By Josh Gowan
I promise that this is the last time my report comes from Mississippi, that is of course unless I get another opportunity to go, in which case I apologize ahead of time, because I’ll be down I-55 faster than you can say “Man that’s a huge crappie!”
This past weekend was the Bass Pro Shop’s Crappie Master’s tournament on my home away from home, Lake Washington, Mississippi. You’d think that after having been there the prior week, and with three more days to pre-fish for the tournament, I’d have the crappie absolutely pinned down, but you’d be wrong!
It is called fishing, not catching, and there is a reason for that my friends. We couldn’t sell thousands of different colored jigs, every length, feel, and action of rod on earth, different diameter lines and so on and so on if it was always easy. All that being said, the actual fishing was fantastic, the problem I ran into on tournament day was locating seven BIG fish, or any BIG fish for that matter!
Chippy and I descended upon Bait’n’Thangs where my boat was still parked and my room was still full of tackle and clothes, and fortunately the temperature had risen dramatically. Wednesday was a gorgeous day on the water, and as the sun came out and the water calmed in the afternoon, the fish turned on. I have around 150 GPS spots on the lake, some of them marking a tiny protrusion from the bottom (outside of the cypress trees there is very little cover on the lake) and some marking a spot where I’d caught big crappie before.
We went from point to point with 8 16-foot rods holding two minnows each spread 180 degrees in front of the boat. The light breeze was perfect, and keeping it in my face I’d get a running start with the trolling motor and let off so as to drift silently across the spot, ideally stopping just past it and letting the breeze push us back across. My favorite spot that has relinquished 2, 2-pound+ crappie and many between 1 and 2-pounds is old number 60, and it didn’t disappoint! We caught 5 crappie with the biggest being just under 2-pounds in a matter of minutes, and the next 25 spots all seemed to hold at least one crappie. The sun set on the Mississippi oxbow and we were still pulling in slabs, causing us to fantasize about what the tournament would bring.
The next morning I was looking for new spots to add to my list of choices, and one place did just that. While the lake has very little cover, there are tons of points and old creeks that make for very interesting contours along the lake bottom. We pulled in past a row of cypress trees into an opening and the depth went from 2 to 5-feet very quickly. What was more intrigueing was that the 5-foot water held right up to the thin line of cypress trees on the bank. This is an ideal location for big crappie staging near spawning grounds, and the second pass through Chippy caught a crappie that was almost 2-pounds. I marked the spot and we swung around and went back over it and I caught a behemoth 2.55-pounder was shaped like a football!
Being that we were pre-fishing, we backed out and left the spot alone as another viable choice, releasing the big fish in hopes of catching them again on Saturday. Friday brought a constant downpour that lasted until 2pm, and we sat out in it all day without catching much at all.
By this point it was clear that most of the teams would be drifting over one of two flats on opposite sides of the lake where fish were scattered but consistent, and the occasional big slab was possible. I hate aimlessly fishing catching random fish, and opted to fish all of the productive spots on the GPS we could. We caught around 40 crappie on tournament day, but none of them were big, 1 to 1.5-pounds, and 7 of those won’t do much good during a tourney on that lake!
My friends and fellow B’n’M Pro Staffers from Reelfoot Lake, Tim Blackley and Jackie VanCleave absolutely waylaid them, bringing in a 7-crappie stringer that weighed 17.95-pounds to beat out the other 90 boats in the tournament! Josh M. Gowan, Outdoors Writer, Crappie Angler Magazine.
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