located right on the river. Heading south, we traversed the murky red clay colored waters of the Red, looking for slough or pool, out of the river’s current. Making our way around a bend, a huge silver colored fish launched itself three feet into the air right in front of the boat. “Did you see that!” my brother shouted, “that bass must have weighted twenty pounds.”
“I saw it,” I said, “that fish was huge; but what was it?”
“What do you mean ‘what was it’? That was the biggest bass I have ever seen.”
“Why did it look like it was silver colored?” I asked.
“I don’t know; maybe it’s some kind of hybrid bass,” Tom said.
“I’m not sure about that.”
“What else could it be? Do they have tarpon in the Red River?”
“Don’t get funny. I’m just not so sure that that was a bass.”
We continued our way down the swift current of the river and saw several more of the odd silver colored fish fly out of the water. “That’s it,” Tom said, “cut the motor and we’ll drift fish right here.” I cut the engine and Tom took his position in the bass seat in the front of the boat. Using the foot pedal on the trolling motor, Tom carefully guided us down the river’s bank. Reaching down to grab a spinnerbait, I heard a loud thump as if we had hit a stump. I looked up and found Tom flat on his back, with a thirty pound fish flopping about in the boat. “Tom are you alright? What happened?”
Tom managed to get to his feet, but he looked like he had been staggered by a Mike Tyson uppercut. “What happened?” I asked again.
“That friggin’ flying fish jumped five feet out of the water and caught me flush in the face,” he said.
“What is it?”
“Don’t know,” he said, “but get that slimy thing out of the boat.”
“I’m not touching that friggin’ thing.”
“I have a better idea,” Tom said, “Let’s take that thing over to the Bass Pro Shop to see if somebody knows what the hell that thing is.”
I started the engine and made a straight beeline to the Bass Pro. Once we got back to the ramp, I took the Boca Grip from my tackle box and lifted the fish up by his mouth. “Let’s go,” I told Tom.
Entering the back of the Bass Pro, I was instantly greeted by a rotund, grey-haired boat salesman. “Good afternoon fellas,” the man said, “What do you have here?”
“I was hoping you could tell me,” I said.
The man pulled out a pair of glasses, placed them on, and examined the fish carefully. “What you have here is an Asian carp.”
“An Asian carp?”
“Yes sir. These fish were imported from China during the 1970’s in order to clean up the algae in some of the southern fish hatcheries. Unfortunately, the floods of the 1990’s swept them into the Mississippi and its tributaries, and now those voracious critters can be found as far north as Illinois. Those son of a guns can consume up to forty percent of their weight every day.”
“You have got to be kidding,” Tom said.
“No sir, I’m not. Those fish can grow to up four feet in length, weigh as much as one hundred pounds, and jump six feet out of the water. If those things get into the Great Lakes, they can ruin a seven billion dollar sport fishing business─they’ll eat all the vegetation and plankton and starve the game fish out.”
“That’s amazing,” I said.
“Could I help you gentlemen with anything else? I have a beautiful red metallic Nitro bass fishing boat over here─it’s only thirty thousand dollars.”
“No sir, we don’t need a boat,” Tom said, “but do you have any football helmets with face mask?”
“Football helmets? This is a fishing shop.”
“I realize that, sir, but I’m not going back on that river without some head gear.”