By Josh Gowan
This past Saturday was the nicest morning I’ve spent on the water in a very long time, and I was not alone! A ton of anglers across the region took advantage of the weather, and while the bright sun and calm waters invigorated eager fishermen, the fish seemed to enjoy it even more!
Saturday marked the first tournament of the Reelfoot Lake Crappie Club, and everything went off without a hitch. Chippy and I had not been on the lake except for our icy foray a month ago, and he took off Friday to do some pre-fishing. Unfortunately, Friday was a typical early spring day, and the 30 mph southerly wind made the lake inaccessible.
The south end of the lake, or Lower Blue Basin on a map, is our stomping ground this time of year. As I reported last week, the fish had been impossible to catch on the south end due to the shad kill, but it was just a matter of time until they ran out of free food and had to begin foraging. I got a report Thursday night that Sam and Jason Sandage, guides on Reelfoot Lake, caught a good mess in the deep water that day. It was all I needed to hear!
I knew there were some big fish to be caught at the North End (Upper Blue Basin), and at Kirby’s Pocket, and most of the anglers in the tournament would be in those areas, but those spots have been hit or miss, and with a complete lack of wind we eased out into 16 feet of water before sunrise with a gorgeous backdrop (Chippy snapped an awesome picture that’s up at my website).
At 7 a.m. we dropped the double minnow rigs down a few feet from the bottom, and by 10:30 we had 20 crappie in the livewell. Unfortunately, 1.4 pounds was about the biggest fish we had, so with our base we decided to try some other spots to search for bigger fish. The wind kicked up to around 10 mph, and coming all the way across the lake churned up some pretty good waves, which made slow trolling rather difficult. We only picked up two more fish and they were under 1 pound.
As was expected, someone found some big fish. Tony Hughes, who has won the CrappieMaster’s tourney at Reelfoot before and is very tough this time of year, was fishing with Bart Gillon, another tournament angler and good fisherman, and they caught some monsters on the North End. They won the tournament and the “Big Fish” with a 2.2 pound white crappie, and their second biggest fish would have won it as well, a 2.16 pound black crappie!
Their ten fish weighed 16.09 pounds winning 1st place, 2nd place was Calhoun and Hopper with 13.64 pounds, and 3rd place was Seals and Bing with 12.58! Jeff Riddle and his wife Angie did a great job, and Bo’s was a perfect host. Chippy and I came in fourth and can’t wait for the next one on April 26.
The Wappapello Crappie Club also held a tournament on Saturday. Walker and Walker won first with 10.4 pounds (the WCC weighs 7 fish), Chism and Chism took 2nd with 9.76 pounds, and Strobels and Stevens took third with 9.55. Slabber Dave said most all of the fish came from spider-rigging the shallow flats. Tropf and Younger had the “Big Fish” with a 1.98 pound slab!
Captain Rich Bay of Kick’n Bass Guide service over on Kentucky Lake have been piling up the crappie. Most of their fish are coming from drifting minnows or jigs over brush 10-15 feet deep and at the mouth of the bays in deeper 18-20 foot water. Spider-rigging and drifting during windy days with drift socks has been pretty effective as well.
The West Tenn. Catfish Anglers are branching out to some new locations this year. Their next tournament is May 3 at Caruthersville, Missouri. For more information, contact James Hemby at 731-413-4246.
With tournament season firing up across the region, and most of these local clubs only having a Facebook page, I’m going to put all the information and schedules up on my website, just click the “tournaments” page at the top. Chippy and I got some pretty good video Saturday, and I’ll have that up as well under the “videos” tab, all at www.joshgowanoutdoors.com.
Josh M. Gowan, Outdoors Writer, Crappie Angler Magazine, www.joshgowanoutdoors.com