The beauty of being a fisherman lies in sniffing out rumors of either big fish or big catches of fish. The latest rumor was of big catches of tilapia in Old Hickory Lake. As with all angling rumors it had to be investigated thoroughly. I mean a new fish that, that even though is invasive, is palatable! So we picked a nice day with only 20 knot winds and away we went.
Prior to our trip I was stuck in the Dallas Fort Worth airport for a few hours and decided to look up what I could about this fish. I learned that they don’t tolerate water temperatures below 48 degrees, which explained why they are populating the steam plant and a few creeks with warm water springs in them. I learned they are in fact not a filter feeder, as are the Asian carp. I had also been told they were herbivores when in fact they are omnivores, which is good news for the anglers! It appears these fish will eat a little of everything. I also learned that the Tilapia is the number one farmed fish in the world. A common misconception is that these are Asian fish is totally false. The tilapia is native to the African continent. That said they are farmed heavily thought out Asia at this time. The best anyone can tell me is that these are a cross between the Nile Tilapia and the farm raised fish. Either way we were determined to catch some and see if this rumor was true.
When the morning came is was beautiful and very windy, 12-15 MPH winds all day. We just hoped the steam plant would afford us some shelter from Mother Nature’s wrath. I thought that the wind would have kept most anglers off the water, especially on a Wednesday. I was sadly mistaken, apparently no one in middle Tennessee works on Wednesdays, as there were 15 boats there when we arrived. It did not take a genius to figure out why. We watched those boats landing fish after fish while we were trying to get anchored up.
We had been told that the big catches were coming on night crawlers under a bobber, the caveat was you could only use about an inch of the night crawler on a #6 Aberdeen hook. Now I am always skeptical of fisherman giving out information with that much detail but… it was all very accurate. After catching a very small one and a darn fine one I figured out why. The Tilapia has a very small mouth like a bluegill and they simply can’t get anything bigger inside their mouths. That day we caught 50 large fish and let another 50 or more go that were a little too small for my taste.
We went back again a couple days later to try something different. Rather than live bait we used our fly rods with small minnow patterns and it worked just fine. We also removed the trebles off a Rooster Tail and put a single hook in their place. It worked equally as good. I tried small crankbait’s that we would normally crappie fish with but those did not produce well at all.
So all in all these fish are palatable, very catchable, and just plain fun to chase. Will they stay is the question that keeps coming up and only time will tell. We do know that they were washed into the lake during the flood of 2010 and have survived that long so who knows. Right now, they are here and willing to bite so “Get out and fish”.
Before I can tell this story properly, we must go back a few months to Memphis Tennessee. While at the Mississippi River Monsters event many catfish anglers had the honor of meeting Michael Conley. Michael had his life impacted profoundly by fishing and brain cancer. He is a parent, catfish angler, and soon to be grandfather. After the event, Michael had a new list of friends on social media. It was through this new group of friends that he expressed a wish to go to Wheeler Lake and fish for trophy blue cats. He had never caught anything bigger than 17 pounds and simply wanted to beat his personal best. The two flies in the proverbial buttermilk were money and chemo treatments.
Here is where we enter pro catfish angler Cad Daly. Cad heard the wish, and quietly put a plan into motion. Many of you know Cad, as he won the Excel Storm Cat boat in Memphis. Behind the scenes he was able to rally a group of catfish anglers together and began work on making Michaels wish come true. The first hurdle for this endeavor was getting him from Arkansas to Alabama. Cad managed to find someone who donated a plane ticket, and the trip was going to be a go.
Now he just needed accommodations and meals. The catfish community, once again, stepped up and donated over $300.00 for meals and travel expenses for Michael though a gofundme account. The kind staff members at Joe Wheeler State Park, and the Florence/Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, stepped in and not only covered Michaels cabin but provided a second cabin at a very steep discount. As many know the Florence area has always been kind, and receptive, to professional catfish events.
Since Cad had his new Excel Storm Cat, he covered the fuel expense or the trip. He knew that with Michaels health condition he would need a second set of hands on board. This is where B’n’M poles pro angler Ryan Lawrence stepped in and became metaphorically and physically the trips “first Mate”. Jason McDuffie at B’n’M poles donated Michael a nice two-piece rod, so he could take in home on the airplane as well. As most catfish anglers know you must have good quality bait. Yanmer & Sons stepped in a donated all the bait.
Cad had to pre-fish so getting him from the Birmingham airport was an issue until Jarrett Tempus, of River Rats Reel Repair, offered to get him to and from the lake. As a precautionary measure Cad had a second boat on the lake looking for fish, and also in case of a breakdown. Scott Lovelace was that boats Captain and stayed with them all weekend. After that the entire trip came together, or at least they thought it had.
In the Army we had a saying “A plan is always great until you meet the enemy”. The enemy turned out to be air flight. Michael had never flown so he inadvertently missed his flight out on Thursday afternoon. Luckily Southwest Airlines was very understanding and got him an early morning flight Friday.
Friday afternoon turned out to be a little breezy and Michael was tired from his travels. They fished a couple hours and boated a 15-pound blue. After that they had a nice birthday dinner for Michael and retired with hope of a new personal best on Saturday.
Saturday dawned with little wind, warm temperatures, and a blue sky. We hit the water at 8am with the motley crew of good-hearted anglers. It appeared the word had traveled throughout the catfish community as there were catfish boats everywhere. They all stopped to check on Michael and share their hotspots with Cad, not something you see every day from competitive anglers. According to my camera the whole adventure culminated at 10:08 am. That’s when Michael landed his new personal best catfish. It was a 28-pound blue that Michael said, “about wore him out”. There were other boats around us waiting on this to happen, and to hear Ryan Lawrence holler “new personal best on board” was a moment that would send chills down even the most jaded anglers’ spine. All the planning for this trip came to fruition at that moment in the form of a smile on Michael’s face. The trip was a flaming success by any standard.
Before I can wrap this up, I must share a few things that helped make this trip a true example of catfish Class. Cad’s trolling motor remote failed prior to the trip, and as if on cue Ryan Lawrence pulled his out of a tackle bag. After that the battery that powered the Graphs decided to crap out. Another boat of anglers captained by Robert Scott gave up one of their batteries. If you were to try and find a better group of anglers, it would take a lifetime. Everyone who participated, donated, or just stopped to say hi to Michael exhibited what we like to call “catfish class”.
Thank you Brad & Nathan Whitehead for the help on this story.
Ran down to fish Guntersville today and got a call from my good friend JP Parsons. He asked if I was coming to the Scottsboro BBQ cook off on the square, and since I was already hungry I almost ran there.
Now when he said BBQ cook off I was thinking a few local dudes going at it. Well it was closer to 20+ contestants, a food and craft fair of about 78 booths, and a beer garden. I do love gardens so away I went.
The food was out of this world and really reasonable. After I grabbed some BBQ I went to the beer garden with JP and tested the Oktoberfest brew they had, and since I have been to Oktoberfest a couple times, it passed the test.
After that we went by the Lil’ Donut Factory for desert and boy those donuts came straight from heaven above. Last stop was a tour through the Scottsboro Tackle Company. Talk about a well stocked tackle store! If they don’t have it you darn sure do not “need it”.
Lastly I had to find a restroom, and porta potties at these events have been known to be rather… Interesting for lack of a better term. They had trailers from an outfit called “A Woman’s Touch” , and folks these were as clean as a hospital. Kind of a nice surprise at an outdoor event in the south.
The fishing well that’s for another story!
A candid discussion with Pro Anglers Whitey and Matt Outlaw.
This weekend i had the opportunity to fish with Ryan Lawrence. Ryan is a pro angler with B’n’M poles and is an all around great guy. We put in at 630 Saturday morning and fished until lunch up and down through the downtown Nashville area. I have never had much luck for catfish on the river in the past and after this weekend I know why. Our first three fish were over the 34 inch trophy regulation! One really big blue and two 20+ flatheads.
I learned that I was fishing in the wrong areas and was in fact using the wrong bait. More to follow in Mid West Outdoors and Mid South Hunting and Fishing News!
Part two of my interview with Matt Morgan of the American Crappie Trail. My podcasts can also be found through the Apple I Tunes store under “Troy Basso Outdoors”
We loaded up the Hummer and made yet another trek to Scottsboro Alabama . I have always had a soft spot for this small southern town with all its charm, and proximity to Lake Guntersville. Its the kind of place you just can’t help but fall in love with.
Normally we are down there on some kind of fishing adventure, but this trip was all about bird hunting. Since it was only a two day excursion we didn’t take the camper. We booked one of the new cabins in Jackson County Park. It appears that we have been missing out as these cabins are very plush.
The Master bedroom had a very comfortable queen bed, television, closet, and lamp. A very spacious and comfortable room.
The second bedroom had the same queen bed and a pair of bunk beds. This room will sleep 4 comfortably.
The living room is both large and comfortable. Add in the fireplace and big screen television and its home away from home. A leather couch and love seat added to the rustic feel of the cabin.
The kitchen was surprisingly large and fully equipped with dishes, pots, pans, coffee maker, and electric can opener.
The park has a top notch boat ramp and marina, kayak rental, and the best food in the area can be found right in the park at KC’s BBQ.
Make sure you check out these cabins on your next trip to the Scottsboro area. You will not be disappointed. If you are fishing a tournament not only can you sleep 7-8 people, but they have outlets on the outside for boat charging.
I know I wont be pulling a camper down and going through all the set up and tear down ever again. These cabins are turn key and ready for you to just relax.
Priest is fishing well as of late. The crappie are back on Brushpiles and willing to eat again. BnM double minnow rigs have been producing limits of good fish.
The bass are holding mid depth, early and late have been the better times. Mid depth crankbaits and soft plastics have been key.
The night time hybrid and striper bite is getting fired up and is expected to continue through July.
Catfishing has been slow due to the spawn but the channels have been biting well. Flatheads and blues are the shallows but will be slow to bite until then spawn ends.
Day two started an hour before the sun broke the horizon here in Ridgeland, MS. It appeared at first that the wind was going to give the anglers a reprieve but, by day break the wind was blowing and the boats hulls were talking as they tried to get on plane. Even with rain and more wind in the forecast this afternoon the excitement and enthusiasm in the air was remarkable.
Even today the entire top ten can change in just 7 fish. That’s the beauty of crappie fishing, it can be a comeback story sport. All it takes is one stump, one school of fish, and as always just a little luck.
Capps and Coleman, in the Super Clean boat, are the leaders but went into day two cautiously optimistic. The wind was not blowing in their favor today, as it was yesterday. The second place team of Whitey and Matt outlaw, in the General tire boat, were also optimistic but keeping an eye to wind direction as well. The rest of the field was optimistic and positive, especially after seeing what Ross Barnett has to offer, as far as the size of fish go. This lake has truly shown out this weekend and the weigh in should be fantastic.
They say when the weigh in lines closes the fun starts and today it sure did. Team after team brought in 13+ pound bags. The wind may have blown but these guys adapted and overcame. Everything was rolling along great and then… right before the top ten teams weighed in a local lady had her water break and the fire trucks and ambulances showed up. Not to be put out tournament director Matt Morgan stopped weigh in, moved boats, and then restarted the weigh in. Once gain proving this trail is top notch and run by professionals.
Once the scales were shut down the winners lined up to be paid, and what a payout it was: First-place team of Ronnie Capps and Steve Coleman, in the Super clean boat, took home $28,100 in cash and Prizes. The second-place General Tire team of Whitey Outlaw and Matthew Outlaw took home $7,800. The field was paid down to 16th place at 850 dollars. This type of payout in crappie fishing has been unheard of until now. The American Crappie Trail will continue its growth for many years to come.