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American Crappie Trail a booming success

Sunday, April 7, 2019
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Photo by RON WONG

South Carolina crappie tournament participants, Whitey (right) and Matt (left) Outlaw, accompanied Glynn Harris for media day fishing.

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For three days they dangled minnows and jigs into the chilly pollenflecked waters of Lake D’Arbonne, “they” being the top 80-plus teams of crappie anglers from across the country vying for the top spot in the national finals of the American Crappie Trail (ACT).

Each team finishing at the top on the ACT tournament trail in 2018 was eligible to participate in the finals set for March 28-30 on Lake D’Arbonne. After the first day of fishing, the field was cut to 50 teams to fish the second day with the final Top 25 finishers going head to head, jig pole to minnow bucket, to see who could catch the heaviest 21 crappie (seven per day) and walk off with the top prize of a fully rigged bass boat.

How close was the competition? When the final 25 had weighed in Saturday at Railroad Park in Ruston, Tony Hughes and Jeff Riddle from Tennessee had a three-day total of 21 fish weighing 35.94 pounds, an average of 1.71 pounds per fish. Daniel Porter from Missouri and Jeremy Aldridge from Mississippi couldn’t believe it when they saw their three-day weight come in at 35.93, pounds, only one-one hundredths of an ounce below the winners. The winners trailered home a fully-rigged Ranger boat and Evinrude motor valued at over $50,000 while second place was worth $8,300.

To indicate just how tight the competition was, a little more than three pounds separated the top spot and the 25th spot.

On Wednesday before the tournament kicked off, Media Day was held which enabled members of the media, including yours truly, to spend a few hours with one of the pro teams that would be in the tournament. I was fortunate to draw the father-son team of Whitey and Matt Outlaw from South Carolina. At tournament’s end, the Outlaw combo finished 16th with winnings of $975 with an additional$3600tackedon for placing fourth in Angler of the Year bracket. We spent the morning using a technique most serious anglers utilize, “spider rigging” with several poles placed in special holders and each offering minnows or jigs at different depths.

“At least 95 percent of all crappie tournaments are won using spider rigs,” Matt said. “You can cover lots of water quickly. We use 16 foot B&M crappie poles to which double minnow rigs are attached. Today we’re using shiners but sometimes a jig tipped with a shiner works best.”

Matt’s dad, 56 year old Whitey, is a longtime crappie tournament angler having fished tournaments for the past 35 years. He has fished over 400 tournaments and has won the Alabama state championship three times. He offered some valuable tips regarding the best times to catch crappie.

“The moon is very important to the crappie angler,” Whitey said. “In spring, the best time to catch fish is three to four days before and after a full moon; they’re more aggressive then than they are the day of the actual full moon.

“What many people don’t realize is that the period of the new moon is just as good. Fish get active three or four days before and after the new moon,” he added.

“Water temperature is another factor that determines when the fish will bite. Get temperatures of the water in the mid 60s coupled with the right moon phase and you’ll have your best days to fish,” he added.

When we motored out to fish, the air temperature was a chilly 37 degrees but that was not important to these seasoned anglers.

“Hot weather; cold weather, rainy weather; theyreallydon’tmatterall that much. The condition that will really hamper your fishing is too much wind,” said Matt.

While 25 took home prizes from boats to cash, the real winners of this prestigious tournament were the towns of Farmerville and Ruston where it was expected near $1 million would be pumped into theeconomiesof thisarea from having the privilege of hosting this national event on Lake D’Arbonne, a lake that Matt Outlaw called “one of the best fisheries I have ever been on in my life.”



BLACK BAYOU: Crappie have been fair to good with shiners and hair jigs working best in 3-5 foot water. Bass are on the trees and around the moss with jigs and soft plastics working best. Contact the Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707 for the latest information.

LAKE BRUIN: Crappie are fair on yo-yos and jigs fished on ultra-light gear. A few bream were caught on worms. Bass are fair on soft plastics, spinners and jigs. For information, contact new owner Carlos Gray at 318-766-0075.

CANEY LAKE: Crappie fishing is about the same as last week. Some are on the move with best catches made 2-8 feet deep with shiners and jigs both catching fish. A couple of bass over 9 pounds have been caught this week with deep diving crank baits on the humps and soft plastics and spinners around shallow grass. Bream fishing is just starting to pick up on night crawlers and small crawfish. No report on catfish this week. For the latest information contact Bateaux on Caney Lake at 259-6649, Hooks Marina at 249-2347, Terzia Tackle at 278-4498 or the Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707.


The crappie bite is still on with some fish still in staging areas 6-8 feet while some are in the shallows proceeding to spawn. A good many are being caught on yo-yos baited with shiners while some are hitting around the lights at night. Fishing below the spillway continues to be quite good. Catfishing has been good on stump hooks baited with gold fish and on trotlines baiting with blood and cheese bait. Bass have slowed a bit this week. Chinquapins are starting to bite cold worms fished near bedding areas. Striper fishing has been slow to fair. For the latest information, call Tim Loftin at Kel’s Cove at 927-2264.


Crappie fishing has been good with those fishing the national championship American Crappie Trail catching lots of fish last week. Several techniques were used with double minnow rigs and jigs picking up lots of fish. Gary Peterson, Baton Rouge, landed a state fly fishing record 1.84 pound crappie this week. Shiners and jigs are working best on crappie fairly shallow. Catfishing is good on liver, cut shad and worms while the bream bite is just starting. For the latest reports, call Poverty Point Marina at 318-878-0101.

LAKE ST. JOHN: No report. For information, call Ken Mahoney at 318-757-0013.

LAKE YUCATAN: The water is falling but is still too high to fish. For information, call Surplus City Landing at 318-467-2259.

Glynn Harris can be reached via email at hominy@suddenlink .

Some were staging in 4-6 foot water while some were on the shallow trees for the spawn. Bass are beginning to hit in the shallows with plastic worms and lizards, Chatter bats, Rat-L-Traps and lipless crank baits working best. Bream have just started to hit worms and crickets. Lots of channel catfish are being caught on cold worms fished off the banks and on the flats. For the latest reports, callAnderson’s Sport Center at 368-9669 or Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707.

OUACHITA RIVER: The water is falling but still too high with too much current. No fishing reports this week. For the latest information, contact the Honey Hole Tackle Shop at 323-8707.