By Josh Gowan
It is very nice to be sitting back in my favorite chair, surrounded by my favorite people (and dog), and slowly recovering from a wild week down south. However, saying goodbye to the lake, land, people, and food of Washington County, Mississippi was tough!
When I last spoke to you all I was just arriving, and marveling at all that was around me, but as I hit “send” (after finally finding a computer hardwired to the world wide web), the seriousness and gravity of the tournament set in, and a fishing we went!
Everyone knew the situation, there were six lakes you could fish, one of them was Lake Washington which held the biggest fish, but also the had toughest bite, and the other five were chutes off the Mississippi River, which is where most people fished. The top teams figured that it would be impossible to put together two big stringers (2 day tournament, 7 fish per day) from Washington, and were nearly all committed to fishing the other lakes.
We were staying on Lake Washington, which is 30 miles south of some of the other lakes, and were familiar with both the lake and the huge crappie it held, and planned to spend a few days there finding out for ourselves.
On Monday we did quite a bit of driving around and scanning with the Humminbird Side Imaging units, and easily located big schools of crappie, however, getting them to bite was near impossible. While spider-rigging with minnows, I did manage to catch one big fish that tipped the scales around 2-pounds, and that afternoon we caught some decent, 3/4-pound fish as well.
Tuesday started off with more searching, and first thing that morning my outboard started to make a knocking sound. I am certainly no mechanic, but I know knocking is not good. I checked everything I could check, and after finding nothing amiss, we continued on hoping for the best. About midday I opened her up, and within a few miles the knocking got very loud, and the engine shuttered and locked up, otherwise known as blowing up. We limped in, and my suspicions were confirmed at a local shop, the outboard was dead.
The registration was Wednesday at lunch, so we decided to just troll around with the electric motor Wednesday morning near the ramp. Easing through a line of spots I’d marked on the GPS just after sunrise, we began catching good fish, and a lot of them, and our mood swung 180 degrees.
We left that area alone the rest of the week, and were there waiting on 7am Friday morning. There were still a lot of fish there, but no big ones, and after 8 hours of tirelessly fishing we drug a measly 6 ½-pounds to the scale. Saturday we improved by a pound, putting us in 70th out of 180 boats, I suppose not bad considering we were without an outboard, but not what I was hoping for. That being said, we had an absolute blast and got to experience our first classic, and I can’t thank the people that helped us get there enough.
It turned out that one team was able to get enough of the big, Lake Washington crappie to bite to win. Tony Shepard and Alan Carter of Murray, Kentucky figured out the puzzle, and beat out 8-time National Champions Capps and Coleman by a few ounces.
The ticket was abandoning live bait and going small, pushing 1/16-ounce jigs tipped with a crappie nibble right on the bottom. Seeing those guys win, the emotion and excitement shared by so many people, was something I’ll never forget!
This coming weekend, New Madrid, Mo., will be hosting the BassPro Shop’s Big Cat Quest National Championship. The city has been working hard to put this event on, and it’s a great chance to get the family out and see some of the biggest blue catfish on the river! And here’s an added bonus, Bill Dance is on one of the teams fishing the tournament!
Josh M. Gowan, Outdoors Writer, Crappie Angler Magazine, www.joshgowanoutdoors.com
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