STORIES THE VIEW UPSTREAM By: Keith 'Catfish' Sutton 3 Overlooked Mid-South Hotspots for Bass Fishing WFN Columnist Keith Sutton tells us in detail why you should consider visiting the following Mid-South waters Trophy bass like this are often caught by anglers visiting this trio of scenic waters in Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee. (Keith Sutton photo) Winter is just ending, and many of us are getting an itch that needs scratching – a bass-fishing itch. If you’re one of the people thus afflicted, chances are you’d also enjoy scratching your itch in a locale that doesn’t get too much fishing pressure. That being the case, you should consider visiting the following Mid-South waters. These lakes and rivers rarely host more than a few visiting anglers at a time, so when you’re out there fishing, it’s like someone laid out a banquet just for you. Fresh air, bluebird skies and, if you’re lucky, a few bass to bend your pole. What more could a bassing fan ask? Lake Claude Bennett, Mississippi This 71-acre Jasper County lake, 20 miles east of Bay Springs, exemplifies the saying, “Good things often come in small packages.” Despite its diminutive size, Lake Bennett holds lots of big bluegills, redear sunfish, crappie and largemouth bass. At 14 pounds, 12 ounces, the lake-record largemouth was a truly exceptional fish. Four- to 6-pounders are regular catches for many local anglers, and 2- to 4-pounders are a dime a dozen. Early in the season, many anglers troll live shiners along the edges of the grass lines and weed lines to catch the lake’s hawgs. Casting spinnerbaits, crankbaits, jigs and other lures around the treetops and Christmas trees comprising Bennett’s many fish attractors also is a good tactic for waylaying lunkers. An onsite boat ramp is available with no restrictions on the size boat or motor launched on the lake. The daily ramp fee is $7 per boat. Also available on this state-owned lake are 31 campsites with RV hookups and four fully-equipped rental cabins. For more information, including a good lake map, visit the Mississippi Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks web page for Claude Bennett. St. Francis River Sunken Lands, Arkansas The “Sunken Lands” along northeast Arkansas’ St. Francis River were formed by the 1811-12 New Madrid Earthquake. Few people know about the region’s superb spotted bass fishing, but at times, a visit here can produce a limit of 2- to 3-pounders in a single hour. “Kentucky bass” even larger occasionally fall to visiting anglers as well. The best bassing is in borrow-pit lakes created during river-levee construction. These lakes occur from the Missouri border south to Marked Tree on both sides of the river inside the levees, and nearly all are open to the public. Access is usually by gravel ramps off county roads. Spotted bass lurk near woody borrow-pit cover. Favored lures include spinnerbaits, jig-and-pigs and crawfish-imitation crankbaits. Doodlesocking produces spotted bass in the main river channel. This employs a 12-foot pole and two to three feet of line tied to a spinnerbait or topwater plug that is skittered across the water’s surface around drift piles and logs. Much of the information you’ll need to find and access the Sunken Land’s prime fishing spots is on the St. Francis Sunken Lands Wildlife Management Area map on the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s website. Woods Lake, Tennessee Because it’s small and located in a part of Tennessee that’s relatively undeveloped, Woods Lake isn’t often considered a prime fishing destination by many Volunteer State bass anglers. Bassing enthusiasts who have fished here often, however, know that some of the bass in the lake can be quite memorable. Woods supports a healthy largemouth bass population, with smallmouths in the mix, too. And its largemouths tend to grow to trophy-class sizes. A high catch-and-release rate accounts to some extent for Woods Lake’s productive big-bass fishing. There’s plenty of good forage and habitat to support quality largemouths, and the fact that most bass caught are quickly returned to the water produces an abundance of big specimens. The best largemouth fishing, overall, is in the upper half of the lake, where the Elk River winds through stump-laden flats. The best smallmouth fishing is over rocky cover in the more-open lower lake area. In between, anglers typically catch a blend of the two species, with largemouths being the dominant black bass. Deadfalls and stumps provide a tremendous amount of cover in shallow water on Woods, and anglers often can do well casting only to visible cover. However, the far ends of long points and bends in the channel and other offshore features should not be overlooked this season, either. Woods Lake (often called Woods Reservoir) covers 3,980 acres within Arnold Air Force Base in east Tennessee’s Franklin and Coffee counties. The base marina offers boat rentals, camping, cabins and much more. Check out their online brochure for additional information.