This is crazy. Just step onto the deck of the pontoon with your cooler full of refreshments and snacks. This is one crappie guide trip you won’t forget.

No speed limit on this tritoon, but this is a special tritoon rigged up with a 350 HP outboard. Heck this is a special guide trip. Not your run-of-the-mill crappie guide trip.

“This is a custom built boat I had made with a closed cabin with air conditioning, potty room for the ladies and room on the front open deck for 12 anglers to fish at once. The front open deck is 10 foot wide by 16 foot long. It’s an amazing boat for sure,” said Owner Roy Sanford of Sam Rayburn’s Best (409-656-5520) fishing guide service.

The question is how can Sanford get so many anglers on the boat fishing and catching crappie? Sanford uses a simple approach of sinking trees; lots of trees, fresh minnows, marine electronics, high quality rods and reels along with years of on the water experience.

His brush piles are big with some as large as houses. Sanford uses willow trees they cut down to draw in baitfish that will attract crappie. As much as Sanford and his guides put in it’s almost a full time job.

For anglers that like to sleep in this is the trip for you. Sanford starts each trip at 8 a.m. leaving out of the Umphrey Pavilion on Sam Rayburn Lake and last until 4 p.m. or the anglers have caught enough. Amazingly that happens, but it’s because of all the work put in on building and maintaining brush piles along with the fishing knowledge of the guide.

“I came up with the design for the front deck to make it angler friendly. There are three aerated, insulated minnow buckets on each side of the deck; however, they are not located on the deck of the tritoon, but on the outside railing waist high so anglers are not reaching down all the time to get their minnows. Plus, I run super quiet aquarium pumps that go directly to the minnow buckets inside the cabin to keep the noise down where the anglers are sitting,” said Sanford.

Sanford uses specific rods, reels and terminal tackle for guiding from his tritoon boat. For rods and reels it’s the Wally Marshall Speed Shooter 5 ½-foot combo (, 8- or 10-pound test Mr. Crappie MEGA Spool ( monofilament fishing line, 1/4- or 3/16-ounce bullet style weight that’s pinched on and 2/0 straight shank hook. “We will be switching to the new Wally Marshall Gamakatsu hook once they come out,” Sanford.

You can use artificial lures, but Sanford likes to keep it simple for his guide clients so they normally just drop the minnow down one complete pull from the lake to over top their shoulders. Once Sanford has the boat in place over top the brush pile and crappie he will yell out the window to let them down. If the crappie are deeper or shallower Sanford will tell the anglers to raise or lower their minnows.

As easy as it seems to catch crappie on the tritoon there are always factors that decide which brush piles produce fish. The biggest being pressure. Pressure coming from other anglers fishing the same brush pile and from the guide’s tritoon boat itself. “On every brush pile we are going to catch a number of crappie before they stop biting. The only question is how many before it slows up and we move to the next brush pile. I can’t stand slow fishing so we move often and quickly,” said Sanford.

Recent high water lake levels are also factoring in to where Sanford has been fishing. Higher water levels means Sanford and his crew are having to build some new brush piles to keep them where the crappie want to be.

His marine electronic setup is impressive. Sanford has 3 units. One Lowrance and two Garmins with each one with different screens open to allow for maximum coverage below and to each side or front of the tritoon.

“I use the Garmin LiveScope for pin-pointing the location. Depth of the crappie along with the depth of the minnow on the angler’s hook and where the brush pile is located. Heck, I can even see the crappie come bite the minnow or just come up and look at it. I use the other Garmin to locate the brush piles and the Lowrance to operate my Ghost trolling motor while inside my cabin on the tritoon,” said Sanford.

Note that Sanford has built a homemade mount for the Garmin LiveScope transducer that allows him to operate it from inside his cabin by opening the window. Sanford can also raise or lower it from inside the cabin.

Since Sanford is inside the cabin running the outboard and trolling motor he relies on 1 or 2 guides to work the front deck helping clients. It’s an amazing crew as they make it look easy dipping up crappie and helping clients stay on fish, in addition, to switching out rods if the line breaks.

For larger groups Sanford will use a second pontoon boat built similar to his for trips. Jacob Root is his second guide that works with and for Sanford. Ricky Sanford is the other guide that helps out on either boat. The task of cleaning the crappie for the anglers goes to one of those guides.

It’s fair to say this is not your normal crappie guide. Far from it, however, when it comes to large parties, a controlled environment to hang out in to cool off or warm up and almost guaranteeing that everyone on the guide trip will catch crappie this is the guide trip for you.

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