By Josh Gowan
Well folks, February has her icy cold fingers wrapped tightly around the throat of the Heartland, and as adept as I’ve become with my snow shovel, I still can’t seem to get her to let go. This is when an outdoor writer has to strap on his literary snow boots and earn those big checks, which aren’t actually oversized, but just appear that way in comparison to the tiny numbers written on them.
With the 9-inches of snow still in my yard and the wind chill nearing absolute zero, I can only fantasize about warmer climates and future plans. I have a trip coming up in a few weeks, and I’d like to invite any of the crappie fishing/boat owning readers of this column to join me, if for no other reason than to thaw out your toes.
Saturday, March 7th is the “Big Mama Open Tournament” at Lake Washington, Mississippi. This tournament is open to anyone, and the winner is determined by one crappie, the Big Mama! Southern Star RV & Cabins and Bait’n’Thangs Bait Shop is hosting their annual tournament and rolling out the red carpet to the participants and anyone who wants to come out and watch the weigh-in.
The cost is $50 per 2-person team, and a 15-year-old or younger child can join you for no additional cost. Registration starts at 6 AM and you can begin fishing at 7 AM. The weigh-in starts at 2 PM at the pavilion at Bait’n’Thangs and at least 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place will be paid. There will be a live band playing, and free food to all those in attendance compliments of Mike Jones, owner of Bait’n’Thangs. Now as if this tournament won’t be fun enough, Karl Kalonka, host of Krappie King’s TV on the Pursuit Channel will be there filming the event for his show!
Now why would I invite you all down? I’ll tell you, because not only is it going to be a blast, but it is a very inexpensive vacation to warmer temperatures and much bigger crappie! Last year during the same time of year I was fishing beside my buddy and local guide Brandon Fulgham (grenadalakecharters.com) and he caught a 3-pound 5-ounce monster crappie. Chippy and I caught multiple 2 to 2.5 pounders, and Lake Washington has become our favorite trip of the year.
The locale will look familiar at first, with vast flatlands where cotton is grown during the summer, and the levee within eyesight of the lake. What will differ from our home here in the Heartland are the old plantation homes and Spanish moss on the cypress trees, that and the size of the crappie!
Lake Washington is about 5 hours south of my house in Sikeston, Missouri, so it’s a bit of a drive, but a very picturesque one that I-55 has deprived most of us from. As soon as you cross the old bridge at Memphis, hang a right on Highway 61 south, and ease through the Mississippi Delta all the way to Lake Washington. I love the drive, and maybe the destination has a bit to do with it, but it truly is a beautiful trip.
Mike Jones at Bait’n’Thangs has extremely affordable lodging right beside the water. He has the bait shop, the boat ramp, the cleaning station, pavilion, laundry mat, and so on, all right on the water within walking distance of each other, and did I mention the size of the crappie?!
The lake is reminiscent of Reelfoot, except without the stumps. There are vast shallow flats, only one area of deep water, and plenty of cypress groves. The best way to fish for crappie during early March is to push multiple poles with a variety of jigs and live minnows and cover a lot of water. Some anglers are drawn to the deeper water with cold water temps, but most of us never get deeper than 8-foot and find plenty of success. For the one-polers, there are plenty of cypress trees and a healthy population of black crappie that are spawning early, but the biggest fish are usually the white crappie caught out cruising the flats.
So in closing, if you’d like to join me for a couple days of warmer temps and bigger crappie in a historic setting, I’m heading down Wednesday, March 4th ahead of the tourney and will stay all week, so give Mike Jones a call at 662-822-2087 and book a room or a camper spot!
Josh M. Gowan, Outdoors Writer, Crappie Angler Magazine.
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