Categorized | Opinion

Heartlander Abroad: Lake Washington Mississippi

By Josh Gowan

Anglers pre-fishing for the CrappieMaster's National Championship on Lake Washington, Miss.

Anglers pre-fishing for the CrappieMaster’s National Championship on Lake Washington, Miss.

I have lived the grand majority of my life between Southeast Missouri and Northwest Tennessee, and am quite accustomed to the subtle nuances that distinguish our land from those who reside elsewhere.
We have a surplus of bugs, it is part of life, but we have those bugs because we’re fortunate enough to live in an area that is rich in fertile soil, vast wetlands which are connected one way or another to the Mississippi River, and abundant wildlife. We live in the Mississippi River Delta, or in the hills closely surrounding it.
Well my friends, I am well below our home, and in a much deeper part of the Delta, one whose namesake geographically defines the area, and whose history is evident at every turn. Lake Washington, Mississippi lies just east of the levee separating the tumultuous Mississippi River from the fertile farm ground that surrounds the cypress-laden lake. While there are many characteristics here that parallel the Missouri Bootheel, there is a sense that this place is much older, and operates at a pace even slower than back home.
Mike Jones, owner/operator of Southern Stars RV and Cabins, and Bait’n’Thangs, both on the banks of Lake Washington, has been working for a decade to bring the CrappieMaster’s Tournament Trail here, and once he was successful he immediately started working on bringing a National Championship here, and succeeded this year.
Chippy and I are staying in one of Mike’s cabins here on the lake, and we haven’t needed for anything. The place is clean, comfortable, and has everything you’d want in a cabin on the lake. Bait’n’Thangs is just 100-feet or so away, where we’ve bought fishing licenses, minnows, and cooler cups, and the week is still young!
A trip to this beautiful lake is not complete without stopping at the Gator Den for a bite to eat. The sweet tea is served in big mason jars, and the menu has all the country fixin’s you’d expect, made to order of course. My personal favorite is the “Country Burger,” which is a hamburger however you’d like it (I went with a bacon cheeseburger) with a fried egg atop the patty. There are groceries, fishing gear, cold drinks, and gas on hand, and a myriad of cane poles are hung from the ceiling, and these are not decoration. This is a part of Dixie where yesterday sits right beside you, last year is just a few minutes away, and a century ago is right down the road.
Everything seems left as it was, and the people are as nice and personable as you’d expect.
There are plantation-era mansions dotted along the shore, some in spectacular condition, and others with broken windows and columns wrapped in ivy, still standing though clearly unoccupied for years. Add the ancient trees towering over the property and it paints a rather spooky picture. My fishing partner, Chippy, who has been a self-proclaimed ghost hunter for years (although I’ve always maintained that if he ever actually saw a ghost his hobby would come to an abrupt end) is adamant about wanting to go “check them out,” I am less interested!
The fishing aspect of our trip is going well, and around 10 a.m. this morning we found our biggest concentration of crappie, and although none of them were monsters, there were some decent fish among them. There are five other lakes in this area that are “fishable waters” for the two-day tournament that starts this Friday, however they are all river chutes that generally do not produce crappie as big as the slabs from Lake Washington.
The problem we are all having is that we’re right smack dab in the middle of the summer-fall transition, and fishing can be tough. Actually, the fishing is great, but the tournament fishing is tough, meaning finding a congregation of big fish is proving difficult. However, there are over 200 teams which represent the best crappie fishermen in the country down for the tournament, and as is always the case, someone will put together two big stringers, I just hope it’s us
Josh M. Gowan, Outdoors Writer, Crappie Angler Magazine,

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October 2014
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