Netterville instantly dropped his rod for a second, and then whipped it back so quick and hard that it turned the bass around, much like a calf lassoed in a roping competition. The young angler's hookset drove the steel home and the bass didn't know what had hit it, as Netterville had him hog tied and in the boat before he could recover.
Netterville has been fishing competitively for only a few short years, but is already a force to be reckoned with as he has quickly learned how to find and catch fish in a myriad of conditions. In the meantime, he has become one of the pre-eminent anglers on the University of Southern Mississippi Bass Team.
Netterville recently wrapped up yet another point's championship in the collegiate bass club, and earned the right to compete against other talented anglers from around the country.
After learning of Netterville's love for bass fishing, along with his talent and enthusiasm, I made plans to join him on a trip on the Bouie River. While the Hattiesburg area is home to a plethora of private and public lakes, streams, creeks and rivers, Netterville chose the Bouie River for our trip due to its proximity and relatively unknown status outside of the area.
The Bouie is a shallow river more suited for canoes, kayaks and johnboats, which makes it more of a challenge for many anglers and leaves it relatively unpressured. On the upper Bouie above the Glendale bridge, you're looking at fishing shallow river waters, but below the Glendale Bridge on down to the Highway 42 bridge, anglers can fish old gravel pit lakes, and this was our plan.
I met Netterville in the parking lot of Gander Mountain in Hattiesburg, and we loaded my gear into his truck and headed for the river.
6:00 a.m. - After making a short run to Petal, we pull into the Highway 42 Bypass Boat Landing, and quickly launch his small aluminum boat.
"We're putting in at the forks of the river where the Bouie and Leaf rivers intersect, right at the Highway 42 Bridge," said Netterville. "We're going to run up the left fork into the Bouie, and fish the old gravel pit lakes.
"We start out fishing the banks with topwater lures around shoreline cover and grass patches. Most of the bass caught in these lakes will be related to grass or wood cover. And I like to fish a Popping Frog around the grass when the bass are actively feeding or striking the surface. Later on when the sun gets up, we'll do some pitching and punching in the grass also."
6:13 a.m. - We motor into the first lake, and Netterville turns left and shuts the motor off. In seconds he's casting and working the Popping Frog along the grass beds and shallows.
"This SPRO Popping Frog is my favorite frog, and I'll catch bass on it anytime I can find them in shallow water this time of year," said Netterville. "I like to cast them around any type of grass I can find, but they're also good walking the dog almost anywhere you have bass in clear water."
With our boat in 12 feet of water, the grass patches along the bank are really close and an ideal location for bass to hold in. The recent passing of the cold front has put a damper on the topwater bite, however.
At Netterville's direction I follow up behind him with a junebug Venom Hollow Hog rigged Texas style with a 1/8-ounce bullet weight.
6:25 a.m. - After working a grass patch, I pitch the Hollow Hog up near a gravel bank, and the line never stops. In fact, the line starts paralleling the boat, so I burn the reel handles taking in as much slack as I can, and slam the hook home, deep into the jaw of our first bass of the day.
6:45 a.m. - "I've got to make a change," Netterville says.
The frog bite is nonexistent, and Netterville knows that it's time to switch gears, so he picks up a rod rigged with a speed worm and starts working the shallows with it.
"It's not happening with the frog bite," he says.
The talented angler continues probing the shallow waters with the speed worm in hopes of establishing some type of pattern during the post-frontal conditions.
7:00 a.m. - Netterville has several rods already rigged up and ready for use, so he reaches down and picks one up rigged with a KVD 1.5 crankbait. Without missing a beat, Netterville continues probing the shallow water with the crankbait, covering a slightly different portion of the water.
7:11 a.m. - Netterville pitches the KVD, and starts his retrieve bringing the crankbait over and around any cover he can find. In an instant, a fish slams into the shad-colored lure and tries to eat it. Netterville snaps the rod back and drives the treble hooks home with a successful hookset. After a short battle, he lands his first fish of the day.
7:16 a.m. - The knowledgeable angler detects a subtle change in the bottom, and switches to the speed worm quickly. As he probes the bottom with the Ultra Vibe Speed Worm, a bass strikes. Though the conditions are poor at best, Netterville's knowledge of the bass in the Bouie and their locations are paying off as we are getting a few bites.
7:18 a.m. - Following the young angler's lead, I pick up the Venom Hollow Hog and work the cover very slowly also. As we move to a main-lake point, Netterville points out where the bass usually hold.
"I caught one right here the other day," he says.
Seconds later, a bass slams into my Hollow Hog and heads for parts unknown before I lead him to the boat. We continue working the gravel bar points in hopes of finding a pattern.
7:55 a.m. - "We're going to move up river and try another lake," Netterville says.
We leave the first lake, continue upriver and turn right into a smaller lake. Stopping at an island on the right side, Netterville works the shallow water looking for another bass. After making several casts with his speed worm he puts it down and changes tactics again.
8:10 a.m. - Netterville whips the KVD 1.5 across the point of the small island, and works the bait through the shallow water back to the boat. As he continues working the lure he probes the bottom in search of a pattern, or honey hole, or just another bass. Suddenly his rod tip loads up and a feisty spotted bass slams into the diminutive crankbait and really puts on a show. He's no match for Netterville on this day, however, and the fish provides a welcome battle.
8:30 a.m. - As we work around another point, Netterville points at an object on the bank and shows me the water level changes.
"That was out of the water the other day when we fished here, so the water's really come up overnight," he says.
Evidently the passing storms dumped enough water in the area to raise the water level more than a foot, and increased the current as well, making for even tougher conditions.
9:06 a.m. - With current flowing through the river cut into the mouth of the lake we were fishing, Netterville spots some type of surface activity and moves to the cut.
"I don't know what's hitting, but something's going on here with the current flowing through this area," he says.
He works the area over with another crankbait, and we really comb the bottom looking for another bass. After working our way through the point, Netterville starts probing the cover along a bank.
9:30 a.m. - As we near an overhanging tree limb that had a brushtop in the water below it, the talented angler pitches the lure right into the top.
"Bass will hold in cover like this, and you can usually come back and catch them in the same places trip after trip," he said. "I pitched my lure in here on my last trip and got bit."
Sure enough, a lunker nails it, and he drives the hook home.
9:45 a.m. - After working quite a bit of shoreline cover, it's obvious the bass aren't behaving as we would like, so Netterville decides to head upriver to the Glendale Falls.
Arriving at the falls, it's obvious to see why you can catch bass here.
"The bass will hold right in this area and feed on bait coming through the waterfall area," said Netterville.
This area also holds an occasional striped bass, and the Bouie did give up the state-record striped bass a few years ago that weighed over 32 pounds. It held the top spot before being overtaken by one caught out of the Mississippi River.
After surveying the conditions, it's obvious that the rise on the river has made it too swift to fish for bass on this day, so we turn around and head back downriver.
10:10 a.m. - Netterville puts on a punching rig, and points out one of the many grass patches in the string of gravel-pit lakes.
"When the sun gets up high and the pressure is on, the bass bury up under these matted grass patches," he says. "I'll take a pegged Texas-rigged creature bait like a Paca Craw and pitch to the holes or anything different in the grass.
"If the mats are thick, I'll use a heavier rig and punch through the surface cover and let the lure sink underneath. I'll let the lure fall to the bottom, pump it a time or two and then bring it out and do it again. Seventy percent of the time they'll hit it on the initial fall, but they will strike it after you pump it and let it fall if you can draw their attention to it."
11:00 a.m. - "We'll concentrate on hitting the mats near the points and deeper water and see if we can catch a big one," Netterville says.
It's obvious this angler knows how to work the punching rig as he probes every hole and opening in the grass effortlessly. We continue working the grass patches as we come to them and try different lures in the areas between the grass, occasionally getting a bite here and there.
11:18 a.m. - We work our way toward the next grass bed, and both of us comb the shallows with shallow-running crankbaits. I pick up a Bandit 200 series in the new salad bar color, pitch up next to a bare bank and work it back to the boat in a series of fan casts. Suddenly, another bass slams into the small crankbait.
11:30 a.m. - We move back downriver to the big lake where we began our day.
"We'll continue flipping, pitching and punching the grass mats and try to catch a big one," Netterville says.
11:45 a.m. - Netterville stops at a grass mat and works it over pretty well without a bite. As the wind picks up, he detects baitfish scurrying along the edges and occasionally flitting on the surface. Sensing a change in the conditions, Netterville picks up another rod and starts working the area with a spinnerbait. As a baitfish flashes near the boat, he pitches the spinnerbait nearby and draws a strike from another fish. In seconds, he's landed another bass under extremely tough conditions.
12:30 p.m. - I switch to a spoon and work it back toward the boat over a shallow sandbar, and a bass flashes on it and strikes. Unfortunately I set the hook at the sight of the bass, and pull it out of his mouth before he has taken it good. Netterville is putting us on the fish in tough conditions, but they're striking short and hard to come by.
1:00 p.m. - Netterville continues pitching a speed worm under overhanging limbs and dissecting every piece of cover including grass, wood and brushtops with no takers.
2:00 p.m. - After probing multiple grass mats and working many different lure combinations, it's obvious that the bite is not on today, so we decide to call it a day.
The Bouie River is a beautiful river and the gravel pit lakes are prime habitat for bass and provide outstanding fishing action during good weather, as evidenced by Netterville's past catches here.