Categorized | Opinion

Tough Fishing & Rising Waters

By Josh Gowan

Tony Hughes and Bart Gillon pose with a few of their winning stringer from the Reelfoot Lake Crappie Club Tournament.

Tony Hughes and Bart Gillon pose with a few of their winning stringer from the Reelfoot Lake Crappie Club Tournament.

I have always felt that when fishing a tournament, or even just fishing, that my chances of having a successful day are severely decreased by beautiful weather.
I know it’s counterintuitive to what your “everyday fisherman” thinks, and I’m not sure if it’s the high pressure that often accompanies bluebird days, or if it’s just in my head, but once again this past Saturday, my theory held true. A bad day of fishing may beat a good day at work, but I think at least some consideration to the extent of the “bad day” is necessary before making that call!
The Reelfoot Crappie Club held its second tournament this past Saturday, and after watching my wife and I slaughter the specks (by the way, that video is still up at my website under the “videos” tab if you haven’t seen it) Chippy was as ready to fish as I’ve ever seen him!
Farming is a busy enterprise in the spring, and he didn’t get to the lake until late Friday night, but I managed to get there in time Friday evening to do a little pre-fishing and search for the ideal spot for the morning, unfortunately all I managed to do was eliminate some water!
I had a gorgeous afternoon and fished a couple hundred of my favorite trees throughout Buck Basin (Kirby’s Pocket) without a single crappie. Chippy was adamant about not wanting to spider-rig, and I was with him. We spider-rig a lot in tournaments and early in the year when it’s necessary, but single-pole vertical jig fishing is our bread and butter, and definitely our preferred way to fish. We figured that since I’d eliminated ¼ of the lake pre-fishing, surely with eight hours to fish we could catch ten good crappie jigging. We figured wrong.
We must have dropped 20 different colors, styles, and sizes of jigs beside 500 cypress trees, and at 2:30 we had approximately eight crappie between ½ pound and 1 pound. It was pitiful, and we were sunburnt, tired, and disheartened.
Then my phone rang. My wife informed me that my delinquent dishwasher had discharged water throughout the kitchen and I needed to get home. Now to be honest, if I would have had 10 good fish, the flood would have had to wait, but since I did not, I called the guys at the weigh-in and told them I wouldn’t make it, I had a kitchen emergency!
To compound my suffering, the air conditioner in my truck was barely blowing, and by the time I crossed the bridge it had completely shut off.
I hit the button to roll down my windows, and they didn’t budge. So traveling tired and sunburnt down the interstate in a black Ford sauna, I watched as every electrical device and gauge in my truck expired one by one, leading up to the grand finale, the power steering and engine. The upside to breaking down on the interstate was that I got to get out of the truck and breathe a bit while wringing out the sweat in my clothes!
Fortunately I was just outside of Caruthersville and my mechanic Tyler Sullivan of Sullivan’s (who once saved me $4,500 on a new engine a dealership convinced me I needed by replacing a $4.00 vacuum hose) was close by and able to come tow me in. Two days later I’m back in my old Ford and she’s better than ever!
The winning stringer was again won by Tony Hughes and Bart Gillon, and they did it slow trolling the middle basin, pushing Mr. Crappie plastics tipped with a minnow on 14 foot Mr. Crappie Custom Trolling rods.
The water is rising at all area lakes, and I talked to Slabber Dave Maddox about the effect it would have on the crappie. Dave not only owns and operates Slabber Dave’s bait and tackle at Wappapello Lake, but also guides on Reelfoot, and makes up one half (with his partner Jeff Riddle) of one of the best tournament crappie fishing teams in the country, and is a wealth of information about fishing that I tap into as often as possible! He said the rising water would have a much bigger impact on fishermen than fish, and that the crappie, locked into the different stages of the spawn, would be in the same places they were before the rise in water level.
He said the runoff that would muddy up the water in a lot of areas would be the biggest hindrance to catching fish.
Josh M. Gowan, Outdoors Writer, Crappie Angler Magazine, www.joshgowanoutdoors.com

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