by Ron Wong
High winds greeted anglers at this April event, but that didn’t stop the winners from finding big fish
Changing weather was the talk as the April American Crappie Trail tournament, presented by B’n’M Fishing, rolled around in April on Ross Barnett Reservoir near Jackson, Mississippi. Fishermen were greeted by a cold front and high north winds on Day One. It all changed on Day Two as temperatures warmed and the wind swung from the South. The high winds made the 33,000-acre lake fish small.
Anglers all tried to fish out of the wind each day. Some said they tried to fish their key spots in the wind but ended up taking waves over the bow of their boats. As expected, the weights were very close with only 1.5 pounds separating first place and fifth place.
The powerhouse team of Ronnie Capps and Steve Coleman won the event for the second time in two years. The pair brought 25.24 pounds of crappie (14 fish) to the scales over the two-day event. They won cash and prizes worth $26,500 including a Ranger RT188C boat with 115 horsepower Evinrude motor. A total of 97 teams were entered in the tournament.
Capps said, “We are humbled to win against this high level of competition, and it is exciting to fish against almost 100 of the best crappie teams around.”
Like other teams Capps and Coleman said they started fishing where they had some protection from the wind but they struggled to catch any decent size first. Around 11 a.m. they went to the spot where they won the tournament in 2018 but there were boats there ahead of them, including one anchored on the best stumps. They fished the “outer edges” of the area which finally produced some quality fishing, ending Day One with 14.3 pounds.
On Day Two they headed to their best spot first. Using B’n’M poles the pair fished 1/16th and 1/8th ounce Grizzly Pro-Built jigs rigged with either a Mid-South tube or Crappie Magnet. They were fishing two-to-five feet deep in water up to eight feet deep. When the wind got up, pushing the boat faster they switched over to a double-minnow rig, often tipping the jigs with a wax worm. The jigs were tipped with a wax worm unless they started catching too many small catfish or getting bream bites, then they switched to small minnows.
Finishing in second place with 24.32 pounds was the team of John Mack Williams and Ray Williams (not related). The pair earned an $8,000 check.
On Day One they started on a flat near Highway 43 but could only catch a few small fish. They moved to a mid-lake area on the Natchez Trace side of the lake using a double minnow rig with one-quarter ounce jig heads and slowly fished stumps in 5-8 of water where they caught their best fish.
Because of the south wind on Day Two they started fishing an area on the south side of the lake where they caught most of their weight for the day. Again, using double minnow rigs on B’n’M 16-foot Pro Staff rods, they fished 5-8 feet deep around stumps but close to the bottom. As the wind increased, they pulled a chain to slow the boat while drifting in deeper water in the same area to find 2 more culls.
The local team of Tommy Moss and Brad Calhoun finished in third place at the tournament with 24.04 pounds. They fished as much as they could out of the wind. On Day One, they fished the northwest side of the lake in a shallow stump field.
Like Coleman and Caps, they were fishing B’n’M BGJP rods and Grizzly Pro-built jigs with a variety of skirts tipped with minnows. The pair stayed shallow, fishing stumps 2-3 feet deep. They said they fished a 500- to 600-yard stretch that had only 12 to 15 stumps and just circled the area the whole day.
On day two, they fished the Fannon Landing area where there were some underwater points with 4 feet of water over the top dropping off into 8 feet of water. Cover on the points were key areas holding the fish. In the last hour, they caught a 2.25-pound fish that help propel them to the third-place finish.
Moss said, “ACT has taken crappie fishing tournaments to a whole new level and it is the best thing to happen to crappie fishing tournaments since the introduction of the graphite crappie rods.”
Note: Due to extremely high-water conditions making the lake unsafe and difficult to launch, the ACT Grenada Lake tournament originally scheduled for May had to be rescheduled to October 25-26, 2019. Next up is Kentucky Lake on June 21-22.Off limits for this tournament is June 7-16 with official practice days on June 17-20.