Thanks for all the calls, PMs, and kind words. I guess Justin and I got everybody fired up about this tournament when we were at Grenada last week. This was my first true crappie tournament and 1st competitive fishing event in decades.
I went over to Barkley last Wednesday to try to find some shallow fish since the water temps are getting right at spawn level. I longlined, I pushed, I cast jigs some–nothing but dinks and barely dinks at that. I thought we were in trouble since Justin’s work schedule meant he couldn’t pre-fish. Forecast 40-50 mph wind gusts on Thursday meant I had to do it that day. Late that afternoon I threw my caution to the winds and got out the cranking gear.
I found a short stretch of creek channel in 15-25′ that gave up 8 keepers in an hour but none were of the quality we would need to even be competitive on Friday. It was all we had so it had to work.
We put the PICO cranks in the water at 6:30 and BOOM, nice keeper. Soon after, Justin laid into a 1.74! By 9:30 we had a nice limit. I made the call to leave those fish alone and run to another bay Justin and I caught big crappie on PICOs last year. The high winds kept that are from being productive. We tried to think of another area with similar water that might be protected from the winds but nothing worked. We moved right back into our zone and were able to cull out 3 of our morning fish. Justin was manning the back livewell and putting the culling markers and fin weights on the fish to keep them upright. He did a great job all weekend. Who said Old dogs can’t learn new tricks? His scale left a lot to be desired but gave us confidence we might be competitive. One never has any idea what other competitors are doing and we had this area/pattern to ourselves all weekend.
Around 1PM, we caught a really nice fish that swallowed the PICO and was covering my back deck in blood. I wouldn’t have given a plug nickle for our chances of keeping her alive to weigh-in. We needed the weight but didn’t cull out the next fish just in case. Rules allowed us to have more than our 7 fish in the boat but only 7 to the scales. We made the decision to give up over an hour of fishing time to get what we had to the scales. We were the 2nd team to weigh in that day. Our 7 fish/12 pounds even was the top bag of the day in the Amateur Division.
Let me explain this: Crappie USA terms an “Amateur” team as having not had over $2000 in tournament winnings in the previous year. Not that either of us considered ourselves or anybody else “Amateurs”.
Saturday brought east winds. I was seriously afraid our pattern might not hold up. As I went to put the Terrova down first thing, a bass boat wake sent me going turtle and I fell on my back on the front deck HARD! All that kept me from going overboard head-first was a rod rack upright. Most of you know I had serious spine surgery last November and the one thing my Doctor said to avoid at all cost was a fall. Justin jumped from the back deck to the front to help me up. Other that the arse end of my rainsuit bibs being destroyed, all that was damaged was my pride. (I am sore this AM but that’s normal when a 62 year old falls like I did). We had to make our pattern do because I had took all the push/longline gear out of the boat. It was PICOs or nothing.
We went well past an hour before we even hooked a crappie. By 9:30 we had 3 in the box. I decided to adjust my tactics and we started to ease up into any small cove along the way to check them out. That move saved our day. The fish that had been along the deeper creek channel on Sat had moved slightly up and close to brush and stakebeds at the mouths of the coves. It was one-here-one-there all day. We ran into a fellow Crappie.com member who was having a slow day. His luck gave us hope that our creel might hold up. We caught a nice fish within sight of him that allowed up to cull out a fish barely over 1 pound. There were no questionable fish so we took our time to get to the weigh-in. My wife called me as we were a few miles out but said she couldn’t bring herself to look at the leader board yet.
We got into the weight line and the team that was 2nd on Friday stepped in line behind us. They were a father/son team from New York who had won the Amateur last year. We could see they had a big catch. Our weight for 7 fish was 11.77 pounds, just shy of the Friday bag. The New York team took over our short-lived lead and it held up. 2nd should have hurt but some how it didn’t. My expectations had been so much less. I had gone into the tournament just hoping to not be embarrassed. Funny thing, I was doing a Facebook Live recently with J Paul Jackson and Jeff Dodd of Excel Boats. Jeff is a catfish tournament pro with few peers. When I mentioned that I would be in the Crappie USA tournament, J Paul said ” A guide on his home lakes should win every time!” Jeff jumped in and said that is rarely the case.He was correct.
After all the photos, handshakes and back-slaps, Justin and I got to talk to the winning team. They wanted to know about the PICO baits since they had never heard of them. As we were talking, Mitch Glenn of PICO sent me a text congratulating us. I called him and the 4 of us talked to Mitch on speaker about the event and he congratulated the NY team for their win. We probably will have to compete against PICOs next year.
I had a ball. Our $800 check will pay our expenses and just light a bigger fire in my gut to see how we might fare in other crappie events.