Outdoor gifts beat socks and ties.

Many folks just do not know what to give an outdoorsman for Christmas. Here are my top-ten gift ideas.
10. Robert Montgomery’s book, “Why we fish” is an excellent read.

Robert Montgomery's Why we fish.

Robert Montgomery’s
Why we fish.

9. Speaking of books, I just received a copy of “Passion of the Wild” by Michael Giles. Sweet!

Passion of the wild. Michael O. Giles

Passion of the wild.
Michael O. Giles

8. Every angler needs Real Magic. It reduces line memory and increases casting distance.

Real Magic increases casting distance & reduces line memory.

Real Magic increases casting distance & reduces line memory.

7. Road Runners fit in a stocking very nicely. Can you have too many Road Runners? No.

Road Runner Kits make a  great gift for anglers.

Road Runner Kits make a
great gift for anglers.

6. ESP Rods are a great buy. You cannot build a better spinning rod than this. The V.A.T. handle is just icing on the cake. $69.99

5. The new B’nM Double Touch, Duck Commander Jigging Pole is wonderful for fishing deep brush piles. $59.99

The Duck Commanders didn't just put their name on this. They designed it!

The Duck Commanders didn’t just put their name on this. They designed it!

4. The Gun Protect protection kit is a wonderful gift for the hunter in your family. $29.99

Clean, protect, and lubricate your guns.

Clean, protect, and lubricate your guns.

3. B’n’M’s new, Buck’s Ultra-Light Reel is perfect for jigging and spider rigging. $17.99

Silent anti-reverse and smooth retrieve.

Silent anti-reverse and smooth retrieve.

2. You do not have to spend $2,500 for a depth sounder to get big screen performance. Check out the Humminbird 899CI for less than $1,000.

Awesome for finding brush piles and structure.

Awesome for finding brush piles and structure.

1. Who would not like to wake up Christmas morning to a G3 Boat? The new Eagle Talon 17 PFX fits species from bass, crappie, to walleye. Of course, the new Bay 20 DLX G3 would expand your fishing to reds, snook, and tarpon.
Talon 17 PFX by G3 Boats

Talon 17 PFX by
G3 Boats

Bay 20 DLX by G3

Bay 20 DLX by G3

Christmas is looking better already!
Blessings, tj

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O'Neill of O'Neill Outside TV, fishes for success.

O’Neill of
O’Neill Outside TV,
fishes for success.

Forecast the weather. If you can choose your days, then pick pre-frontal days. If you cannot pick your days, then go when you safely can. Remember, you cannot catch fish on the couch.

Investigate the waters. Mapping software will allow you to preplan your trip at home. Look for tight contour lines and structure. Try to find at least four of each. Look for cover on Google Earth.

Sort out a plan for various depths. Pack tackle to fish those zones, top to bottom. Think about shade in the summer and warm water in the winter.

Hammer the water. Change up lure colors. Look for bait. Look for birds. Keep your mind and eyes, wide open. The more effort you invest in your trip, the more fish you will catch. (or get back on that couch.)

Thanksgiving idea: Get on the phone Thursday and call one of your heroes. This may be someone serving our country. Perhaps the uncle that took you fishing or hunting. Give thanks to someone that has given you their time.

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Rend Lake has so much to offer.

The view from the "Botel" at Rend Lake Resort is just the beginning!

The view from the “Botel” at Rend Lake Resort is just the beginning!

Rend Lake offers catfish, crappie and so much more.
Wayne Fitzgerrell State Park rests on the banks of this 19,000-acre lake. Just inside this park, you will find a jewel, Rend Lake Resort.

Rend Lake is rich in natural beauty. Eagles fly overhead. Deer and ducks frequent the nutrient waters. There are plenty of shallows. These shallow waters act as a nursery to the bait and gamefish.

Rend Lake Resort offers cabins, a large hotel, and two “botels”. All of these options are exceptional. There is a marina, dockage, and boat ramps for guests.

The staff and food were wonderful at the two-onsite restaurants. The Windows Restaurant is a fine dining kind of place. Reilly’s combines a sports pub, lounge, and grill atmosphere.

The crappie fishing is excellent.

The crappie fishing is excellent.

The fishing was strong. Bass, Catfish, and Bass visited our boat. Kyle from All-Seasons Crappie Fishing knows the lake like the back of his hand. The best fishing was in the shallow stumps and brush piles.
Rodney's Road Runner Crappie on Rend Lake

Rodney’s Road Runner Crappie on Rend Lake

Take a moment to visit the park’s website to see all the activities like horseback riding.
Be sure to visit the resort’s website to book your trip.

I cannot wait to go back in the spring.


Kyle from  All Seasons Crappie Fishing

Kyle from
All Seasons Crappie Fishing

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Go ahead. Second-guess the fish to find them.

Sure enough, this fish was in deeper water.

Sure enough, this fish was in deeper water.

The wind gusted. Leaves fluttered down like snow. Ron looked at me and we both said the same thing, “Oh crap”. I eased the boat down to cruising speed. “Are we going to the river?” Ron asked. “Nope, it’ll be easier to fight the wind in the creek.” I replied. (Funny thing about a Yamaha 4-stroke, you can actually talk while running.) “Great, we’re 300-yards from the dock and we’re already on plan-B.” Ron chuckled.

We stopped near some stumps in 9-feet of water. Then we eased to the deeper side and bagged two small fish. A repeat of that pass had no results. The water temperature was 66-degrees. I had to try the shallower side. “The fish should be here.” Nothing. Water depths of seven to ten feet were not producing crappie.

It was time to second-guess their depth.

We pressed on to one of our GPS spots. This location features a 16 to 12-foot ledge. The crappie began to bite voraciously. The frenzy lasted about a half-hour. We moved to similar waters and picked up a few more fish. 20-24 crappies visited our boat. (We need to get a fish-counter.)

Today was a reminder to second-guess what you think. The fish “should” have been in shallower water. They had other plans.

Keep an open mind. Sometimes, a little guesswork goes a long way.

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Fishing ledges

We fished ledges yesterday. Despite the wind, we able to drift up and down the drop. The ledge rose from 14-feet to 11-feet. This old angler learned a trick. I chose the “Spot Lock” button on the Minn-Kota I-Pilot. The boat would move down the ledge and the Minn Kota would gently move back. The movement of our Road Runners was just what the crappie wanted.

Ron releases another crappie.

Ron releases another crappie.

Ron and I had several doubles on at the same time which are always fun. 🙂
The gold light yesterday afternoon was just a bonus.
Blessings, TJ

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Crappie techniques, part two of two.

Gil loves to spider rig.

Gil loves to spider rig.

Like a crappie, (crappy, slabs, specks, speckled perch, sac-a-lait) the techniques often have different names. This simply confuses new or returning crappie anglers even more. I hope that this primer will clear the air.

We have briefly covered; casting, dock shooting, float fishing, and jigging.

Long lining-
Some call it “trolling” or “pulling”. This is a very effective technique. Trolling speeds are typically .1 to .5 MPH. Many anglers pull double minnow rigs. Still more will pull a jig like a Road Runner. Estimating depth is harder than spider rigging since there is more line out. Crappies like to suspend, so pulling the baits at various depths is highly recommended. Two Driftmaster #250H rod holders will separate the lines nicely. Use six to eight identical rods and reels loaded with eight-pound line. Fish the same jig across the set. This will eliminate the color variable. Measuring your set back is as easy as pulling the line from the spool to the first guide. You can skip the first measurement by using the rod length. Vary this set back to find how deep the crappies are suspending. Once you get the set back or depth dialed in, you can vary the jig colors. Tip: The Road Runner Buffet rigs are deadly for long lining.

Spider rigging-
Some call this “pushing”. “Tight-lining” is nearly the same. We will touch on this too. This technique is similar to long lining but from the front of the boat. The first advantage is you are not “running over” your fish before the presentation of your baits. The second advantage is the angler is not constantly looking back at the lines while trying to look ahead. Longer, spider-rigging poles put the baits further ahead of the boat. Trolling speeds are often .2 to .8 MPH. Rigs include a jig on the bottom and a Tru-Turn hook above. Minnows can go on both or just the top hook. A small egg-lead above the rig insures a steady presentation. Tight lining is often considered a two-hook or jig with minnow rig, with a 1/2 oz. egg-lead.

The Gant brothers started this technique on Pickwick Lake. This one is gaining popularity. Imagine spider rigging, down the side of the boat. The trolling motor is mounted on the opposite side of the boat. The advantage of side-pulling is using the boat’s length to cover water. The trick has begun to grow in the catfishing world too. The quickest way to learn this technique is to book a trip with Captain Brad Whitehead or Captain Brian Barton.

Spider rigging makes locating crappie, easier.

Spider rigging makes locating crappie, easier.

This is a very brief glossary of the most popular crappie techniques. To learn more, there are DVD’s by Jim Duckworth and Russ Bailey that are very informative. The Crappie Book by Keith Sutton and any book by Tim Huffman are chocked full of in-depth information. Huffman is also the editor of Crappie NOW Magazine. This monthly publication is free.


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Crappie techniques, part one of two

Steve Coleman using a float for crappie

Steve Coleman using a float for crappie

Do not be confused by all the “jargon”. Each technique below features a link to a video or piece of equipment. If I can do it, you certainly can.

It is just that. This is as simple as casting a light spinning outfit with a Road Runner on the end. We often find crappie this way, especially around structure like points. Casting around submerged cover will often out-fish other techniques. Try the ESP #E60PLS rod for the best results.

Dock shooting-
This technique is like shooting and fishing at the same time. Lower the 1/32nd or 1/16th oz. Road Runner to the first guide. Now pull the Road Runner between the thumb and forefinger down to the first guide. Point and shoot. Do not attempt this technique with just any spinning outfit. A special rod like the B’n M Sharpshooter is perfect. Watch Russ shoot docks in this video.

Float fishing-
This is another simple technique with perhaps the same spinning gear as casting. However, you will be suspending a minnow or jig above the structure or around cover. While this is not a year-round trick, it can be deadly.

Jigging- (Some call this one-poling)
This one is like flipping for bass. This is a vertical presentation where you simply lower the minnow to the structure or cover. You will want to “tap” the brush while not snagging it. Rigging a drop shot minnow with the weight below will reduce the snagging. Sensitivity is extremely important here. The best pole for this technique is the B’n’M, Sam Heaton Jigging pole. I prefer the “bottom seat” configuration so the entire handle is against my arm. (More contact means more sensitivity.)

Crappie expert, Russ Bailey

Crappie expert,
Russ Bailey

Shallow jigging-
This is mostly a spring or fall technique. It combines a tiny float with a Road Runner around lily pads and shallow cover. Russ’s Crappie Wizard Pole is perfect for this. You simply lower the jig by a pad and slowly jig it to the next pad.

Next week we review, long lining, side pulling, and spider rigging.

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The fishing, working, traveling life is a blur.

My apologies. 1,509 miles, fourteen room nights and too many great meals have past since my last post. I hope you can forgive me.

2013 Crappiemaster Champs

2013 Crappiemaster Champs

First there was the Big Cat Quest championship in Tunica, MS. (See previous post)
Next, there was the Crappiemasters championship event on Grenada Lake. Fishing was tough this year. It took a team from Iowa utilizing some walleye techniques to win. Imagine using side-planers and crankbaits on crappie! Congratulations to Kyle Steinfeldt and Tommy Skarlis. More details will be in the next CrappieNOW Magazine.

Then there was another wonderful Southeastern Outdoor Press Association (SEOPA) conference. Larry Bozka, Steve Matt and I got a chance to test the new bay boat. We managed a few reds and a mess of speckled trout too. A great day before we got down to business in Lake Charles, LA. The folks at the local CVB were excellent hosts. We all look forward to coming back again.

The smell of fuel and burnt rubber is calling. Adios!
Blessings, -tj

The new G3 Bay 18 DLX is sweet! Photo by Larry Bozka.

The new G3 Bay 18 DLX is sweet! Photo by Larry Bozka.

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Big Cat Quest crowns Angler of the Year.

Larry Muse and Rudy Schiffer's personal best Bluecat.

Larry Muse and Rudy Schiffer’s personal best Bluecat.

Ken Freeman handed the trophy to Larry Muse at the recent national championship event in Tunica, Mississippi. Obviously moved by the award, Muse thanked God, his team and Joyce his wife of 35-years. He also thanked his sponsors.

We enjoyed the buffet at the Fitzgerald’s Casino that evening. Muse reminisced about his “Granny French” who took time to teach him fishing as a young boy. His teammates are family too. Muse’s dad, Frank Meador, and Brother Dino Meador listened as he recalled his early fishing days.

Today, Muse fishes his nearby Pickwick Lake from Corinth, Mississippi. There must be something special about this town. Top anglers Phil King, Tim Haney, and David Shipman, also reside in Corinth.

In addition to his years of knowledge, Muse counts on his gear. He chooses lighter weight ABU rods to reduce fatigue while “Bump fishing”. Muse uses the ABU Alpha-mar reel in sizes 12 and 16. His line of choice is Spider Wire, Invisi-braid tied to Stren 80-pound leader material. His hook of choice is the Daiichi Circle Chunk Light in the 5/0 and 7/0 sizes.

Even his boat is a true catfish design. The 24- foot Sea-Ark rigged with a 225-Suzuki is a comfortable platform. Muse relies heavily on his 1197 Humminbird and Minn Kota Terrova trolling motor. “I can dial my speed with the current, down to a crawl when fishing is slow.” he stated as he double-checked his remote.

Sharing the sport comes easily to Muse. He quickly offered advice to us as we fished the Mississippi River on practice day. Muse did not hesitate to help fellow competitors too. “I’ve been blessed. The best way I can pay it back is to help other anglers”.

I think Granny French would be proud.

Blessings, -TJ

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Do new waters spook you?

Humminbird 800 Series

800 Series

Fishing new waters is fun.
Think of it as an adventure. Seize the opportunity. A little work before you hit the water is easier than ever.

Thank God for Google Maps. Get a lay of the land; tackle shops, ramps, and even lodging.

You can score more information by downloading map software on your PC. This software allows you to pre-plan your boating course. Some folks just trust a printed map. That is okay too. You can always use both for comparison as well.

Look for boating hazards first. Yes, hitting submerged stumps would be bad. However, hazards are also fish cover.

What is the difference between cover and structure? Think of cover as laydowns, grass beds, and boat docks. Structure is drop-offs, points, or creek beds. Look closely at the contour lines on your maps. When these lines are close together, that is a clue to a steep edge or drop-off. Look for two land-based points that face each other too. These are often old roadbeds. When fishing a river, look for possible eddies to fish.

Arrive the afternoon before fishing. This will give you a chance to find the ramp in daylight. Go ahead and launch. Fire up your Humminbird and idle around a bit. A few casts here and there with a Road Runner will cover some water too. Carefully investigate spots you have marked on your map. Go ahead and mark them on your GPS if you have not already done so.

Reality Shad Road Runner Willow blade covers more water.

Reality Shad Road Runner
Willow blade covers more water.

Make note of any navigation buoys. Keep in mind storms can misplace buoys too. Compare them to map locations to be sure.

Ease back to the ramp. Load up and head to the hotel. You will sleep well knowing you have done your homework. Your adventure will continue tomorrow.

Blessings, -tj

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