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Introduction to Hope Outdoors In This Issue AREA LAKE REPORTS
THREE C’s of SPRING CRAPPIE
ning w a p S h c t a C o T How ore Crappie From Sh
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How To Catch More Spawning Crappie From Shore Southern outdoorsmen look forward to the crappie spawn with as much anticipation as opening day of deer season. During the crappie spawn the fish come in shallow where bank-bound anglers can get at them, and while the timing isn’t set on a calendar, it happens pretty much the same time every year.
Thill Crappie Cork
One of Oklahoma’s most-popular bank-fishing destinations for spawning crappie is Lake Eufaula. It’s the Sooner State’s biggest reservoir and offers miles and miles of productive crappie spawning water within easy casting or pitching distance from shore. Two Eufaula Lake guides, Barry Morrow and Todd Huckabee, spend most of the spring catching big slabs by boat, but acknowledge that at this time of year the bank-bound guys Todd Huckabee hoists crappie out of Oklahoma water have just as good of a shot of filling a limit as they do. Here’s what these two crappie-fishing authorities had to say about how to catch spawning crappie from the bank. Their tips and rigs can help you fill your bucket!
“The most important thing is that an area is out of prevalent winds. Crappie will spawn on all different types of banks and will use almost any kind of cover, but they won’t even try to spawn where waves crash every time the wind blows.” –Todd Huckabee
Rigs, Jigs and Floats
Key to shoreline crappie success is a rig that can be pitched or cast to targets, and suspend at a proper depth. One of the best things about spring is that fish congregate within easy casting range of the shore. Even if you own a boat, the shore-fishing approach allows for quick stops after work and lets you lake-hop or move from spot-to-spot along a lake’s shore without long boat runs. Shore gear is simple. Use light spinning tackle spooled with 10-poundtest, a 1/8- to ¼-ounce Watsit Jig or YUM Wooly Beavertail and a Thill Wobble Bobber or Crappie Cork matched to the size of your jighead. Casting a jig allows you to travel light, with nothing but your rod and reel, a small box of tackle and a stringer, which means you can walk the shore to search for fish. If the fish are fussy, you can fish a minnow under a float; however, a jig often will produce as many fish (or more), and you don’t have to buy minnows for each trip or carry a minnow bucket. The Wobble Bobber lends itself nicely to the shoreline approach because it can be cast long distances and with good accuracy. As the name suggests, it also dances when it Lake Eufaula, Oklahoma Crappie bounces in the waves, adding action to any jig that’s dangled below it. Guide, Barry Morrow holds crappie Good shoreline areas for spring crappie fishing typically include riprap banks (especially those along bridge crossings), coves and pockets lined with downed trees, and the edges of stumpy flats. Fish specific pieces of cover and the edges of the rocks or weedlines by casting or pitching beside the cover, letting the jig
How To Catch More. . . (Continued from Previous Page) settle beneath the float, leaving it still for several seconds and then working the rig with alternating twitches and pauses. If that doesn’t prompt strikes, try following the initial pause with a slow, steady retrieve. If you catch mostly males around shallow cover, try making long casts out away from the bank and working the deeper water away from the cover, but with the jig set at the same depth as when working shallow cover. According to Huckabee, for the most part, big females only move tight to the cover at night. However, during the day they will stay at the same level in the water column, suspended over deeper water just out from the bank.
Pitches & Casts
If the water in a lake is even somewhat stained, Huckabee and Morrow normally pitch float rigs instead of casting simply because it’s faster and more efficient. Both indicated that the muddier the water, the closer you can approach spawn-time crappie, and the shallower they will “do their stuff.” Morrow commonly uses a Watsit Spin during the spring for the added flash that triggers non-aggressive crappie. For Eufaula’s chocolate-milk-colored water he pegs a Thill Crappie Cork about 2 feet up the line to keep it suspended at the proper depth. Huckabee, Todd Huckabee holds crappie who favors a Wooly Beavertail or Wooly Bee, leaves the rig motionless beside the cover at first and then reels the rig slowly and steadily away to trigger fish. Both anglers cover a lot of shoreline this time of year as they search for active fish. When fish hit, they set the hook with a flip of the wrist, swing the fish back into the boat without touching the “I think it’s more photo-period rather reel, unhook the fish, and then pitch the rig back to the same spot. Bankthan water temperature,. That would bound anglers should do the same – work a productive spot thoroughly
explain why it happens at about the same time every year.” – Barry Morrow
before moving on. If the water is clearer than expected, bank-bound anglers need to stay back farther from the target and cast to it, but with the same rig and presentations. The only difference may be to set the jig to ride a little deeper than in muddy water. It’s easy to tell when crappie are getting shallow -the shorelines of Lake Eufaula and other bodies of water across the country become lined with anglers. Crappie spawning season may not be marked on the calendar, but it does occur at traditional times of year. If you’re not sure exactly when the crappie spawn at your local body of water, just watch for extra cars parked along the side of the road along bridges lined with riprap or at your local marina. Make up a milk run of these spots and you can spend the day hitting one after the other until you find cooperative fish. And take a note from Huckabee’s book and consider areas protected from the wind. Marinas and coves are great spawning areas as long as there is ample cover. Rig up with a slip float rig and drop it right in among the branches of laydown trees or behind boathouses. Huckabee offers a final note on lure color selection. “If it’s muddy like it is here at Eufaula much of the time,” he said, “go with darker colors with more contrast, like black with a pink tail. In clearer water I’d go with more-natural colors.”
Jig Colors For Crappie Under All Conditions “Crappie usually exhibit specific behavior patterns in response to different degrees of water clarity, and the angler who knows what to expect will have a better chance of catching fish regardless of conditions.” To start, an angler must first decide how to determine what constitutes muddy to clear water. Our rule of thumb is to lower a white jig in the water. With the line as a measuring stick, if we can see the jig at a depth of 6 feet or more, we consider the water to be clear. If the jig vanishes between 2 to 6 feet deep, the water is stained or colored. if the jig disappears at 2 feet or less, the water is muddy or dark.
When searching for clear water crappie, a careful, quiet approach is critical. Fishing in limited light also helps. They rely heavily on sight and can see an offering and more readily to chase lures. Be on the water in early morning and late afternoonearly evening when light penetration is minimal and the fish are in the shallows to feed. Take advantage of cloudy days and night-fishing in the summer months. Line considerations are also very important, because crappie can look closely at the prey before attacking in crystal-clear environment. I use about a 4-pound test because it is more difficult for crappie to detect. As for lure selections, live baits are always a good choice because there is nothing phony for crappie to observe. When using jigs, I use jigs weighing 1/32 oz. or smaller. Go to lighter, more natural, more translucent colors. A pearl with silver, or spotted minnow, and colors with sparkles mimics baitfish.
In muddy waters, crappie usually stay in the shallow water areas because there are lower oxygen levels in deeper water. The peak feeding times are usually during the brightest hours, in fact, the best fishing in muddy water will often be during midday hours under sunny days. Because visibility is severely limited, they are less spooky and tend to be object-oriented. They rarely move any distance and usually locate near some type of woody cover. Fishing close to brush, stumps, and other structures can be very productive. An important thing to remember, that muddy-water crappie rely more on sound, vibrations and odor to find
food. Thus, they usually respond better to live baits, because they can home in on the scent. If jigs are used, use attractants such as Berkley Crappie Nibbles or Kodiak paste. As for colors, Dark colors such as: Black, Brown, dark Blue and dark Red are like silhouettes in mud.
In stained or colored waters, crappie behavior falls somewhere between the clear and muddy water extremes, and fish may display a characteristic of either condition, depending on degree of stain. With water color closer to the muddy extreme, of course, lean towards muddy-water methods. When visibility is in the 4 to 6 foot range, stick more to clear-water techniques. As water gets more stained, go to brighter colors, such as whites, yellows and oranges. When you reach the point of 2 to 4 feet of visibility, try brighter fluorescents like hivis Blues, Pinks, Chartreuse or Lime Green. In water that’s stained a dark green or brown, use multi-color combinations. Use Black/Chartreuse or Pink/Yellow. or use something with a little glitter when the water is real dark. Almost always, I hook minnows or Grubco wax worms with the jigs. Be ready to adjust and experiment to changing water clarities. With a little extra work and know-how, crappie usually can be found.
The motto for many turkey hunters this year is, “So close and yet so far away.” It really is amazing sometimes how close we can be to a good gobbler and yet be unable to take a shot. More than one person has bemoaned this truth to me in the last few days. I have empathized with them. Just today, I got as close to a roosted tom as I possibly could without being seen. He flew down and paced the side of the hill just over the crest from where I was set up. He probably got as close as 40 yards but I could never see him. He was literally, “so close and yet so far away.” For some of you non-turkey hunters one of the best setups for ambushing a gobbler is to set up just below the crown of a hill across from the turkey. This hides you from his all-seeing eyes until he come to the top of the hill. By then he has sealed his fate because he’s well within shooting range. The heartache comes when he stays just on the other side, out of sight, waiting for you (the hen) to come to him. If you’ve turkey hunted long enough, you’ve lived this scenario and second guessed yourself each time the plan didn’t work. But I thought the best plans were supposed to always work? I mean if it doesn’t work, could it really be the best plan? The truth is, the best plan doesn’t always work out. In the case of my turkey, I knew the plan but he didn’t. And it’s the same when other plans fail as well. They fail because not everyone knows the plans or because someone had different plans. Over the years I have dreamed of some grand plans. I have pictured the perfect scenario for some of the situations that I have been in. And in all of those years of making plans, I can’t really ever remember them working out just as I had predicted. The outcome may have been just as good but the path to that outcome was very different from what I thought would happen. The problem is that even though my plans have never
worked in exactly the way that I thought they would, I still panic when I see them go awry. For an atheistic world this may seem like a reasonable reaction, but for those of us who believe in the guiding hand of real God this is not an option. For it was Jesus who said, “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.” My plans may not always go as I desire, but if I have chosen to trust God, I must believe He will make it all work for my good.
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Getting Tough on Tough Crappie “It’s only easy when it’s easy. And most times, it’s not that easy.” My uncle used to say that about crappie fishing. It float, small jigs. was his way of telling me not to get discouraged when “To avoid spooking things got tough. fish,” Wunderle continues, “Some days, you can’t do anything wrong,” he’d say. “back off some and cast “Anywhere you fish, you’ll catch a crappie. More often your jigs. I use a float with a than not, though; fishing conditions are less than perlight jig, cast past the cover fect, and you’ll have to dig down in your bag of tricks to and gently jig it back or let find something that works.” the wind carry it over the More than 30 years have passed since my uncle taught top.” me the basics of crappie fishing. During that time, I’ve Problem: After heavy learned there’s no magic formula to ensure success. But rainfall, the lake is rising if you know how crappie are likely to behave during unfast. New cover is flooded, favorable conditions, you can tip the odds in your favor. and fishing your favorite Let’s look at some tips offered by expert anglers. They brushpiles and treetops is can help you catch crappie when things get tough. unproductive. Problem: The lake you’re fishing is extremely muddy. Solution: Steve McCOn a scale of 1 to 10, fishing hardly rates a 4. adams of Paris, Tenn., is a Solution: Steve Filipek, a fisheries biologist with the crappie guide on Kentucky Arkansas Game & Fish Commission, has tackled mudLake. He sometimes en- The next time you a tough dy-water conditions often during a lifetime of crappie counters fast-rising water confront situation, try the tips fishing. after spring rains. “When fishing muddy water, I look for places where “Spider-rigging lets you offered by these expert water is less turbid — up in creeks, the backs of coves, cover more water, and that’s crappie anglers. around green vegetation, places like that,” he says. what you must do to locate “Crappie are sight feeders, and the slightest bit of clearer scattered fish during a fast water improves the chance they’ll see your bait. rise. Rig your poles with different color jigs set at dif“Crappie hold tighter to cover when water’s muddy,” ferent depths, then troll slowly, making large zigzagging Filipek reports. “Most of us fish an area quickly, then sweeps. Troll over structure going to and from spawning move to the next spot. In muddy water, work slow. Covareas. If you’re patient and cover lots of water, sooner or er 360 degrees around that stump or treetop. Work your later you’ll catch fish.” bait close to the cover, and be thorough.” Problem: Spring rains ended, and water is falling fast. Problem: Your crappie lake is clear. Crappie seem You’ve fished shoreline areas that produced crappie last spooky, and you’ve week, but now caught few fish. “A fast rise scatters fish. They don’t stay concentrated they’ve vanSolution: Steve and holding around cover. Most are suspended and ished. Nothing Wunderle of Cartseems to work. ersville, Illinois, moving like nomads. – Steve McAdams Solution: wrote the book Bill Peace of “New Techniques That Catch More Crappie”. He often Jonesboro, Arkansas, often encounters fast-falling water encounters clear water on Illinois’ Crab Orchard Lake. on oxbows lakes he fishes. “When fishing clear water, go to light line,” says “Most oxbows flood each spring,” Peace says, “then Wunderle. It’s more difficult for crappie to detect. I use the water drops quickly until conditions stabilize. When eight-pound line in stained water, but in clear, I drop to this happens, crappie leave shallow water. Their instinct six or four. Think small in clear water — light line, light tells them to move to deeper water until everything setPage 8
Getting Tough. . . (Continued from Previous Page)
tles. Most are suspended, holding tight to cover in the lake’s midsection. “These crappie are persnickety,” Peace continues. “You must fish slow, working each bit of cover thoroughly. Drop to smaller jigs. Instead of 1/32-ounce, drop to 1/48th or even 1/64th. These lures fall slower, enticing finicky fish.” Problem: A storm front hits. Wind picks up, and it starts raining. Abruptly, crappie quit biting. Solution: W.T. Moore of Mountain View, Arkansas, has been an avid crappie angler decades. It’s not unusual, he says, to get caught in a sudden rainstorm. “Safety first,” Moore says emphatically. “If there’s lightning or high waves, leave immediately. If it’s safe to stay, you’ll probably find crappie in the thickest cover available — buckbrush, willow thickets, etc. Position your boat so the wind blows you against the cover. Use a long pole to work a jig into the brush, then fish little pockets most folks miss. Work the jig with a slow bounce, and work each hole thoroughly.” Fishing is toughest after fronts pass. “Don’t be discouraged, though,” Moore notes. “Work each pocket carefully, and you’ll continue catching crappie.” Problem: It’s that “in-between” time. The worst of winter is behind, but warm spring days are several weeks away. One day crappie are shallow; the next they’re deep. What should you do? Solution: Ray Deering of Ashdown, Ark., lives by Lake Millwood, one of the South’s premier crappie lakes. His observations of Millwood crappie apply to many large, shallow lakes. “As water warms toward 62 degrees, crappie prepare to find their spawning beds,” says Deering. “First, they move from the main river channel up on the drop-offs. That’s where you want to start fishing. When they leave deep water for shallows along the
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“Brushpiles are magnets for crappie — use a graph to find the brushpile.” bank, start fishing shallow. Unfortunately, before actual spawning begins, they may move between shallow and deep water several times as weather changes. Smart fishermen move back and forth with them.” Deering locates pre-spawn crappie using a depthfinder or a fishfinder with sonar. “With a depth-finder, I can find channels, drop-offs, brushpiles or whatever,” he says. “Without it, I’d have a hard time finding crappie.” Problem: You tried your six favorite jig colors but crappie refused the offerings. Is it time to give up? Solution: Harold Robbins ran the boat dock on Lake Overcup near Morrilton, Ark. When I arrived at the dock empty-handed one afternoon, he chided me for giving up too soon. “A guy was through here an hour ago that took 20 big slabs on a pink-and-white jig. Did you try that color?” he asked. “No,” I replied. Page 9
Getting Tough. . . (Continued from Previous Page)
“You should have stopped and asked before you went fishing,” he said. “I recommended it to him this morning, ‘cause a guy was catching crappie on that color yesterday. “Always check at the bait shop to find out what’s been working best,” he continued. “We interrogate every angler coming through here, and ask what they’re using, what depth they’re catching fish, and where. We don’t keep anything secret. We want everyone to have an enjoyable fishing trip.” Problem: The fish are there; your sonar unit “With a depth-finder, I can indicates as much. But they find channels, drop-offs, refuse to bite. brushpiles or whatever.” What now? Solution: “Most crappie anglers use jigs or minnows and nothing else,” says Lewis Peeler, an ardent crappier from Wynne, Ark. “I’ve seen times, though, when other baits worked, and jigs and minnows didn’t. On some lakes I’ve fished in Louisiana, we caught more crappie on freshwater shrimp. Crappie in ponds near my home seem to hit small spinners or spoons better than jigs or minnows. On certain lakes at certain times of the year, I catch most crappie using small shad-imitation crankbaits. “The key,” he continues, “is versatility. If one bait or lure or color doesn’t work, be prepared to try something different.” Problem: Crappie are hitting so lightly, their bites go undetected. How can this problem be overcome? Solution: “It pays to be a line watcher,” says Jim Spencer, an outdoor writer from Calico Rock, Ark. “A crappie may rush a bait, then just flare its gills and inhale it. The only indication of a bite may be a slight slackening of your line or a tiny, almost imperceptible twitch. You must be watching to see it and react. “ Page 10
“When using a bobber,” he continues, “be sure it’s not too large. A bobber the size of a grape detects strikes better than one the size of a golf ball.” Problem: Your crappie lake has dozens of sunken brushpiles to attract crappie, but you can’t hook anything but snags. Solution: Bill Fletcher of Mountain Home, Arkansas, has guided fishermen on Lake Norfolk for more than 20 years. He was instrumental in the completion of the Lake Norfork fish cover project etc. “Brushpiles are magnets for crappie,” he says. “Use a graph to find the brushpile, and mark it with a buoy. Then take your boat a cast away from your buoy, and using 4-pound-test line and a 1/16-ounce jig head, cast to the buoy. Count the jig down until you get a strike or hit brush. If you get a strike, use the same count next cast. If you hit brush, use a shorter count. “The key to catching crappie on fish attractors is positive depth control,” Fletcher continues. “Crappie don’t feed down, they bite up. So don’t fish under them. You establish that the fish are at a certain depth, then boom, boom, boom, you’re putting them in the boat.” The next time you confront a tough situation, try the tips offered by these expert crappie anglers. They won’t pay off every time, but they will pay off most of the time. And that means more crappie fishing fun for you.
With a resume listing more than 3,500 magazine, newspaper and website articles about fishing, hunting, wildlife and conservation, Keith Sutton of Alexander, Ark., has established a reputation as one of the country’s best-known outdoor writers. In 2011, Sutton, who has authored 12 books, was inducted into the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame as a “Legendary Communicator.” Visit his website at www.catfishsutton.com.
Selecting the Right RV RV Buyers Guide So you’re thinking about joining the ranks of millions of campers and RVers, but as you learn more about RVing you’re becoming a little overwhelmed by the various types of RVs available. Soon you begin to wonder just what type of RV - fifth wheel, pickup camper, Class A - will best suit your RVing and camping needs. Unfortunately, shopping for an RV is not as easy as shopping for a new outfit. You simply can’t waltz in and say to the salesperson, “I’ll take the green suit in a size 10.” No, RV shopping means doing some homework and gaining as much knowledge as possible. But luckily, RV shopping is also a lot of fun! As you begin your shopping, try thinking of RV types as either motorized or towable. Within each of these categories you’ll then find subcategories, such as Class As, Class Bs and Class Cs for the motorized units; and conventional travel trailers, fifth wheels, fold-down tent campers, pickup campers and park models for the towable units. Each type of RV has features that are attractive to some RVers, and less attractive to others. It’s really not a matter of a towable is better than a motorized, or vice versa, rather, it’s a matter of individual choice. To help you in your search for the RV that’s right for you, keep in mind the following highlights of each of the RV types. MOTORIZED Class A Today’s motorhomes are almost as varied as the RVers who own them. There are a wide array of different types of Class As available - from basic, entry level units to high-line luxury models. But no matter what your preference, or your pocketbook, there’s certainly a motorhome to fit your needs. Class As can be defined as an RV that is built on, or as an integral part of, a self-propelled motorized chassis. It provides at least four of the following permanently installed living systems: cooking, refrigeration or ice box, self-contained toilet, heating or air conditioning, a portable water system including water tank, faucet and sink, separate 100-125 volt electrical system, sleeping facilities and LP gas supply. The conventional Class A is one whose living unit has been entirely constructed on a bare, specially designed motor vehicle chassis.
Bus-styled motorhomes look like bus conversions, but are actually more affordable than true conversions as they are produced on a conventional Class A chassis. Bus-styled motorhomes usually offer an aerodynamic, low profile design, resulting in greater fuel efficiency, better handling and additional storage. The living quarters of the Class A are built on a heavyduty chassis, and usually offer an array of amenities. Its large size allows occupants to move about the unit freely. Except for its larger physical dimensions and extended stopping distance, both of which the driver must compensate for, the Class A responds much like a car; and learning to drive one comes easy to most. One of the biggest disadvantages of the Class A is getting around while camping. Most owners find it too cumbersome to drive the motorhome for shopping, sightseeing or running errands. As a result, many motorcoach owners tow a small car behind their rig to be used for excursions outside the park. Class C Technically, Class C motorhomes, also referred to as mini motorhomes, are defined as RVs that are built on, or as an integral part of, a self-propelled motorized chassis. Like the Class A, it provides at least four of the following permanently installed living systems: cooking, refrigeration or ice box, self-contained toilet, heating or air conditioning, a portable water system including water tank, faucet and sink, separate 100-125 volt electrical system, sleeping facilities and LP gas supply. But what differentiates the Class C from the Class A is the unit’s attached cab section and its Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 6,500 pounds or more. On the Class C, the RV manufacturer completes the body section containing the living area and attaches it to the cab section. Today’s Class C motorhomes offer many of the same comforts, conveniences and even living spaces as their larger Class A counterparts. For those RV enthusiasts looking for a unit that can accommodate family camping at an affordable price, the mini motorhome may be the answer. Class B For those looking for a vehicle that can be used for taking off to parts unknown and still double as a primary mode of transportation, maybe it’s time to take a look at van campers. Not only are these units versatile they are also an economical and efficient way to travel. The van camper is defined as a panel type truck to which the RV manufacturer adds any two of the following conveniences: sleeping, kitchen and toilet facilities, 100-volt hookup, fresh water storage, city water hookup, and a top extension to provide more headroom. The primary advantage of the van camper is that it provides a fully self-contained motorhome for getaway trips, but retains the versatility of a large family car.
Selecting the Right RV. . . (Continued from Previous Page) TOWABLES Trailers are designed to be towed by a motorized vehicle, and is of a size which does not require a special highway movement permit. It is designed to provide temporary living quarters for recreation, camping and travel use, and does not require permanent on-site hookup. Trailers can be broken down further into the following categories: Fifth Wheels This unit is constructed with a raised forward section that allows a bi-level floor plan. This style is designed to be towed by a vehicle equipped with a device known as a fifthwheel hitch (also known as a gooseneck hitch.) The fifth wheel trailer’s raised neck section rides on the bed of the tow vehicle (which is usually a pickup truck) where it connects to the special hitch. This overlap reduces the overall length of the two vehicles which contributes to improved traction and handling as a result of the forward-placed trailer tongue weight. The raised section also allows for their unique splitlevel floor plans which appeal to many Rvers. Travel Trailers Typically, the conventional travel trailer ranges from 15 to 35 feet in length and is towed by means of a bumper or frame-mounted hitch attached to the rear of a towing vehicle. In addition to all the normal livability items expected on any modern RV, trailers have the advantage of being able to be disconnected and left at the RV park while the tow vehicle is used for errands, sightseeing, etc. Owning a trailer, of course, requires a properly equipped tow vehicle capable of handling the additional weight and stresses placed upon it. Unlike the fifth wheel, there are many tow vehicle options available for the conventional travel trailer - including vans, sports utility vehicles and pickup trucks. Fold Down or Pop Up Camping Trailers Fold-down camping trailers are tents on wheels with collapsible walls made of canvas or fiberglass. Most have a portable dinette table, sectionalized tent, exterior storage trunk, and hydraulic lift. These trailers tow as small packages but expand upon reaching the campsite into roomy cabins on wheels. Once erected, they can extend to well over fifteen to twenty feet in length; depending on the model. Their low profile saves on gasoline, provides greater sta-
bility when towing, and decreases buffeting by wind and passing cars and trucks. Today’s models provide just as many amenities found in most RVs. Galleys provide sinks, multiburner stoves, and both ice boxes and refrigerators. Holding tanks, if they have them, are usually small. Sleeping facilities accommodate up to eight people. With this unit, you’ll usually need to plan on using the bathroom facilities at the RV park or campground you are staying at although some models do offer a shower and/or bathroom. Park Models For those RVers and campers who like to spend the summer at their favorite campground near the lake, or for those who prefer to head South during the winter, park models (also referred to as park trailers) are often an economical and convenient alternative for long-term or seasonal camping. Park trailers are recreational vehicles used primarily as destination camping units rather than traveling camping units. When set, park trailers may be connected to utilities necessary for operation of installed fixtures and appliances. It’s built on a single chassis which is mounted on wheels. These units are manufactured according to stringent guidelines, which include requirements from the national plumbing and electrical codes. In some states, some models require professional delivery and some models are intended for one-time setup on a permanent site. Park models are also regulated by various state agencies and by the rules established by the individual RV parks and campgrounds that accept these trailers. For example, some parks and/or states prohibit 12-foot-wide trailers. Some parks may allow electric water heaters and others gas. Some parks have full sewer systems and allow house-type toilets, others require marine toilets with holding tanks. Before you begin shopping for a park model, take the time to research any restrictions and/or regulations the state or RV park may have concerning these units. Knowing this information up front will help you select the park model that best fits your camping needs. Pickup Campers This type of trailer is defined as a recreational camping unit designed to be loaded onto, or affixed to, the bed or chassis of a truck. It is designed to provide temporary living quarters for recreational camping or travel use. Sometimes referred to as pickup campers or slide-on campers, these units are among some of the older RVs. Because they can be loaded on and off a standard pickup truck with relative ease, these products enjoy considerable popularity among weekend RVers who must use their truck for work during the week. As you can see, there are advantages and disadvantages to each RV type. If you’re unsure as to which type of RV is best for you. take some time to visit with owners of all types of RVs - ask them what they like and dislike about their unit. Also keep in mind your camping needs. Then take the time to shop around and compare models, floor plans and price. You’ll soon find the RV that’s right for you.
Choose the Right Kayak for Fishing Bill Cooper Kayak fishermen have taken their sport to a new level. Interest blossomed a decade ago, and the idea of fishing from a kayak has grown by leaps and bounds. However, making the right choice for a fishing kayak involves some considerable forethought and experimentation. These pointers will help.
Where to Start
Individuals wanting to purchase a kayak for fishing must first consider their own physical characteristics, i.e. height and weight. Sit-on-top kayaks are becoming more popular This a key factor in selecting a kayak. A with fisherman. large, heavy person will need a kayak with more beam and length than an individual of small stature. A large person will need a kayak with a larger cockpit opening for ease of entering and exiting the craft, while anglers with smaller frames will fare better with a smaller cockpit opening.
Transporting Your Kayak
Take into consideration the type of vehicle you drive and how far you must travel to get your boat in the water. Lifting a long, heavy kayak to the top of an SUV can be a real struggle if you are alone. If your kayak fits into the bed of a pickup truck, loading and hauling will be simple. Otherwise, you need to plan on having someone assist you with placing a kayak on top of a vehicle. If you travel alone, a kayak trailer may be the best choice for longer, heavier models.
Getting to the Water
A common mistake made by kayakers is not knowing in advance out how they will get their kayak to the water once they reach their destination. Lighter models are obviously easier to portage. Otherwise, a cart for heavy models will be necessary. As a last resort, dragging is an option. Check the route first, however, to avoid damaging the hull on abrasive materials.
Protect Your Backside
Sit in the seats of several kayak models before making your decision. Does it fit your bottom comfortably? Does it give you good back support? Remember, you will be in the craft for long hours and will only be Page 13
Choosing the Right Kayak. . . (Continued from Previous Page)
able to stand up when you stop for a break. Next to design of the craft, a comfortable seat is the most important feature.
Which Style is Best
Traditional kayaks are also known as sit-in kayaks. They resemble canoes in that you sit inside on a seat mounted to the hull. Sit In kayaks offer more protection from the elements, but may take on water unless one uses a spray skirt. The skirt goes around you and the opening to prevent water from entering the craft. A skirt also limits access to items stored inside the kayak. Sit-on-top models are a recent development in kayaks designed to allow the boater to sit on top. They look somewhat like a modified surf board. They are equipped with scupper holes, which allow water to drain from the cockpit. Both types of kayaks are very useful to anglers. There are many models in each category allowing every procrastinating buyer to pick and choose the features which best suit their individual needs and desires.
Style of Fishing
Your personal fishing style will largely determine the style and size of kayak you will need. Questions to ask include: What type of water will I fish? Small streams, lakes, the ocean? What style of fishing will I employ? Flyfishing only, baitfishing (live or dead), lures only? Will I practice catch and release fishing or bring fish home? Each of these questions will add or delete features from the kayak you choose. You can get by with a shorter kayak on smaller bodies of water. You will obviously want a much longer ocean going kayak for saltwater species and rougher waters. Need a place to store fish you catch or live bait? Some Page 14
models have small live wells, as well as rod holders. A longer kayak will be needed to store long rods such as flyrods. The bottom line is that you can pick a lot of options which can be added to build teh kayak you want. Hobie is especially adept at add on features.
So Many Choices
That is one benefit of a free market and you, the buyer, can take advantage of the best deals. Keep in mind, particularly if you are a first time buyer of a kayak for fishing, you should start out simple. Donâ€™t break the bank to get the biggest, most elaborate kayak on the market. Kayaks hold 50 to 80 percent of their market value for a couple of years, so consider upgrading once you gain some experience. My wife and I have enjoyed Old Town kayaks for fishing Ozark streams for years. She has a pink Otter Sport, while I float a dark green Rush. She wants to look cool. I want to catch fish. Still, most times she out fishes me. The kayaks are identical in length, width and weight, but are arranged differently. I carry more gear. I think she planned it that way. Others to consider are the Hobie Mirage Pro Kayaks now come with all the bells Angler, Old and whistles a fisherman could Townâ€™s Vapor ever want.
Choosing the Right Kayak. . . (Continued from Previous Page)
12XT Angler and Ocean Kayakâ€™s Scrambler XT Angler.
sional kayakers who can easily teach you paddling methods, safety on the water and care of your kayak.
Take a Class
Kayaking classes are offered by many park and recreation departments as well as kayak retailers and outfitters. Classes are always taught by profes-
Take a look at the charts below to help you determine which kayak is best for your fishing needs.
Easier to maneuver.
Easier to paddle over long distances than shorter boats (once you get them up to speed).
Able to make quicker turns.
Able to hold a straight line better to stay on course.
Best for estuaries, small lakes, rivers; less suitable for long trips.
Best for open water; good on smaller bodies of water.
A bit heavier
Less affected by winds.
Able to carry heavier loads with less performance loss.
Less cumbersome to transport.
Glide farther per stroke for greater efficiency.
A bit slower
Width (or Beam)
Wide boats offer more initial (primary) stability in calm conditions while narrower boats go faster and offer better secondary stability if the boat is leaning on its side.
Easier to tip
Easier to roll upright after capsizing.
Easier to get in and out of.
Less room for gear.
More room for gear.
The wider it is, the slower it is.
More efficient to paddle through water.
Requires more effort to paddle because itâ€™s pushing more water and is heavier. Page 15
An Introduction to
The greatest qualities that we can possess are faith, hope, and compassion. When a child or adult encounters a critical illness, or their life changes because of severe disability, faith and hope can be challenged. It was in 2004, when a group of people from South Alabama came together with a vision of a ministry that would show compassion toward those who had critical illnesses and disabilities. By the avenue of hunting and fishing, this group began an organization called Hope Outdoors. Since 2004, this organization has grown to 8 chapters in 6 different states (AL, MS, TN, AR, MO, & KS) with 3 that are located in our state of Mississippi. They are a non-denominational Christian organization geared toward sharing and showing the good news of Jesus Christ by using the avenue of hunting and fishing to show their love for Him. Their effectiveness comes through two major ways: First is through their chapters having hunting or fishing events. Each event may only include 4-12 hunters, but many people can be involved. Volunteers can be landowners, guides, cooks, and donators. Each participant is encouraged to bring up to 4 family members. Lodging, fuel, license, and meals are provided along with anything else needed to hunt or fish. The second way of effectiveness comes by partnering with other caring organizations. If an organization has a hunt and has a disabled hunter, Hope Outdoors will attend and help with their disabled hunter. They have all Job McCully and his dad Rob of Bigelow, AR are the gadgets so even a blind person can go hunting. pictured with Jobâ€™s first Turkey. He harvested As Hope Outdoors continues to grow, their mission this 3 bearded bird in TN at J Hooks Outfitters. stays the same. They want their hunters to know that hope is not from harvesting or catching a trophy or doing something that seemed impossible. They want all those who participate to know that hope rests in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. At their events, they develop relationships by hosting and transporting the hunter and up to four family members into the great outdoors to hunt or fish. With each trip, they continue to see lives and hearts changed and freedom extended to those who are on the journey. If you would like to partner with Hope Outdoors by participating, volunteering, or donating to their organization, contact them on their website - www.hopeoutdoors.org. They are recognized by the IRS as a tax exempt 501c3 non-profit organization and depend on donations to provide for their events and organization. Page 16
Hope Ministries Jayden Jones of Arkansas harvested this hog at the Cuz N Cuz Boar Ranch in Searcy, AR
Joe Parsons of Arkansas
Hope Outdoors’ Mississippi Chapters consist of: North Mississippi - Josh Morgan of Bruce – (662) 414-6183 - firstname.lastname@example.org Middle Mississippi - Brett Denson of Brandon – (601) 906-1540 – email@example.com South Mississippi -Troy Rosetti of Wiggins – (601) 928-2013 – firstname.lastname@example.org National Director – Steve “Opie” Thomas of Tupelo – (662) 231-9552 – email@example.com
Opie Thomas National Director and Cody Braun
Lacey Poteat of North Carolina harvested this buck in Kansas.
How to Decide Between a Two or Four Stroke Outboard Boat Engine by Lee Boyt When the time comes to repower Old Faithful or to spring for a new boat, what kind of outboard are you going to buy? Tough question, given the dozens of innovative choices from the various engine manufacturers. One of the biggest decisions is whether to invest in a two-stroke or four-stroke engine. With the proliferation of misinformation regarding this subject, it’s easy to confuse fact and fiction. Not to worry. We’ll walk you through the fundamentals and add some clarity to the subject.
In a two-stroke engine, the fuel-air mixture enters the combustion chamber via a opening in the side of the cylinder. The exhaust exits through another port in the cylinder. Initially, two-stroke engines used carburetors to control the fuel-air mixture. But carbureted outboards aren’t particularly efficient. They also use a lot of fuel, and tend to be cantankerous creatures. Today’s top-of-the-line two-stroke engines use a computerized Direct Fuel Injection (DFI) system to precisely regulate the fuel-air mix to suit the operating conditions. That results in amazing performance gains as well as great fuel economy and low emissions. Typically, a two-stroke outboard is lighter than a similar-sized four-stroke engine because the two-stroke’s method of operation doesn’t require a valve train — camshafts, valves, belts or chains. Since the two-stroke isn’t encumbered with a valve train, the engine has fewer moving parts. Thus, it has less rotating mass. A two-stroke outboard can often accelerate faster than the same horsepower four-stroke. The engine’s internal components receive lubrication from oil mixed into the fuel. Contrary to popular belief, two-strokes aren’t a dying breed. The fact is, carbureted two-strokes are going away due to their inability to comply with increasingly stringent emissions legislation. However, the DFI two-stroke outboards are thriving and remain popular. Page 18
How To Decide. . . (Continued from Previous Page)
Four-stroke outboards use an engine very similar to an automobile’s. The air-fuel mixture flows into the combustion chamber through intake valves, and the exhaust leaves the engine via exhaust valves. Because of these intake and exhaust valves (the valve train), a four-stroke outboard is usually heavier than a two-stroke outboard of the same horsepower. But, we see that changing: four-stroke manufacturers continue to pursue new ways to lighten the engines and extract more horsepower. A four-stroke outboard’s lubrication system is like a car’s, complete with oil pan and filter — and the engine needs periodic oil changes to keep things running smooth. The majority of four-stroke outboards feature sophisticated computer engine management systems and fuel injection for good performance across the power band, low emissions, and unparalleled fuel economy.
CHOOSE YOUR OUTBOARD
From an angler’s perspective, a boat is nothing but a means to get to where the fish are — a fishing platform — and the outboard is the driving force behind the boat. Tools of the trade, so to speak. Taking that point of view, how do you pick the right outboard for your boat? Two-stroke or fourstroke — the broad answer is, it depends. It depends on how you fish, where you fish, what kind of boat, and how much gear you carry with you. If you’re a dedicated tournament angler, then you need an outboard that will pop the boat up on plane quickly and maximum top-end speed to get to the honey-holes before your competition does. In this case, a two-stroke might fill the bill nicely.
Fishing situations that require long periods of idling through no-wake zones, or pursuing bass in large impoundments where you’ll need to go several miles to find the fish, calls for an engine that’s quiet and stingy on fuel. A four-stroke could do well here. The kind of boat also dictates the best engine. For example, every boat has a placard stating the boat’s weight capacity; a smaller boat may not be able to tolerate the additional weight of a four-stroke outboard. On the other hand, if your rig is one of the newer mega-boats — 21 feet plus, or if you fish alone and don’t take a bunch of extra stuff with you — then you can start looking at four-strokes. A big boat or heavily loaded boat can benefit from the torque of a four-stroke outboard. On the economic and practicality front, it’s important to consider who is going to service the engine and be there for you to take care of any potential warranty issues. The type of engine that your local dealer carries is a major consideration in choosing your new outboard. Your local dealer will often work with you and perhaps make you a better deal at trade-in time, in addition to being available when trouble rears its ugly head.
Fuel economy and speed are comparable between two-strokes and four-strokes. Two-strokes tend to weigh less but can accelerate faster. Four-strokes tend to be quieter and have more torque than twostroke outboards. Both technologies are solid and highly evolved. Each has advantages an disadvantages. Now you have a better idea which is the best for the transom of your fishing boat. Page 19
Turkey Hunters Beware Squirrel Hunter Suffers Wild Boar Attack by Gordon Murphy Chris Morris of Slidell, La. was thrust into something resembling a scene from a bad monster flick when he suffered a wild boar attack recently. While out squirrel hunting near the Pearl River Wildlife Management Area, Morris found somewhat larger game than he bargained for when he was jumped by the hog, first noticing it when it was already closing in on him about six feet away.
The Story Morris gives his account in the Clarion Ledger: “I figured I’d just side-step it, but when I side-stepped, he lowered his center of gravity and turned on me,” Morris said. “I was going into a backpedal, and I was in all those little saplings, trying to get the gun around and trying to do a contact shot on his head—he was right there in front of me. But I tripped and fell. “I was on my back, and he was between my legs. I was kicking, trying to keep him away from my thighs. He was steadily just gashing back and forth. He gashed my left knee a little bit, punctured my right knee and my calf. When he did that, he actually bit me. When he grabbed my calf, I grabbed his snout.” The struggle ended when Morris managed to put the hog down with a bullet from his .22 Magnum rifle, but not before the hog had done enough damage to Morris’ right calf to expose flesh, and cause significant bleeding. Morris returned home and made it to the Slidell hospital with the help of his wife, where he had surgery to repair the wound. Page 20
Advanced Crappie Jigging Tactics Some of the top crappie guides in the nation share their secret jigging methods! by Don Wirth The lead head jig is unquestionably the deadliest artificial lure ever created for crappie. Extreme versatility is the key to its success. You can fish jigs 12 months of the year in an astounding number of crappie situations by varying jig style, weight, color and presentation. And, you can pack a zillion jigs in your tackle bag and still have plenty of room for a baloney sandwich. Serious crappie anglers are always looking for new wrinkles in jig fishing. Here, some of the top crappie guides in the nation share their secret jigging methods tactics you can use to score more and bigger crappie on your next outing. #1: Tom Moody’s Cold Front Approach
Extreme versatility is the reason the jig is such a successful crappie bait.
Tom Moody, like other veteran Kentucky Lake crappie guides, uses the so-called “Kentucky rig” for probing this sprawling reservoir’s ledges, drop-offs and submerged brushpiles. Tom uses a standard double wire crappie rig with a 3/4-ounce bell sinker on the bottom. Moody normally uses the rig with two hooks baited with shiner minnows, but during cold fronts, he replaces one or both hooks with a Charlie Brewer Slider Grub on a 1/16-ounce jighead. You’d think live bait would outperform any artificial lure during a severe cold front, but you’d be wrong, Moody insists. “The Slider Grub can be fished just as slowly and methodically as live shiners, but it gives you the added versatility of using color to your advantage,” he says. “By mixing and matching grub and jighead colors, you can achieve exactly the right presentation to trigger bites from non-aggressive fish.” Crappie are more color-sensitive than most other freshwater gamefish, including bass, Moody emphasizes. “Often merely changing jig colors provokes an immediate aggressive feeding response. That’s why it pays to keep plenty of Slider Grub, tube bait or twister grub color options in your tacklebox, and to experiment with different jighead/lure color combinations. These lures
are inexpensive; you can equip a couple of plastic utility boxes with a complete color palette for fewer than twenty bucks. Be sure to stock up on different colored jigheads while you’re at it -- sometimes just changing from a white to a chartreuse head will turn the fish on.” Cold-front crappie often bury deep inside brushpiles and stake beds; this presents no problem for Moody’s modified Kentucky rig. “Simply position the boat directly over the cover, lower the sinker to the bottom, reel your line up slowly, then lower it back into the cover,” he instructs. “Determine whether the crappie are striking the top or bottom hook/jig, then adjust your presentation accordingly. For example, if most of your hits are coming on the jig, replace the live bait hook with another Slider Grub. When fishing two jigs, if your hits are coming mostly on the top lure, raise the level of your presentation a foot or so; often this results in two crappies striking the rig at once. Tom’s Bonus Tip: “When rigging a soft plastic bait on a jighead, always position the knot on the hook eye so the lure hangs at a 90-degree angle from the rod tip. This gives the jig the natural look of a live minnow swimming horizontally through the water.” Page 21
Advanced Crappie Tactics. . . (Continued from Previous Page)
#2: Garry Mason’s Suspending Crappie Technique There’s no question that a jig’s single hook and compact lead head make it a good choice for probing dense bottom cover. But this lure is also an effective tool for catching crappie suspending in the water column - especially once you master Kentucky Lake guide Garry Mason’s unusual presentation tactic that is. “The problem most anglers have with jigging suspending crappie is keeping the jig within the depth zone the fish are using,” Mason points out. “Many fishermen have experienced the frustration of catching a fat crappie from a suspending school, only to be unable to score repeat strikes because they couldn’t put their jig back in front of the fish.” Mason’s technique revolves around the spinning reels he uses on his crappie rods. “Say I just hooked a crappie 18 feet deep off the side of a creek channel,” he explains. “I know I want to get my jig back in that same spot as quickly as possible, and the surest way to do that is to not touch the reel handle while bringing in the fish. So instead of reeling, the instant I feel the fish hit, I squeeze the line closest to my right hand tightly against the rod handle, then I reach down and pull the line above the handle far enough to get the fish up within reach of the landing net. Then I unhook the fish and drop my jig back into the exact same depth zone. This will seem awkward at first, but with practice, it becomes easy, and it’s the surest way to jig up a boatload of suspended crappie that I know of.” Garry’s bonus tip: “When fishing a jig vertically, it’s critical to have your line as vertical as possible, not at an extreme angle from the boat. If the wind is blowing hard enough to offset your line angle, go to a heavier jighead, or pinch one or two split shot about 3 inches above your lure.” #3: Todd Miller’s Upside-Down Rigging Strategy Most jig fishermen rig their soft plastic lures the traditional way: hook up/tail down on both twister grubs and shad-tail baits like the Slider Grub. Priest Lake, Tenn. crappie guide and tournament angler Todd Miller agrees that’s one way to do it, but he’ll give the Page 22
Most jig fishermen rig their soft plastic lures the traditional way: hook up/tail down on both twister grubs and shad-tail baits like the Slider Grub. fish a change-up when the bite gets slow. “On a highlypressured lake like Priest, I try to give my jigs a different look from what the fish are used to seeing,” he explains. “One way to do that is by rigging twister and Slider Grubs with their tails facing up instead of down. This not only creates a different visual profile in the water, but it gives the jig a more erratic action, like a wounded minnow. Note that the hook now lies directly in front of the lure’s tail, displacing water. This helps contribute to the bait’s jerky swimming action and can mean significantly more bites.” A tube bait’s cylindrical design means there’s no tail hanging down or pointing up, but the lure’s soft plastic skirt requires the angler’s attention to achieve the best action, Miller adds. “Often the skirt strands are stuck together in the molding process, so before you fish a tube, always take a moment to gently pull the strands apart,” he suggests. “If the strands are too molded together to pull apart without ripping up the lure, carefully cut the strands apart with a hobby knife. Separating the skirt gives the lure a more fluid, lifelike action, and it’ll fan out better when it’s falling” Todd’s bonus tip: “Crappie are incredibly finicky about lure color, so I like my jig head and grub or tube body colors to be different so I can cover as many bases
Advanced Crappie Tactics. . . (Continued from Previous Page)
with a single presentation as possible. A flash of red or chartreuse on the head often turns on sluggish fish.” #4: Jim Duckworth’s Jig Trolling Method I’ve learned to count on Tennessee multi-species guide Jim Duckworth to come through with creative fish-catching methods, and this one is ideal for you crappie anglers who get easily bored when sitting on a hole and waiting for the fish to bite. “I’ve had excellent results over the years trolling crankbaits for white bass, walleye and sauger, and I discovered along the way that crappie would often respond to a trolling presentation as well, especially from post-spawn through summer,” Jim noted. “In order to make my trolling presentation more crappie-specific, I came up with a rig that incorporates both a crankbait and a jig.” Duckworth ties on a Bandit 200 crankbait, the adds a 1/16-ounce Slider Grub to the trailing hook via a leader line. “This rig is awesome when crappie are suspending in open water over a channel dropoff or hump, or relating loosely to deep submerged brushpiles,” he explained. “The crankbait works like a depth planer to get the jig down to the level of the fish and then keeps it at a constant level. I’ll locate a school of crappie or a big wad of bait on my graph, and then I’ll circle back around and slow-troll through it with my gas outboard or trolling motor.” On days when crappie are actively feeding, it’s not unusual to hang fish on both lures at the same time, Jim says. “But the jig part of the rig really shines when the bite is slow,” he adds. “The Slider Grub is a compact, non-threatening offering that even sluggish crappie can’t turn down.” Jim’s bonus tip: “Even when crappie won’t hit the crankbait, it serves as an attractor, getting their attention until the jig swims by. For maximum visibility, change crankbait colors to match water conditions. In murky water, use a bright color such as chartreuse, or hot orange. But in clear water, go for realism and flash with a shad or chrome pattern. Replace the stock front treble hook on your crankbait with a red hook for even more attraction.”
#5: Harold Morgan’s Float ‘N Fly Method The so-called float ‘n fly is a plastic bobber and small hair jig combination that has taken winter smallmouth bass fishermen by storm. This innocent-looking rig is incredibly deadly on bass suspending in cold, clear water, and although the jigs used with the method are miniscule, it’s racked up impressive catches of trophy smallmouths in many cold-weather bass tournaments. Although the float ‘n fly has received plenty of national press as a hot new bass technique, it’s really a time-tested crappie method, one that famed Nashville guide Harold Morgan has used for decades. “This is the ultimate jigging method for suspending crappie,” Harold promised. “Virtually all other jig presentations involve some movement of the lure, either sideways or up and down in the water column. Not this one. The bobber floats the jig in place indefinitely, which is exactly the presentation you want when the water is gin-clear and super-cold.” Morgan turns to the float ‘n fly when the water temperature dips below 50 degrees in winter, noting, “It really comes into its own in 40- to 45-degree water, when crappie typically refuse to bite even live bait.” Harold uses a long, light-action spinning outfit spooled with 6 pound mono -- 4 if the water is extraclear. He ties a 1/16-ounce hair jig to the end of his line, trims the hair back with scissors so it’s about even with the bend of the hook, snaps a small plastic bobber on the line and positions it from 8 to 12 feet above the jig. Morgan fishes the float rig on banks with a rapid slope into deep water, such as a channel bluff. He casts the bobber close to the structure, waits several seconds for the jig to sink, then either lets the bobber sit still, or gently shakes his rod tip to make the bobber (and the jig) quiver in place. If nothing happens after a minute or so, he reels in a couple of feet of line and dangles the jig some more. It usually doesn’t take long for the crappie to react. “The tiny jig looks just like a fry minnow, and crappie will attack it without hesitation. It’ll also catch bass, trout and walleye. This rig proves that in jig fishing, sometimes less action is more desirable.
Three Cs of Spring Crappie Spring’s a productive time to angle crappie as these panfish stack-up on predictable spots and are often willing biters. Immediately following ice-out you’ll find crappie in and around protected, shallow water. These zones are teeming with forage, and crappie will feed heartily for several weeks until the water’s warm enough for spawning, which occurs between late spring and early summer. Cracking the code on early-season crappie relies on the golden rule of real-estate: location, location, location. And when talking papermouths in spring, this means fishing the Three Cs: coves, creeks and canals.
The Action’s in the Sheltered, Shallows Protected, sun-drenched, shallow-water areas that fit the Three Cs are the VIP lounges of the spring papermouth party. They’re comfortable, bustling with activity, and well-stocked with horsd’oeuvres. This is because they’re the first areas to warm after ice-out. Spots on a northern side of a water system can be particularly good as they receive the most sunshine and are protected from cold, north winds. To go a step further, look for soft, dark-bottom areas. Like solar panels, these zones absorb the sun’s energy. Dirty water and decaying plant materials can have a similar heat-soaking affect. Don’t get put off by the muddy appearance — this is ground-zero for the feeding festivities. The abundant sunlight that coves, creeks and canals receive increases their water temperature and stimulates the food chain. Plants grow and give off oxygen. Aquatic insects also get rambunctious as fly hatches loom in the near future. In turn, the boom in food and warmer water attracts baitfish. Crappie follow, moving shallow to chow-down on invertebrates and minnows. The Three Cs all provide a cornucopia of crappie edibles, and when combined with the right habitat they’re prime early-season spots.
Coves I think of coves in a nautical sense when it comes to spring crappie. These are sanctuaries hidden from winds and open water. On blustery days these inlets are relatively tranquil. Not all coves are created equal though when it comes to alluring crappie. Bullrushes and reeds boost a cove’s property value. The winter’s snow and ice will have pushed over a lot of their stalks, and the result’s prime cover for crappie and a multitude of insects and minnows. Add some sunken or standing wood and the area’s even better. Healthy weeds are always good to find in coves. They attract crappies and their forage alike. Page 24
Three Cs. . . (Continued from Previous Page)
Sunken Wood Some coves feature an inflowing creek. The warm meltwaters and the various foodstuff creeks carry appeal to panfish. Finding these two components together often means you’ve located a prime fishing spot.
Creeks Still to slow-moving creek arms are other great spring-time spots. Fallen or submerged, standing trees are crappie magnets. Look for timber that’s outside of a creek’s main flow. There also tends to be a lot of debris floating in creeks during spring. Expect branches and other pieces of cover that collect this refuse to hold fish.
Sunken wood in a cove is a prime spot for finding early-spring crappie.
Undercuts are another hotspot. Add some wood cover and you’ve hit pay-dirt. The shelter and space of these two combined elements appeals to crappie. Bullrush-lined inlets and pockets are also good bets on creeks. A word of warning: Rain and subsequent increased water flow can temporarily set back fishing quality. Once the system stabilizes, creeks will crank out catches again.
Canals Several different types of canals are paradise for crappie in spring. One type is constructed to expand waterfront property and create sheltered docking space for land owners. Another is a trench created for agriculture irrigation. Bullrushes, stumps, healthy weeds and old dock pilings will all hold fish in these dug-outs. Another type of canal is designed to connect lakes and feature locks. These robust structures attract crappie in spring, before the gateways begin their open-water operation. The stone walls of these structures serve double duty: They block wind but also absorb the sun and radiate its heat. Regardless of style, the best canals have little or no flow, helping them quickly warm-up and retain their temperate water.
Cold Weather Drop-Back Dance Nothing inspires “they were here the other day” syndrome better than cold weather in early spring. While calm, sunny days encourage crappie to move shallow, fronts do the opposite and push fish out. The good news is they rarely go far. Look for fish near habitat features like a weed edge, a standing tree in deep water, or a drop off. Page 25
Three Cs. . . (Continued from Previous Page)
Fool ‘Em With Floats While an assortment of tactics will catch crappie in spring, a float and jig set-up’s tough to beat. Crappie are notorious up-feeders and using floats lets you suspend baits in their overhead strike zone. The vertical presentation of a float and jig also lets you dangle a bait beside fish-holding cover. This extended hang-time can tempt bites from neutral fish. When there’s a breeze, drifting floats through prime spots is also effective. Carry an assortment of jig styles between 1/32 to 1/8-ounces for float fishing. Your jig selection should imitate a crappie’s two main food groups: minnows and insects. There are good decoys available in both soft baits and jigs made with tied-on materials, like tinsel, chenille and marabou. On an outing one spring my friend and I experienced first hand the power of fine-tuning profile and color. We were catching a few crappie using minnow-imitating jigs in white and light colors. Yet we were confident the spots held more fish so we started experimenting with different jig styles. When we switched to brown and black jigs imitating nymphs it was like someone flipped a switch. The crappie violently struck the insect-impostor baits. Later that evening, while cleaning a few fish kept for the table, I confirmed the crappie were keyed-in on insects, their stomach contents revealing a buggy bile. Two-inch tube jigs are another great crappie bait beneath floats. They spiral instead of plummeting on the drop and drive crappie wild. Be warned though: A tube’s downward arc can spell hang-ups around gnarly wood and debris. When fishing thick cover, use a regular jig instead because its straight drop is more conducive to snag-heavy spelunking. Tied jigs have their advantages too. Beneath a float their fibers come alive, copying the micro movements of a nymph or the nervous twitches of a minnow. These subtitles frequently seduce strikes from on-looking crappie. A noteworthy variation on this set-up is replacing the jig with a small blade bait between 1/16- to 1/4-ounces. This upsized offering’s a slab seeker. You can toss this rig a country mile and then work it into the zone you want to fish. Twitching your rod causes the bait to lift and send out vibrations and flash. Be sure to add plenty of pauses to allow fish to get in a good attack.
jig selection Hardbaits and Jigging Tricks Horizontal presentations are also handy in spring. They’re excellent for working canal rock walls; over the tops of weeds or along their edges; and casting a shoreline. Floating or suspending minnowbaits and small cranks are great choices when fished on a stop-and-go retrieve. Counting down hair, grub and minnow jigs and working them on a straight or raise-and-drop presentation is another option to cover water. Be sure to maintain contact with the bait at all times as crappie often strike during the drop. Tiny topwater baits will also catch crappie, with dusk being particularly productive. Page 26
Your jig selection should include minnows and insects.
Two-Step Cover Attack Before moving in on a prime piece of cover, like a laydown, my first attack is to work the outer area. Keeping my distance, I’ll pepper the periphery with long casts. When crappie are concentrated on cover, fish will sometimes hold on the edges so it pays to first work the outside areas. After I’ve exhausted this tactic, I’ll move in to the heart of the cover and dissect it using a float and jig. This practice avoids the pitfall of passing over fish en route to the bestlooking spot on a piece of cover.
A Word on Rods A light-powered rod and a reel spooled with 4-pound-test line is a great option for the above mentioned baits. Many hard-core panfish anglers also prefer the control and precision of telescopic and bamboo poles for dunking thick cover like bullrushes, laydowns and weeds. Available in a range of lengths (9 to 20 feet) these sticks let you drop baits into openings while keeping a safe distance to avoid spooking fish. The initial weeks of spring crappie fishing can be fantastic. To boost your catches, position yourself on the prime real-estate of the Three Cs and focus on woody and weedy cover. Give early-season crappie fishing a go this season. It’s tough to beat the fun of landing slabs in the warm spring sunshine.
Field Tip Polarized sunglasses will enhance your ability to see fish and promising cover. Opt for lenses with impact protection as papermouths live up to their name and occasionally come unbuttoned, which can quickly turn a lure into a dangerous projectile
RECIPE Month of the
STIR FRY CRAPPIE 1 c. diced green peppers 3/4 c. diced green onions 1 c. sliced (fresh) mushrooms 8 oz. chopped crappie filets 1 tbsp. vegetable oil or diet butter 1/2 tsp. seafood seasoning salt (skip this ingredient if on low salt diet) Combine all ingredients and saute in iron skillet or wok until crappie is tender. May be served over rice or alone.
Magnolia Crappie Club 2014 Tournament Schedule Date Lake
Jan. 11, 2014
Grenada Lake & Big Momma Open
Apr. 12, 2014
May 3, 2014
(Open Tournament, no club membership required, part of the 4th Annual Worldâ€™s Largest Crappie Fest)
Water Valley, MS
May 30 - 31, 2014
Sardis / Enid, MS
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Grenada Lake - 4/8/2014 Water level 207.2 ft, rising 1.8 ft/day; 0.2 ft below rule curve Tuesday. For water level information, call (662)226-5911 or check at http://188.8.131.52/riverstage/bullet.txt for a table or http://ftp.mvk.usace. army.mil/offices/ed/edh/graphs1.htm for a graph. The lake should rise from 198 ft by March 1 to summer pool (215 ft) by May 1. Lake has rose 3 ft since Sunday. A lot of freshwater has come into lake. Best luck will likely be for crappie fishing 2.5 ft. to 6 ft deep, slow-trolling in the main lake or jigging over submerged brush with jigs and/ or minnows. By the end of week water and weather should stabilize. The crappie bite should pick back up after the recent cold front and rain that came through. A few catfish could be taken fishing natural baits on the bottom. Historically, crappie spawning runs from about the third or fourth week of March until the last week of April, peaking the first or second week in April. The spillway had no gate open Tuesday. Best luck down here will be for crappie on jigs and/or minnows or for catfish on natural baits. Contact the COE office (662)226-6090 for accessible ramps at current water levels. The daily creel limit for crappie on Grenada Lake is 20 per person. Crappie must be over 12 inches. Anglers fishing Grenada Lake may use no more than 3 poles per person and no more than 2 hooks or lures per pole. There is a 50 crappie per boat limit for boats with 3 or more anglers. The 12 inch length limit does not apply to the reservoir spillway, but the spillway has a 20 crappie creel limit.
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North/Central Mississippi Hunting and Fishing at it's best.