Categorized | Opinion

March Madness

By Josh Gowan

Sunrise on Reelfoot Lake, Tenn., captured by Josh Chipman.

Sunrise on Reelfoot Lake, Tenn., captured by Josh Chipman.

Don’t worry, I’m not doing an in-depth analysis of why your NCAA bracket is in shambles. If you want to know how to pick a perfect bracket, read the rest of the sports section, or follow my lead, and don’t start filling it out until after the first few rounds are over! My “March Madness” is due to the fact that I am again writing a springtime column while the mercury in the old thermometer is plummeting. I’m no scientist and don’t claim to be, but I have to tell you, this Global Warming pandemic is really confusing! But alas, spring or no spring, the show must go on!
I have no personal report, and I apologize for that, but working at the biggest crappie store on Earth has one glaring drawback, we are extremely busy during the early spring, and I’m saving my time for upcoming tournaments. Fortunately, my network of outdoors-folk are out there on the job and providing reports while I ship orders to the fishermen of the world!
Reelfoot Lake is getting better with every warm afternoon. The white crappie in the big part of the lake are finally catchable, however the gusting wind has kept most people off that part of the water for the last few days. I’ve had a few reports of people catching black crappie jigging, but these were on those rare warm days and in the afternoon after the sun had been on the water all day.
The cold nights are keeping the fish on or near the bottom, regardless of the depth of water. The best way to catch fish is still spider-rigging the south end of the lake fishing pink and chartreuse, tipped with minnows near or on the bottom.
Using a double hooked rig is important right now because of the fish laying on the bottom. When they move up in the water column, they all move up in the water column, and fishing under crappie is pointless.
If you catch fish all morning on the bottom hook, but suddenly began to catch them on the top, it’s time to shallow your rigs some, but beware, they can move right back to where they were, depending on light penetration and the barometric pressure, among other things, which is again a good reason to have more than one hook on the line!
Kentucky Lake is near winter pool and the crappie fishing over there has been great. Fish are trying to move to shallower areas in the coves but really need warmer weather. The best fishing has been over submerged structure in 12-8 ft of water, and the best color has been chartreuse.
I talked to Slabber Dave over on Wappapello Lake and he said they’re in the same boat as us, wishing for warmer waters. Guys have been catching fish 5-8 ft deep, spider-rigging live bait over the shallow flats, as well as casting in the clearer water.
Chasing shad this time of year is what predatory fish do, and fishermen at all lakes would be wise to do the same!
Speaking of my good buddy Slabber Dave, he and his partner Jeff Riddle were down in Grenada Lake, Mississippi for the CrappieMaster’s Mississippi State Championship this past weekend. Everyone in the industry, or that follows tournament crappie fishing, knew that it was going to take a huge weight to win, but just how big was anyone’s guess. After the first day of fishing the two-day event, the top 7-fish weight was 20.46 pounds. At nearly 3 lbs per fish, that was a new tournament record, but day two would bring an even bigger weight at 20.52!
The winners combined two-day total was 38.92 pounds in their 14 fish limit, also a record. While it has not been officially confirmed yet, neither myself or anyone I’ve spoken to can remember a bigger “Big Fish” being weighed either, and that trophy belonged to one of the best tournament teams in the country, Slabber Dave Maddox and Jeff Riddle, with their 3.87 pounds monster white crappie!
Remember, if you’re interested in fishing one of the many tournaments coming to our lakes, or if you want to watch fishing videos and read old columns, go to!
Josh M. Gowan, Outdoors Writer, Crappie Angler Magazine,
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April 2014
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