This past Saturday was a lesson in adversity, and respecting mother nature, for the anglers fishing the Crappie USA event out of Goose Pond Colony. All week the weather forecast had been sketchy at best. Severe storms seemed to be the common denominator in any forecast you watched. Combine the threat of severe weather with the past month of record-breaking rain and you have very tough conditions on any lake.
When I pulled into the Goose Pond Bait and Tackle for weigh in the waves in the bay were white capping, so we all know how rough the main channel had to be. Those who are not crappie fisherman know that the wind is your worst enemy when the bite is subtle, as it always is during pre or post frontal conditions It was apparent these anglers had a rough day on the water.
As the anglers started filtering in to weigh their catch you heard a lot about the wind and tough bite. The concern for those still on the lake was evident as well. This weigh in was different than any I have ever attended in that about 330pm the tornado sirens went off, as if mother nature had not been brutal enough.
When the storm subsided, and the amateur division finished weighing in, Bobby Johnson and Brett Curtis of Stanford Ky won with a total one-day weight of 13.43. Second was the Somerset Ky team of Donald Hicken and Chad hill with a weight of 12.37. Third, and the last double-digit bag was the local team of Ricky Baker and James Lovings from Gurley Al. After these the weights dropped faster than the thermometer during a cold front. 8.94-2.54 was the range. There were 8 teams that showed a no weight on the official score card. In retrospect it’s amazing that these weights were even brought in given the hazardous conditions throughout the day.
On the pro side the struggle was also evident, but the Alabama Duo of Johnny Walker and Jeff Ramsey managed to pull out their second pro event win on the Lake. A month ago, they won the American Crappie Trail season opener and took home a new Ranger Boat. They won the pro division of the Crappie USA event by over 2lbs. Second place was the Alabama team of John Pierce and Jason Houston. They weighed an 11.23-pound bag of fish.
The silver lining to a rough day at weigh in was being able to go “home” to the cabins at Goose Pond Colony. Even when all you wanted was warm and dry these cabins are plush and comfortable. Four queen beds, two full bathrooms, large living room, kitchen and dining room. If you have never stayed in them, you are missing a component of a great stay in the Goose Pond Colony. The staff are all top shelf and the cabins are two minutes from the Goose Pond bait and Tackle, the “Docks” restaurant, the golf course and of course the boat ramp.
A lot of people won’t realize the significance of what happened this weekend in the Goose Pond Bait and Tackle parking lot. Prior to Valentines weekend Guntersville Lake was a world class top 5 bass fishery. You didn’t hear about anything except bass fishing, and rightfully so as the lake is a steady stop on the BASS Elites, FLW and a plethora of other very large bass tours. However at 5PM on the 16th of February the City of Scottsboro,AL put Guntersville Lake on the map as a true destination Crappie Lake.
On the 15th and 16th the American Crappie Trail came to town to hold their first qualifier for 2019. Even though most pro tournament anglers knew the lake held some crappies there were some concerns about the overall quality of fish. After all, the lake had never hosted a true Pro event in the past. These concerns were laid to rest at the conclusion of day one.
Day one started warm, overcast, and with rain on the horizon. It was not until lunch when the rumors started about big bags of fish. As the anglers started filtering in those rumors no longer seemed farfetched. The Lucas Oil team of Kent Watson and Drew Morgan, Indiana based anglers, walked on stage and dropped a limit of fish weighing in at a whopping 15.40 pounds. For those not familiar with crappie tournaments a 7 fish limit of 2 pound or better fish is a huge deal. Normally you only see bags like that in the fertile reservoirs of Mississippi. The Indiana boys also weighed a big fish in at 2.59 pounds. That was followed up by local Alabama anglers Johnny Walker and Jeff Ramsey. This duo walked up smiling so we knew it was going to get serious. When the scales locked they read 15.32 pounds. Not enough to unseat the current leaders but a solid second place none the less. After that we saw 6 more teams break the 2-pound average weight barrier. Just when we thought the Lucas oil team had day one locked down the B’n’M/Strike King team of Tim Blackley and Paul Turner strolled on stage with a 15.94-pound 7 fish limit and a 2.55 pound big fish. People were now excited about Lake Guntersville. In fact you could feel the excitement in the air, as well as the rain.
When day 2 arrived the rain had stopped but the temperatures had fallen into the high 30’s, and there was a brisk breeze coming straight out of the north. Even on a lake the quality of Guntersville these weather conditions seemed sure to slow down the bite.
As the day wore on we started hearing about not only big bags but a true elephant of a crappie. As the weigh in progressed we saw bag after bag breaking the 14 pound mark. When it came time for the top 10 to weigh the excitement in the air was enough to make your skin tingle.
The top 10 anglers were a great representation of long time pro fisherman, new faces, and a single young gun of the American Crappie Trail. Drew Morgan, the resident young gun and his partner Kent Watson weighed in a two day total of 28.88-pounds to secure a second place finishand win them a total of 6150-dollars. Day one leaders, the B’n’M team of Tim Blackley and Paul Turner, crossed the stage with a two day total of 27.47-pounds and dropped to 4th place and won 3150-dollars. Then the Husband and wife team of Mike & Deborah Gore weighed a big bag giving them a two day total of 27.96-pounds, enough for a third place finish with 4200-dollars in prize money.
Finally the Team of Johnny Walker and Jeff Ramsey came on stage and stole the show. These local Alabama boys weighed a two day total of 31.67-pounds and a big fish weighing in at 3.19-pounds. That two day total netted them25,930-dollars including the 2019 Ranger RT188C boat.
Crappie tournaments are evolving at a rapid pace, not long ago a good payout for first place would have been 2000-dollars. The sport is growing and the town of Scottsboro hit a home run in being the host of this event.
You can watch the event on The Pursuit Channel, Fox Sports Mid-West and Fox Sports South in the first quarter of 2020.
Talking with Matt Morgan and Sam Heaton of the American Crappie Trail. They take a look back at 2018 and give us a glimpse of what to expect in 2019.
Kent and I talk everything from ducking hunting to new crappie products and his upcoming tournaments.
In 35 years of bowhunting the one thing that never ceases to amaze me is that bowhunters are the worst people to help get some “started” in archery. Now once a person knows how to shoot and has the basic archery skill set a bowhunter is always a good resource. By starting I mean someone who has never ever held a bow but has an interest. This might be your spouse, kids, or coworker. There are some things we can all do to assist and mentor new folks into the sport.
Your bow is not the best bow – Ok I am sure this hurts most of us but, it’s a fact your bow will probably not be the best bow for a beginner. It may very well be the best bow for you but your 1000.00 bow, 600.00 worth of sight, quiver, limb savers and stabilizer is yours. It fits you, you can draw it comfortably, and much like a fly rod it’s a very personalized tool. Remember when helping a beginner that they are probably not going to enjoy pulling a 70-pound bow for very long. Make sure you steer them to a bow that fits them, they can pull, and one they actually like. If your daughter like pink camo bows let her have a pick camo bow, we all know pink camo only works on flamingos but being happy is a big part of archery.
Your accessories are yours not theirs – My sons are living proof that my stuff does not work for anyone but me, at least not very well. I shoot a handheld release and my leftie is just not comfortable shooting that. My sight pins are tiny and have a light but my oldest can’t see them, even in daylight, and the light blinds him. We went to the local pro shop and they shot several releases until he found one he liked, same with sights they picked their own.
Your Brand choice might not be theirs– Luckily everyone in my home has a Bear Archery Product that fits them and that the enjoy shooting. When it comes to kids and smaller framed adults the ability to have a large range of draw weight adjustment is paramount. The muscles used to draw a bow change from sitting to standing and they are not muscles most people use daily. A new shooter will want to adjust their draw weight as they develop these muscles. The ability to adjust your draw length at home is generally a plus as well. A beginner has no clue to where or how they are going to anchor until they have actually shot the bow so you will, as a rule need to make an adjustment or two in the early stages.
It does not take a 70-pound bow hunt most big game– As a bow hunter education instructor this was a myth we has to dispel very often. If you hand a new shooter a bow that’s too heavy there are a couple thing that WILL happen.
Remember an accurate shooter with a 45-55 pound bow is always more lethal than a shooter with a 70-pound bow they hate to draw.
Work is never fun– If you make shooting to much like work through improper equipment and excessive draw weight it won’t be fun. If archery is not fun then a new potential archer won’t grow into a bowhunter. I try to stay away from 3D targets in the beginning. Large colorful bag targets, for kids ones with dart boards and games, are perfect visual aids. I say large targets because a beginner does not want to spend ½ the time trying to dig arrows out of the grass.
Range is key – Yes I can in fact shoot out past 50 yards all day long with my Bear Archery Domain. My kids not only can’t but they should not be attempting those shots in the beginning. Start at 10 and move new archers out to realistic hunting ranges. Once a new shooter can hit what they aim at a 3D range is the next step.
Never forget than an archer is not a bowhunter. A beginner has to learn, and like, archery before they can morph into a bow hunter. Some people, like my daughter will probably never take that step but she enjoys archery and the family fun that can be had with sticks and strings.
This week’s tip comes from Charlie Brewer’s Slider Company Pro Angler Blake Phillips.
“Everytime we get to a new lake we narrow down colors by water clarity. Darker in darker water, and lighter in clear water. Then we put out 4 different companies baits, in four different colors. Charlie Brewer’s Slider, Strike King Slabalicious, Bobby Garland strollers and Fin commanders crappie magnets. It just happens with our style of long lining Sliders work the best followed by Strike King. The others all come in about the same. What I’m trying to say is don’t get stuck on one soft plastic try them all, and keep trying new ones”