By Tim Huffman
February 15, 2013
Tournament fishermen have certain characteristics most of us ‘other’ fisherman wish we possessed. For example, consistently catching fish is something many fishermen struggle with but a tournament fisherman must be able to go to a new lake and find fish. The following are a variety of tips from fishermen who have competed in a Classic event.
Big fish among little ones
Steve Coleman is a member of the most successful crappie tournament team in history with seven Classic wins. He has a very different theory than most fishermen who leave an area quickly when they start catching small fish. “A big fish will be hidden and shy most of the time. If you’re fishing a brushpile and are catching small fish just be patient and the big one may bite. You may catch thirty smaller fish then catch the big one. Smaller fish are more aggressive so you might have to catch them out to get to the big one.”
Find a pattern
Scott Stafford says, “No matter where you fish you need to get a map and study it. Look for drop-offs and other features. It gives you a place to start your fishing. Once you catch some fish you can look on the map and find places just like it where you’ll catch fish. My partner and I have used this strategy for years. Today with better electronics it’s easier to find the fish.”
Always make changes
North Carolina fisherman Kenny Allen says there are times when fishing is tough. “If you are using minnows be sure they are fresh and lively. When using a jig give yourself an advantage by using a good scent attractor like Crappie Nibbles. Try tipping a jig with a small minnow. If the bait you’re using isn’t working keep changing until you find something they want.
Fish high percentage spots
Dan Dannenmueller, 2011 and 2012 Crappie Masters Angler of the Year team member says his ideal dream spot varies depending upon the type of lake. “One thing an ideal spot would have is a position that could be fished by spider rigging. Something with varying depths would be good. A nine foot depth is perfect because fish aren’t too spooky yet baits are easy to control. Dream spots are difficult to find but they do exist.
Teenager Jon Gillotte is good at handling a boat, a jigging pole and tough fishing conditions. “Muddy water isn’t always bad but new muddy water is a problem. When the wind blows across a shallow mud flat or rain causes runoff from farmers’ fields the fish suddenly have a different water clarity. Visibility goes down so it’s harder for them to identify baitfish. Slow down, fish twice a slow as normal and try darker baits. Sometimes a bigger bait will make it easier for them to see.”
Use your electronics
Missouri fisherman, Brian McGhee, says it’s critical for finding fish faster. “We use a map and study the contours. Then we use electronics. The majority of our spots we find with a Humminbird Side Imaging unit. We do a lot of idling and looking. We’ll go back and fish all the good stuff we find and we’ll give the fish time to find the bait. We’ve learned that sometimes it takes the fish a while to hit a bait.”
“Slow trolling is a good method,” says Matt Morgan, “because you can move as slowly as you want. And there are times when you have to slow down to keep lines vertical and to catch fish. I’ll fish a jig-minnow combo especially as the water starts warming up. The key to slow trolling is boat control so maintain control at all times to keep baits where you want them.”
Tip of the Month
Bart Gillon says in February, “Dress warm and fish slowly. This time of year it’s wise to use a smaller bait in the cooler water. As the weather warms and fish become more aggressive you can move up to a larger bait.”