Audra Pixley from Cape Girardeau, MO with a 13 lb. 7 oz. largemouth bass she caught out of Rotary Lake in the park while catfishing with chicken livers


Heartlander Abroad: Kinkaid Lake, IL

By Josh Gowan

For those of us that work a regular 5-day a week job, a 3-day holiday weekend is a magical thing. It’s hard to wrap your head around what it must have been like for a bunch of brave, adventurous Europeans, building a new life in a strange land while being oppressed by taxation from across the Atlantic, to rise up and fight. To proclaim that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were worth dying for, and then to prove it. Our independence is celebrated with fireworks and barbeques, but it was won with blood and bravery. So while dropping a “Benjamin” on fireworks to appease our children, a little insight on who the man was and his connection with the holiday wouldn’t hurt (maybe dig out a $1, $10, and $20 as well!)

Alright, on to the great outdoors! So the truth is, I was only slightly “abroad”, but with towering cliffs and crystal clear water, I might had well of been in the Galapagos Islands! There aren’t many crappie fishermen that travel north for a fishing trip. Most folks go south where the fish are generally bigger, but some lakes are exceptions.

Being that I was already in Jackson, Mo for the holiday, Kinkaid Lake was only an hour away, and the reports from there lately have been phenomenal. It always has a good summertime bite, but there is an issue which I am not accustomed to dealing with that arises around 10am. At only 2,400 acres, the lake is not very big, but its deep, clear waters attract a monumental number of invasive species, I’m of course talking about the dreaded recreational boaters!

My buddy Perry Jackson and I knew about the party crowd, so we were determined to get there as early as possible and take advantage of the first calm, unmolested five hours of fishing. The problem we encountered was acquiring bait. Kyle Schoenherr, one of the best tournament fisherman in the country and a guide on Kincaid Lake, among others, told me that minnows were out-catching straight jigs 10-1, and those are not odds I take lightly! I called the only bait shop I could find in the area, and they told me they opened at 7am… That is the equivalent to a church only being open on Tuesday or a bar only opening for breakfast, depending on your religion.

Fortunately one amongst my wide network of friends is Gary Seabough, who owns Jackson Bait and Tackle in Jackson, Mo, and while he regularly opens at 5am, said he’d meet me at the shop at 4:30am so we could get an early start. We were a few minutes late due to circumstances beyond our control, but still on the road with bait by 4:45am, only to cross the Emerson Bridge in Cape Girardeau into a wall of dense fog that didn’t let up until we were nearly at the lake.

We put in and planed Perry’s War Eagle out, taking in the beautiful surroundings while heading towards a cove of standing timber. I brought 1/32 oz. jig heads with extra-light hooks, which we tipped with a minnow, and lowered slowly down the stick-ups. We picked up a few fish here and there, and were still trying to pinpoint exactly where the fish were when I got a huge “thump”, I set the hook, and brought in (with the help of a good net-man) a big hybrid crappie. Kyle told me he’d been catching some natural hybrids, which are a rare mix of a white and black crappie, so I was on the look-out. The crappie resembled a white, but the vertical bars were somewhat offset, and faded into specks, and while her mouth, measurements, and body type were indicative of a white, she had seven dorsal spines, which is a sure sign of a black, unless of course, it’s a hybrid! A few trees later and Perry hooked into one just as big, and I slid the net under her! That was about the time the ski boats came out in full force and ended our day! It was a great trip and I can’t wait to go again!

Clients with their catch from 7-9-14 fishing with Kyle Schoenherr and All Seasons Guide Service

Clients with their catch from 7-9-14 fishing with Kyle Schoenherr and All Seasons Guide Service

Kyle Schoenherr owns and operates All Season’s Guide Service in Southern Illinois, and is one of the best in the business. To contact Kyle call 618-314-2967 or go to


Father and son team Logan and Jason Saltzman with a few of their winning stringer from the Reelfoot Crappie Club’s tournament on Saturday


Dark Skies and a Tough Beat

By Josh Gowan

With my yard manicured and my family happily content with their own activities, I was able to drag the boat into the great outdoors and produce a story worthy of the “big screen,” so long as you enjoy less-than-romantic tragedies! (If anyone is pondering the funding and casting of this script, I believe I could best be portrayed by Mark Wahlberg, and Chippy would like to be played by Girard Butler, the guy who was King Leonidas in the movie 300!)

We drove over Friday after work, very anxious to get on the water and do a little pre-fishing for the Reelfoot Crappie Club Tournament on Saturday. The skies were suspect, and about the time we pulled up to the cabin the bottom fell out, and it poured for the next two hours.

Finally, about 30 minutes before dark, the skies cleared and we were able to put the boat in the water. We didn’t have time to go fish were we wanted, so we piddled around the south bank, and Chippy managed to catch a small black crappie right at dark.

Our plan was to slow-troll Bell Stumps, which is right in front of our cabin, and not only had it been holding a few good fish, it was close enough that we could get in if a storm popped up. We signed up at Reelfoot Outdoors that morning and were out in the stumps by the 6:30 start time, only to find a mudhole. The heavy rains from the night before caused a ton of drainage and turned the area we planned on fishing into chocolate milk. We gave it an hour or so, and I’d had all I could take, and headed down the bank towards Bluebank until the water cleared.

We put the poles back out and let the wind push us out towards Green Island Point in the center of the south end of the lake. We picked up a couple good fish, and a few not so good, and turned to head back and do it again. Having an aluminum boat and spending most of my time in shallow water, I never spider-rig into the wind due to the noise the waves make hitting my boat, however, I recently acquired a product that fixed the problem.

The Silent Stalker, which can best be described as a thick, vinyl material that straps onto the front of your boat, much like a “bra” on a car, and is the equivalent of putting a silencer on a rifle. It completely eliminated the slapping sound, so I trolled back into the wind for the first time ever, and picked up the most of our fish for the day! You can go to for more info, it’s the most important tool I’ve added to my arsenal in years!

While we were fishing, our biggest fish was dying. I’ve never lost a fish (in a tournament you weigh seven fish, and they must be alive) but this one seemed to be on his way out from the time he hit the livewell. I did everything I knew to do, doubling the aeration, cooling the water, constant recirculation of the livewell, and even hanging four ¼ oz. jig heads in his bottom fin to keep him upright, but all to no avail. The rest of the fish were as lively as any you’ve ever seen, and by 2pm at the weigh-in, this fish was hammer dead.

Me and my dead fish!

It was unfortunate, but I really didn’t think we were in contention with some of the teams in the tournament, so I wasn’t too tore up about it. Losing a 1.5 lb. fish meant we had to weigh a .7 lb. fish, and our total weight was 6.65 lbs. The winning weight was 6.67 lbs… Oh well, nothin’ wrong with silver! What really made it alright with me was the winning team was Jason Saltzman, a friend of mine and really good fisherman, and his son Logan, who probably caught as many fish as his Dad! Seeing Logan’s smiling face holding those fish makes it awfully hard to be upset!

cam king

14 yr. old Cam King with a stringer of Sardis Lake crappie he caught with his grandpa, Bill James


Regional Hunting and Fishing

By Josh Gowan

Summertime Fishing and Frog Prepping

Well, summer has definitely wrapped it’s muggy arms around the neck of the Heartland, but after that abominable winter, I’m making a conscience effort not to complain about the blistering sun, choking humidity, and the late return of everyone’s least favorite member of the culicidae family, the mosquito. So far so good…

Being that I spent my weekend researching an article for Southern Living Magazine I’m working on, I wasn’t able to fish. If you do happen to subscribe to that publication, look for my spread entitled “Yardwork: Being Pushed to the Brink of a Heat Stroke by the Ones you Love…” It’s a great read.

The heat is definitely on, which means the crappie fishing at Reelfoot Lake is getting tougher by the day. There are however, still fish to be caught early in the morning and late in the evening slow trolling. Lance Mansfield and Jeremy Watkins caught a decent mess pushing minnows and Ol’ Shoot Bank custom jigs in 9 ft. of water right on the bottom, targeting submerged logs. They also caught a ton of catfish who are probably post spawn and starting to actively feed again. This Saturday is the monthly Reelfoot Crappie Club tournament and Chippy and I will be there, hopefully with a decent stringer of fish! Normally we wouldn’t even be crappie fishing over there this time of year because it gets so tough, and I was really excited when I saw the Crappie Club would be holding tournaments every month all year, forcing us to learn more about the summertime bite. For more info on the tournament call Jeff Riddle at 731-446-7554.

I got a report from Tennessee that the backwater and ditches around Reelfoot were getting full of big, long-legged bullfrogs. Missouri’s season opener comes in a week and I’m ready. Frog hunting is not a vanity sport, and all the UnderArmour RealTree Max-4 in the world won’t improve your chances. If there were ever a time to tuck your jeans inside your boots, this is it! The most important tactical gear for any serious frogger is simple, light and spear, just like the Romans! I use a 16 ft. aluminum pole with a five prong spear, lovingly named the “Fist of Death” (available at Grizzly Jig!) and a big spotlight. The third and most vital element to a frog hunter, and anyone who wants to spend time near stagnant water in the dark with a spotlight in July, is OFF! I like to spray my clothes down with DEET the day before, use Skin-So-Soft as a base layer, and then lather up in Deep Woods Off! It’s all well worth it for a night of fun and a dinner of fried frog legs!

One place were the fishing is great in the summer is Mississippi. My buddy Bill James from over in Miner, Mo loaded up his grandson, 14 yr. old Cam King and headed south to Sardis Lake. The big, southern crappie are fairly abundant, but it takes a special tactic to catch them in the heat of the summer. While the warm water temperature keeps them from actively feeding, they are still predators, and much like a dog can’t help but chase a car, a crappie can’t help but chase a fast-moving bait. Bill was pulling 3 inch Bandit Crankbaits in light and dark colors 100 ft. behind the boat, and had most of his success at 3.1 mph! It’s a shame we can’t use this technique at Reelfoot!

The catfish out on the Mississippi River continue to bite. Justin Berry managed to pull in a few hogs over the weekend, and many smaller fish, drift fishing and bottom bouncing fresh cutbait in deep water near the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi.

The Wappapello Crappie Club held their annual adult/youth tournament and Younger and Younger took 1st. Slabber Dave said he was fishing right beside them in 6-7 ft. of water and although he kept 37 crappie, he couldn’t compete with them! Dave said fish were caught anywhere from 5 ft. of water to 30 ft. of water, the key was just going slow.

Brad Whitehead with a big Pickwick Lake crappie caught on a pink Bandit 300

Brad Whitehead with a big Pickwick Lake crappie caught on a pink Bandit 300

Top Colors for Pulling Crankbaits

By Josh Gowan

By now it’s no secret that pulling big Crankbaits is the best way to fill a live well with crappie in the hot, summer months. The Bandit 300 series dominates the market because of it’s quality, consistency, and patented wiggle, and no single store sells more Bandits to crappie fanatics than Grizzly Jig Company in Caruthersville, MO.

Wade Mansfield, who owns and operates the store along with his dad, Louie, handles the Bandit account and has not only watched the baits emerge from a bass lure to a very popular crappie bait, but has also been influential in designing and bringing them to the market.

“Crappie Fishermen have been using Crankbaits for decades, but back then, everything was cheap. We’d have a box of various cranks for $1 a piece all the time. While a lot of these baits would catch fish, nothing matched the Bandits.” Said Mansfield.

“We couldn’t wrap our heads around how a crappie fisherman, who is accustomed to getting 20 baits for $2, would spend $5 on a single bait. We figured out that we were wrong, that quality can trump quantity, even to a panfisherman! Then it was a matter of getting Bandit, who was a die-hard bass company, on board with crappie fishing, and that took some time.”

“When they decided to start a line just for crappie fishing, myself and a few other guys in the industry got a big ring of hookless Bandits to choose from. We all pretty much picked the same colors, and that was the beginning of the crappie line.”

mistake (2) A 3 inch Crappie Bandit called “Mistake” deep in Mississippi crappie’s throat. Photo courtesy of Kenyon Huggins

“A lot of the guys in Mississippi, and I think Kent Driscoll was the most influential in this, were exchanging the bronze hooks for red hooks, so that and packaging was the only difference. The new “Crappie Bandits” sold well immediately.”

“Then we started seeing guys hand-painting the back half or front half of the baits, giving them a two-tone look like a tube jig, so I asked Bandit to make a run of them, and picked out six colors. The “Crappie Splash Bandits” are now our #1 seller. Next came the Glow series, and now the Double Splash, and as the choices increase, so do the sales!”

*It’s impossible to know who was the first person to paint their own Bandits in this style, but through my research, John Woods was the earliest I could find. He hand-painted his to use at the first Crappie USA Classic at Grenada, MS in 2000, and he said he’d never heard or seen of anyone doing it at the time. Then he asked if I wanted him to take a picture of them and send it to me… He still has them!

bandits Crankbaits John Woods hand-painted with fingernail polish for the 2000 Crappie USA Classic at Grenada, MS. He put a clear coat on top of the red and yellow polish, and he and his partner ended up 5th in the event. This is most likely the birth of the “splash” Bandit.

splash Pink/Black Splash Crappie Bandit

“Currently our top selling Bandits are Splash 02, or pink/chartreuse, Mistake, Mad Cow, and Black Bubblegum. While most of our sales are still sent south to Mississippi, we’re seeing more and more baits going to places like Piercy Priest, Old Hickory, Lake of the Ozarks, Kincaid, Norfolk, Heber Springs, and as far north as Rathburn, Iowa.”

Here are the top picks from some full-time guides and fisherman.

Brad Whitehead – Brad Whitehead Guide Service, fishing Pickwick Lake, AL, best color is Awesome Pink and Black Bubblegum. To contact Brad call (256) 483-0834.

John Woods – John Woods Guide Service, fishing Sardis Lake, MS, best colors are Awesome Pink, Black Bubblegum, Fire Tiger, and Orange Crush. To contact John call (731) 334-9669.

Brandon Fulgham – North Mississippi Guide Service, fishing Sardis Lake, MS, best color is Awesome Pink. To contact Brandon call (662) 417-9117.

Carl Painter – Carl Painter’s Guide Sevice, fishing Sardis Lake, MS, best colors are Solid Black, Mistake, and Red Craw. To contact Carl call (901) 734-7536.

Mike Jones – Owner of Bait’n’Thangs, Lake Washington, MS, Black/Chartreuse Splash, Black/Pink Splash, Awesome Pink. To contact Mike call (662) 822-2087.

Kenyon Huggins – tournament fisherman, fishing Enid Lake, MS, best colors are Sardis Gold, Orange Crush, Mistake, Sour Apple, and Chartruese Sparkle on sunny days, and Solid Black, Black Bubblegum, and Cranberry on cloudy days.

David Roach – Gator’s Guide Service, fishing Enid Lake, best colors are Splash Pink/Black, Awesome Pink, Popsicle, Mistake, Sardis Gold and Plum Point. To contact Dave call (662) 812-7121.

Wayne Inman – MS Guide Service, fishing Pickwick and Bay Springs, best colors are Black Bubblegum, Awesome Pink, Black Chrome, and Fire Tiger. To contact Wayne call (662) 416-1296.

In a few days I’ll review how these guys are fishing their cranks, from terminal tackle to speed and line length.

The entire line of Bandit Crappie Crankbaits in the 300 series are available at Grizzly Jig, order from their website or call 1-800-305-9866 for a free catalog.


B’n’M Pro Staffers Jason Aycock and Hunter Jones with a couple big catfish



Regional Hunting and Fishing

By Josh Gowan

Father’s Day and a Super Moon

Another beautiful weekend in the heartland, punctuated by one of my favorite holidays, Father’s Day! While my quest for equality between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day is still a work in progress, I think the message is getting out. The endgame is for there to be as many fishing poles and shotguns bought as there are diamonds and flowers, because we earn it!

My gift was a day to myself, to fish and be free, without the hindrance of curfew or looming yard work. I awoke around 1 AM and was already thinking about the first place I was going to fish. I picked up the Jules Verne novel I’ve been working my way through in an attempt to lull myself back to sleep before the 3:45 alarm went off. I was nearly out when my phone beeped, and I flipped through a few emails and perused Facebook for a minute when I saw an article about the “super moon” and the positive effect it could have on fish, well, that was it, I was up!
Having some extra time in the morning was nice and it allowed me to make sure all the necessary preparations were taken care of. I followed an intensely bright moon south down I-55, much like the 3 Wise Men followed the North Star, except I was not seeking the King of the Jews, and was without incense, myrrh, and certainly gold. I was after crappie, and bringing gifts of nibbles, sharp hooks, and a spacious livewell! I arrived at the lake in time to watch the warm, orange and pink hues of a Tennessee sunrise compete with the luminescence of a lunar perigee. I could only imagine what effect this would have on the fish!

I put the boat in, drove a half-mile and promptly ran out of gas… Preparation has never really been my strong suit, regardless of the amount of time given!

Apparently the super moon kept the fish up all night gorging themselves on disoriented bugs and baitfish, because the bite was retched! The crappie I did catch were just on the line, and had I not had some places I knew the fish were, and was able to literally put my jig on their nose, I probably would have been skunked. But alas, a stress free day on the water is still nothing to complain about.

My buddy and fellow Grizzly Jig Pro Staffer Kevin Murphy has been spending his weekends at his homestead on Kentucky Lake, and catching crappie with a method foreign to most of the country. Kevin has been pulling crankbaits, 3 inch Bandit crankbaits to be exact, a technique popularized in Mississippi that has been spreading for the last few years. Summertime crappie are not active feeders, but they are instinctual predators none the less, and a big, loud bait swam fast by them garners reaction strikes. The other advantage to this technique is that it allows you to cover a lot of water, with an average of six baits being pulled in a 40 ft. swath (two 8 ft. rods on the corners, two 12 ft. rods past them, and two 16 ft. rods on either side closest to the front) and an average speed of 1.3 mph. Kevin said the fish have been in a different place every weekend, and this past weekend it was a 13 ft. flat. When I asked him about color, there was no hesitation, PINK! I’m going to try and get over them with him before long and get in on some of it myself!

Local catfish Pro’s Jason Aycock and Hunter Jones from East Prairie, MO traveled down to Tunica, MS for the BassProShops Big Cat Quest over the weekend. The catfish were spawning, and while most people think the spawn is a great time to fish, catfish are extremely tough to catch as they don’t forage for food at all during the spawn. They traveled 30 miles upriver to Memphis and found some fish in a deep hole, their biggest being a 25 lb. blue cat. They weighed in 53 lbs. and ended up in 9th place. Their next tournament is the World Championship in Savannah, TN, good luck guys!



Billy Blakely, head guide at BlueBank Resort on Reelfoot Lake, and Connor Hutcherson with a couple big blue gill



Regional Hunting and Fishing

By Josh Gowan

Wet Weather Slows Bite

Well, it’s not so much the fish that are being slowed down by the rain, but the fishermen! It certainly isn’t news that it’s been a wet June so far, and while I hope our farmers get all the rain they need, personally I’ve had enough for a while. My grass is growing so fast it looks like my house is shrinking!

I have no personal report this week, and while erecting a pool, tilling a garden (finally), and doing enough yardwork to make the neighbors question if my wife had traded me in for a botanist certainly produced a few stories worth telling, they don’t pay me the big bucks for my lawn and garden expertise, on to the fish!

Reelfoot’s late bloom this year is still rolling, and I talked to a few of my friends at the lake who caught some good fish. The ticket was to shallow up and spider-rig over the top of the stumps. The numbers weren’t outstanding, but the size of the crappie was. There are still black crappie waded up in areas if you can find them, and hopefully Father’s Day finds me right on top of them! Louie Mansfield, who quite literally wrote the book on bream (blue gill) fishing at Reelfoot, caught a good mess of huge gills jigging a 1/80 oz. Grizzly tipped with a waxworm around trees. Billy Blakely is still putting clients on big bream, and will be for the next month or so. If you’re interested in booking a guided blue gill trip at the lake, call BlueBank Resort at (877) 258-3226.

As usual, the catfishing is wide open. Steve Atwill was over in the middle of the week floating Black Swans, a very cool, unique type of jug that was designed and built in Kennett, Mo by none other than Mr. Charlie Hilburn. You really have to see these in action to fully understand their name, but they are essentially a circle of black pvc, with an arm going up into the middle, and a yo-yo hanging from it. From a distance they literally look like a group of black swans floating across the water. Steve was using shrimp as bait, and caught 12 catfish in just a few hours before the wind blew him off the lake. You can check them out

The best fishing in our area however, has been on that tiny, trickling stream that separates Missouri from Tennessee! The huge, blue catfish on the mighty Mississippi River are gorging themselves right now, and the guys that know how to catch them are hammering them. One of my fishing buddies from East Prairie, Mo has been piling up the big blues lately. Justin Berry, who you saw along with Hunter Jones last week if your newspaper runs the picture that accompanies this article (if not, go to to see what I’m talking about) is on ‘em, and here’s how he’s doing it.

Justin says the river is at a good level right now, and drift fishing and bottom bouncing is the key. He’s using freshly caught skipjack and moon-eye and having a lot of success. The fish are scattered, but there are a lot of them, starting from 30 ft. down. The bigger fish, according to Berry, are holding up in 40-50 ft. depths, and drifting slowly in the right place with the right bait and at the right depth, results in your rods slamming down! He’s using 8/0-10/0 circle hooks on 50 lb. monofilament leaders tied to a 3-way swivel, with a 6 oz. sinker if he’s drifting or a 4-5 oz. if he’s bumping the bottom. The main line is 100 lb. braid on Abu Garcia Ambassador Alphamar 12 on a 7 ft. Team Catfish Warrior Rod.

Kentucky Lake is turning out big stringers as well. The bass are hitting on big crankbaits, big creature baits, and 10 inch worms on a Carolina Rig. The crappie are piling up on stake beds in 10-12 ft. of water, as well as being caught long-lining and pulling crankbaits over main ledges.



Justin Berry and Hunter Jones with a big, Mississippi River blue cat



Regional Hunting and Fishing

By Josh Gowan

Fishing with the Family

Another beautiful weekend in the Heartland and a lot of folks were out soaking up the sun. After finding a few fish last weekend, and as dismal as the late spring fishing was, I was chomping at the bit to get back to Reelfoot and chase some more specks!

I loaded up the wife, boy, and dog early Saturday morning and headed to the lake. We stopped in at Reelfoot Outdoors because I had to drop off a prop, and although I work in an enormous tackle store, and have more tackle than some small bait shops, I still found a few things I needed!

We got out on the lake around 10am, and much to my surprise and enjoyment, my crappie were right where I left them! We caught around 20 by 1:30 when the family had had all of the heat they could take, and I was forced to leave “biting fish”. After a bit of lounging around in the air conditioner and eating, we got back out on the lake around 5pm as the clouds were moving in and the temperature was dropping. I had high hopes for the evening, but the fish did not cooperate, and during “prime time” I never got so much as a nibble.

I’ve written before about the fact that my 9 year old son is an unwilling participant on fishing trips. It is my fault for burning him out when he was younger. I didn’t know any better, and we spent nearly every weekend on the water from the time he was age 4 to 7. Now while if asked if he wants to go fishing, he will always say no, he’s still a pretty good sport when we force him to go, and takes full advantage of one of the best places on earth to take a nap!

Friday night there was a massive wooly hatch. “Wooly” I am quite sure is not the scientific name for the bug, but it is all I’ve ever heard them called. They are the mosquito’s doppelganger, but do not bite, and emerge in biblical proportions from the cypress trees, eventually falling to the water where they are consumed by everything from blackbirds to catfish.

As we eased down the cypress laden shore and around a dilapidated dock, there were an unusually large amount of woolies on the perfectly calm water, and I wasn’t the only one that noticed. You could hear “blurp, blurp, blurp” all over the living room sized area, as a feeding frenzy took place. This is the Holy Grail to a panfisherman, and even better for one with a 9 year old on board! I already had a pole with a small bobber and a tiny, 1/80 oz. Grizzly Jig in a natural brown color matching the bugs tied on, I tipped it with a Berkley Honey Worm (anything would have worked, but I’m fond of them) and instructed my son to get ready. He lumbered up from the bench seat and joined me on the deck, with a look that said “I don’t want to fish, but I know if I complain I’ll get in trouble, so what do I have to do.” I pitched the jig over in the middle of the bugs and handed him the rod. The bobber never had time to settle, and after catching 4 bream and a bass in less than 5 minutes, the wind blew us into the area and the fish scattered. He declared himself the “bream master” and was grinning ear to ear! I got excited seeing the fire in his eyes, and told him I thought I could see another spot up ahead and that he could catch more, and he said “naw, I caught some fish, I’m gonna take a nap”…

I talked to Slabber Dave Maddox over at Wappapello Lake and he said the fishing has been good. The crappie are on ledges off the channels in 10-12 ft. of water, and slow-trolling pushing minnows has been the ticket. I may slip over to Wap in the next few weeks and do a little fishing myself!


Free Fishing Rodeo for Kids this Saturday


West Tennessee Refuges 24th Annual Youth Fishing Rodeo

Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge is hosting its 24th Annual Youth Fishing Rodeo on June 7th, 2014. This FREE event will be held at the ponds near the refuge headquarters on Highway 157, one mile off of Highway 22, and is open to kids 12 years old and younger. Children can fish from either one of our two ponds stocked with catfish. Youth must provide their own pole. Registration will begin at 7:00 a.m. Event ends at 12:00pm. Only live bait will be allowed. Prizes donated by local sponsors will be given away during the rodeo. Hotdogs, hamburgers, drinks and cookies, donated by local sponsors, will be provided at no cost while supplies last. The staff at West Tennessee Refuges invites you to join us for a day full of family fun; staff members will be there to assist with all activities. You will experience excitement, amusement, and entertainment as youngsters experience the joy of fishing, some for the first time. For additional information regarding the fishing rodeo, please contact the Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge (731) 538-2481.

I went to this event a few years ago and we absolutely had a blast. The kids all received something and all caught fish, we were then fed a free, grilled lunch and were out of there before 1pm! The entire event is free and a I strongly suggest you take your kids and catch some fish!


Jason Aycock with a big, Mississippi River blue catfish


Regional Hunting and Fishing

By Josh Gowan

Memorial Day Fishing

I saw a great post on Facebook that read “We get to say ‘gone fishing,’ because someone else said ‘gone to war.’” It’s important to remember why we celebrate this holiday, and even more important to talk about it with our kids and grandkids. Today’s society is constantly trying to guard our young people from anything that might upset their “fragile emotional state,” like the reality of war, the existence of evil outside of intolerance, and the real cost of freedom. This same society turns a blind eye to the extremely graphic video games kids are playing, desensitizing them to both war and crime, our youth should know and understand the heavy cost of both.

Alright, I’m done ranting, let’s get to the fishing! I’m going to be honest, I pondered just copying and pasting last year’s article, not that I don’t have a good story, I’m just whooped! But, I couldn’t cheat the couple of newspapers that actually pay for this column, and besides, that one gentleman in Dyersburg, TN with a photographic memory would probably call me out on it!

Just like every year I spent the first few days of Memorial Day Weekend peddling fishing equipment at the 100-mile yard sale. My mother lives off Hwy. 25 in Jackson, Mo., and her, my sister, and my wife always set up a massive yard sale. I figured out around five years ago that if I had my own stuff to sell, I wouldn’t have to price baby clothes, hang up blouses, and fold pants! I of course do not have anything that isn’t vital to my everyday life and outdoor endeavors (never sell a fishing pole, one day you’ll regret it!) so I bring a truckload of fishing whatnots from Grizzly and sell. I believe if I hit the lottery tomorrow (which is highly unlikely since I do not buy tickets) I would still set up, just to see my return customers. A lot of these poor and unfortunate men get drug all over the Bootheel of Missouri, standing idly by while their wives barter for salt and pepper shakers, wreaths, and antique doo-dads, and the joy I get from seeing these poor souls eye’s light up when they see a rack full of fishing poles makes it all worth it!

By Sunday afternoon my wife, son, our new dog Abbie, and myself were at Reelfoot Lake waiting for the storms to move out. We fished for a few hours Saturday evening without getting a single bite, and the family was getting hungry so I pulled them up to the cabin and let Staci get dinner started and “the boy” as I like to call my son, get in the tub! That left me with an hour of daylight to jig the trees along the south bank, which is something I’ve been doing since I was a kid. It took about two “tics” and misses before I switched to the quintessential bream jig, a 1/80 oz. Grizzly Jig (Lou’s Hot Brown was the color) and tipped it with a waxworm. I picked up a few big bream, and a few more small ones before I was beckoned in for supper.

After we ate, I asked the fam if they wanted to put out some catfish poles. My wife said yes, and my son said no that he’d rather play on the iPad. He was rebutted with a simultaneous “TOO BAD!” I had some Wicked Sticky stink bait in the shed, and within an hour we’d caught five catfish, all of which he reeled in and had a blast doing it!
Monday morning we were in the boat by 6:00 am, and not wanting to go far from where I put in, figuring on a short, couple hour trip, I headed to the closest set of trees and started jigging. We only picked up a few small bream and a bass and I was working my way towards the ramp when I stopped to fish a brush pile. Within five minutes my family went from slumped over leaning on each other half asleep, to my wife getting her pole out, my son standing up holding the net, and the dog on full point! We pulled a cooler full of black crappie from two brush piles, and put a perfect ending on a great weekend with the family!