Categorized | Opinion

Birthday Specks

By Josh Gowan

Josh Gowan poses with a stringer of Reelfoot Lake black crappie,

Josh Gowan poses with a stringer of Reelfoot Lake black crappie,

I prayed for decent weather this past weekend, being that my wife was accompanying me to the lake, and man did the good Lord deliver! With my anniversary on Wednesday and my birthday on Saturday, I guess I had some extra mojo working, because the fish were jumping in the boat!
We got to the lake Friday afternoon, and since the cabin was full, we rented a room at Reelfoot Outdoors. With a full service bait and tackle store and within walking distance of one of the nicest ramps on the lake, it’s extremely convenient.
The rooms are clean, comfortable, and offer all the amenities you’d expect, and being that most of the resorts require fishing packages that include a boat rental, which we obviously didn’t need, it was the perfect choice.
Reelfoot Outdoors is also one of the most inexpensive lodges on the lake, at $60 per night for a double room. For booking information call (731) 253-3203.
With the temperature nearing 80 degrees by Friday, and the full moon coming on Monday, the long awaited crappie spawn had to be kicking off. I wanted to fish for white crappie in some of my honey holes, but with the 20 mph south wind, it wasn’t going to be an enjoyable experience, so I drove my boat into the depths of the swamp. I let the 200 year-old cypress groves provide a sturdy wind-block, and began vertically jigging the shallow trees.
I had a few spots in mind to try, but I know how elusive black crappie can be, and I’d be lying if I said I had high hopes. I stopped in a place Chippy and I busted them in a few years ago under similar conditions, although we’d went back there many times since then with no luck. The storm that came through Friday evening stained the water just enough that it wasn’t “black” clear, but didn’t muddy it up so bad that the fish had lockjaw.
I pitched into the first tree, and saw my 6 pound hi-vis line “swimming” away from me, I set the hook and pulled in a 3/4 lb. speck. My heart rate jumped a bit with my first “jigging” fish of the year, but I was not at all convinced that we were on to something.
I eased up to the next tree and pitched in, and felt a familiar “tic”, I set the hook and brought in a 1 1/4 pound speck. While I was taking that fish off the hook my wife, Staci, started yelling, and I looked up to see her pulling an identical fish in!
Now excitement and seriousness set in. We prepared ourselves to spend a beautiful, relaxing, sunny day on the water together, opting for comfort out of the wind rather than fighting it in more proven areas. Now we were on fish, good fish, and all that changed, it was time to go to work!
I got the video cameras out and did a quick intro, and then secured the GoPro to a rod holder.
This kind of fishing is labor intensive and requires both hands, one to hold the pole and the other to hold the line. Many times we had to pull the jig to the tip of the pole and weave it through branches, and fishing under low hanging branches meant the only means of setting the hook was to snatch the line back, driving the hook into the fish’s mouth and the rod tip in the water.
After looking around and getting my bearings and choosing a route through the trees, we eased up to the first cypress with the video camera rolling and promptly caught a double from either side of the tree! It was just one of those days, the fish were extremely active and right were you’d expect them to be. The water needed to be 2 ½ to 3 feet deep, and the crappie were holding right under the umbrella of the tree. We caught multiple fish off many trees, and one huge, squatty cypress provided 8 crappie throughout the day!
The footage from this trip is amazing, and I’ll have it edited and uploaded to my website,, in a few days. I also put a picture of the jig we were using and more specific location information up, enjoy!
Josh M. Gowan, Outdoors Writer, Crappie Angler Magazine,

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April 2014
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