6-year-old Sara Foley with a big suckerfish she caught at her Papa’s campsite on Current River


Fishing for a Cause

By Josh Gowan

I’d like to state for the record, that my entry fee for the Ben Kruse Charity Crappie Tournament was meant as a donation, and I was in no way trying to compete or actually place in the tournament… and if you believe that I also have some magic beans for sale!

The tournament was a big success once again thanks to all the sponsors, contestants, and most of all the folks that did all the leg work pulling it off. Another record turnout, with 77 boats, and a big crowd of spectators helped raise over $20,000 for the charity! I just can’t emphasize enough the impact the foundation has on people from right here in our area that are faced with a crisis. So before you peel off a check and send it to some far off organization with a lot of overhead, consider sending it to these folks first, where every single penny goes into the fund to help our local residents.

Now on to the fishing. Wappapello Lake was tough as was expected, but as usual there were still plenty of local teams that managed to put fish in the boat. The winning team was Frank Sifford and Scott Northern with 6.52-pounds, 2nd place was David and Wes Howard with 6.22-pounds, 3rd was Allen Chappell and Jason Sandage with 5.6-pounds, and 4th was Jeff Riddle and Slabber Dabe Maddux with 5.22-pounds. 1st Place Big Fish was David and Wes Howard with a 1.56-pound slab, and 2nd Place Big Fish was Sam and Cheryl Sandage with a 1.33-pound crappie.

Since I destroyed my trolling motor last weekend and Chippy’s boat was in disrepair, I called in one of my old fishing buddies with a working vessel, Perry Jackson, and we met up at Slabber Dave’s and picked up 1-pound of minnows and headed out to a big brush pile he had marked. While the temperature was perfect, the north wind was kicking, and we marked and attempted to cast over the top of the brush pile. With our bobbers bouncing like a kangaroo on a trampoline, getting a solid hook-set was difficult, so we eased, so to speak, up to the massive underwater cover and began vertical jigging. We didn’t miss many fish with this tactic, but the small fish were still picking our minnows off.

I did an article a few weeks ago for a magazine and used Kevin Rogers as my source. Kevin is probably the most famous vertical jig fisherman in the country, and is well known for using huge baits, regardless of the size of the fish. With the dingy water and the incessant tiny crappie sucking our minnows off, I decided to give Kevin’s method a try. I put a #1 blade (spinner blade like the ones that come on a roadrunner or beetlespin) above a red bead, and tied on a 3/16-ounce glow pink head with a 3-inch black and chartreuse tube, tipped with a minnow hooked through the lips. The entire bait was around 4-inches long, and with the blade and bead on the line, I could shake my rod violently and produce sound and flash, and the crappie smashed it! Unfortunately only five of them were over the 9-inch length limit, but hey, two keepers last year, five keepers this year, next year I’m going to be a threat!

The weigh-in was as big as any I’ve ever been to on the professional circuit. Tons of spectators came out and everyone seemed to have a great time. Tyson donated the chicken that a group of volunteers cooked to perfection, Kohfield provided cold Coors Light, and every grocery store in the area kicked in to provide soda’s, water, etc… Marty Toetz, once again, was phenomenal as the MC, and I believe he truly missed his calling, and should be hosting a game show of some sort!

The bottom line is that a group of people who are absolutely determined to raise money to help other people, worked their tails off and put on a great event, and I was thrilled to be involved, and I suggest you pitch in if you can, it feels great!


TJ Shands with a big blue catfish from the Ohio River near East Prairie, MO


Long Weekend Deals Tough Hand

By Josh Gowan

I don’t necessarily believe that karma is a legitimate force of nature, but I’d like to think that those of us who go out of our way to be kind and helpful to others have a bit more good fortune. I have been told by more than one person that I have the uncanny ability to walk through a pig farm and come out smelling like a rose, and I always attribute that to holding the door open for people, being friendly to everyone, and trying my best to be a genuinely nice fellow. Well, apparently I let the door fall on a little old lady at some point last week because my weekend was riddled with woes!

Every Labor Day weekend we host my in-laws and niece from Memphis at Reelfoot Lake. It’s my niece’s birthday and she gets to hang out with her cousin (my son) Jameson, my wife and her mom get to spend time together, and me and Romel, my father-in-law, carry the heavy burden of constant fishing! It’s a trip we all look forward to and we always have a good time.

We arrived ahead of our guests and found that the central air unit would not kick on. I have fixed and worked on many things in my life, but central air units are not on the list. After a few hours of sweaty trial and error, I was able to get a hold of my buddy Robbie Mays, all-around handyman extraordinaire from Portageville, and he walked me through a couple steps, which resulted in ice cold air in a matter of minutes!

I had a few magazine articles coming up that needed new pictures, so my father-in-law and I were off to chase crappie. No dice. We awoke Saturday to an alleged front bringing rain in from the south, but it stalled out just below us. Not wanting to venture too far from home with the lingering threat of storms, we thoroughly fished the south bank and tried some of the areas I’d caught black crappie a month ago, without getting a single bite.

It rained throughout the afternoon, and late that evening we eased out into open water and put 16 minnows in the water, trying to drum up a bite, but again we were blanked. Romel made some catfish jugs out of pool noodles a few years back, and I thought it would be fun to strap glowsticks to the opposite side the line was on and set them afloat in the dark. I managed to talk the entire family into climbing in the boat and joining me on what turned out to be a wonderful moonlit trip.

It didn’t take long for a hungry channel catfish to smell the bait and latch on to one of our jugs. It was a sight to see, the bright glowstick flinging back and forth and shooting through the pitch-black backdrop. The kids had a blast (as did the adults) chasing down the neurotic glowing noodle and netting the fish!

Sunday came and went without a crappie, and our only hope of sacking up filets seemed to be catfishing. We went back out at night, with new glowsticks and a much brighter moon, and had a blast again, right up until I hit a stump with my trolling motor that rendered it useless. We still got back to the house without much trouble, only to find that the sewage had backed up in the toilet and bathtub and flooded the bathroom. I have never been under our trailer at the lake, but I have to tell you, outside of the 5,000 spider-crickets, it’s not that bad! The rest is, well, not something to be shared with mixed company, but it was rough!

Regardless of the fishless (crappie-wise) weekend and the technical difficulties, we all had a great time spending time with each other! Now I just have to get my trolling motor working and the stink bait washed off the boat before the Ben Kruse 18 Fore Life tournament next Saturday at Wappapello Lake!


Justin Berry and Joe Rendon with a monster blue catfish from the Ohio/Mississippi River confluence area


Cool Front and more Tourney’s

By Josh Gowan

I try to remind myself not to spend too much time talking about the weather in this column, as I am not a meteorologist (witch doctor) and some folks won’t see the printed version of this article for another week. The thing is though, as an outdoorsman, the only people that are as affected by the weather as much us are farmers, and maybe a bride-to-be on the precipice of her outdoor wedding!

Although it’s been so hot and humid you couldn’t smack a mosquito without making a splash, the holiday weekend is alleging to bring a nice cool front, which should carry with it a big migration of doves. Unfortunately for hunters, and more unfortunately for farmers who are “robbing Peter to pay Paul” as my buddy put it, there isn’t much of anything getting harvested, so finding a hunting spot will be tough. The fishing on the other hand should be getting a boost from the cooler nights, and it’s just in time for some big tournaments in our area.

Next Saturday, the 6th of September, marks the 4th Annual Ben Kruse Charity Crappie Tournament on Wappapello Lake in the southeastern Missouri Ozarks. It was three years ago when Bruce Christian told me about the tournament and invited me over, and I couldn’t make it due to prior obligations, so last year he was on me pretty hard about getting over there to see what they were doing. At the last minute Chippy and I decided to fish the tourney and I was blown away by the whole experience.

72 teams showed up to fish on a ridiculously hot day, and although I couldn’t seem to catch enough for a sandwich, a lot of guys brought in good fish. What was more impressive than the crowd, was the way the tournament was run. There was delicious food and cold drinks free for every angler, shirts and a small cooler stuffed with goodies as well, not to mention prizes that were so numerous some fishermen received more than one. The MC of the event was better than any I’ve ever heard, and rolled through the anglers at the weigh-in quickly and got on to giving away the big prizes that you had to buy a ticket for. The reason behind all this was a group of people that worked really hard to bring in a ton of sponsors for an amazing charity, and this year looks to be even bigger.

The charity started in late 1999 when a few people got together and had the idea of a golf tournament to benefit The V-Foundation. In their “rookie” year they intended to send all the money to the V-Foundation, but when a local sponsor asked if any of the money was being kept local, they decided to continue to support the V-Foundation but give the majority of the earnings away locally to families battling cancer or other life-threatening illnesses in the form of “love offerings.” They will always be called The 18 Fore Life Foundation, but in 2004 they lost one of their original founders, Ben Kruse, in a tragic ATV accident. They then began hosting many other activities throughout the year to help continue to support their cause. They have grown from raising $6000 in their first year to giving away $150,000 in 2012, and very proudly gave away their millionth dollar in 2013!

The second biggest fundraising event that they host each year is The Ben Kruse 18 Fore Life Crappie Tournament, and after raising over $13,000 last year, they’re looking for 2014’s tournament to be even bigger and bring in more money to the completely non-profit charity. Even if you don’t fish, you can still show your support by showing up at the weigh-in and buying tickets for the various raffles. The weigh-in will start at 1pm at Sundowner Marina. For more information on fishing or sponsoring the tournament call Bruce Christian at 573-820-6111 or Dain Bess at 573-421-191.

September 6th also marks the annual Blockin’ on the River tournament in Caruthersville, Mo. This tournament has grown exponentially over the last few years and teams come from all over the region to float their homemade jugs down the Mississippi River in hopes of landing a stringer of big blue catfish


Jon Hunter, Luke Hunter, and Jimmy Ramsey of Semo Bowfishing doing their part to eliminate Asian carp, an invasive species


Deer Prep and the Classic

By Josh Gowan

We are collectively closing in on one of the busiest times of the year for avid outdoorsmen. While serious fishermen are no strangers to arduous preparations before a trip (I’ve certainly had my fair share,) serious hunters work twice as hard and then some. Re-stringing poles and cleaning out guns are comparable tasks, at least in the amount of time it takes, but the importance of the two do not line up. After all, you can’t misfire a fishing rod (thinking back to Chippy’s first bouts with a spinning reel, I suppose you can misfire one, but the repercussions are far less severe!)

Serious deer hunters have already been at it a while, and deer season does not commence for another month. I’ve already seen a bevy of trail camera pictures of velvet racks atop long, lean, golden-brown frames. Highly intelligent creatures are mature whitetail, however they meander through the forest, completely unaware that not only are they the subject of vast photo spreads, they are also named (“ole split tine”, “tall boy”, and “Mr. Mass” to list a few) and their fate has already been decided in the dreams and fantasies of a far superior predator. Our superiority though, is strictly technological and visual, deer being colorblind and without opposable thumbs or easy access to wifi and AA batteries. The moment we step into the woods our advantages are outweighed by savvy old bucks, whose hearing and sense of smell rival hound dogs, and are notoriously adept at hiding. As hunters, our counter, aside from large-scale surveillance, is a small fortune in gear, from non-scent clothing, to non-scent boots, to cover sprays, to unbelievably quiet shooting bows, and so on.

There are plenty of deer hunters that spend their evenings around a campfire in the same clothes they will hunt in, and may go days in the woods without a proper bath. I’m not knocking it and to each his own, it is like most things, it can be as serious and intricate as you wish to make it. We make it quite serious! Showering twice a day and doing more laundry than a New Orleans hotel the day after Mardi Gras, and all for the opportunity at a trophy buck and the accompanying accolades and venison!

The most important part of prepping, at least for bow hunters, is practice. At least a half-hour of shooting per day, 5-6 days a week, until we are automatic, and that starts weeks ago. People that don’t bow hunt (and I hunt for everything) just cannot grasp the challenge, excitement, and level of skill it takes to kill a mature buck with one of the oldest forms of weaponry known to North America. Now granted, my Elite Answer compound bow is a bit advanced from the long bow the Native Americans used on Bison, but remaining silent and making an accurate shot on a 250 lb animal with extra-sensory powers and cat-like reflexes, in close quarters and while your heart is beating like a subwoofer at a techno concert, well, like I said, at least a half-hour per day, 5-6 days a week, until you’re automatic!

A little over a month from now the BassPro Shop’s CrappieMaster’s Classic will be held at Lake Washington, Mississippi. This tournament showcases the best crappie fishermen in the country, battling it out for over $50,000 in cash and prizes. Chippy and I fished the CrappieMaster’s tournament there back in late February/early March and had a blast. We’d never been there before and have never been to the “big dance”, as it’s usually too far away and the cost is staggering for normal working folks! This year finds us qualified for the 5th year in a row, and we have had some help from some of my sponsors in funding the trip. We’ve still got a ways to go though, so just in case there are any wealthy savants that read this weekly hodgepodge of outdoors news, or any local businesses that would like to help send a few “hometown boys” to the classic, shoot me an email at!

On a separate note, due to my once manly storage room beginning to resemble the stock room at Pottery Barn, I am parting with some of the “upcycled pallet reincarnations” my son and I have been making. It’s on Facebook, eloquently titled “Crap I Made”, enjoy!


Damon Secoy and Terry Shands from East Prairie, MO with some big, blue catfish from Ohio River near Cairo, IL


Season of Change

By Josh Gowan

Seasons are subjective. For instance, my 9-year old son has proclaimed Thursday to be the end of summer, because that is when he re-enters public school and we get to attempt to decipher the 4th grade version of every parent’s favorite paradoxical enigma, the Common Core curriculum… (Digression beckons, but I suppose that rant has no business in the outdoor column, so we’ll move on.) For me, September 1 marks the end of summer, or more significantly the beginning of fall, because that is the date when the first legitimate hunting season opens. Officially, the end of summer is on the equinox, occurring on the 22nd or 23rd of Sep., but no one should wait that long to dismiss such a burden.

The seasons which are not subjective, but are instead quite definitive and heavily regulated, are the hunting seasons set forth by our dear Missouri Department of Conservation, and congruently (or perpendicularly, depending on your perspective) the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, for our friends across the creek, so to speak. Here is a rundown of season opening dates.

Dove season opens on September 1st every year, and this year the 1st is on a Monday. Fortunately that Monday is Labor Day, so I’ll wait until next year, when it opens on a Tuesday and those of us with day jobs are unable to hunt, to reiterate my lecture on the lack of common sense when it comes to setting seasons, the Post Office should be the only thing that doesn’t open on Saturdays! The limit in both Missouri and Tennessee is 15 birds, and although the Missouri season opens at daylight and the Tennessee season opens at noon, you may not cross the river and pick up a second limit, as doves are a migratory bird and the maximum federal limit per day is 15.

Here’s a little dove knowledge for you, the mourning dove is the most hunted, and the most harvested migratory game bird in North America. There are about 450 million birds in the continental population. The overall harvest in the U. S. is 45 million birds, and in Tennessee alone, some 100,000 dove hunters harvest an estimated 2 million or more doves annually. The gross sales of toothpicks, bacon, BBQ sauce, and charcoal triple during the first two weeks of dove season. Alright, I made that last part up, but I bet it’s not far off!

Hopefully you shoot enough doves during the first week of September to prepare for what is probably the toughest target on wings… teal! Missouri’s teal season opens September 6th and runs through September 21st (teal season, by the way, always opens on a Saturday) with the daily limit at six teal. Over in Tennessee, you are allowed six teal as well, but you may also take up to two woodducks, as long as the total remains at six. The extreme southeastern part of Missouri I hunt is a rock’s throw from the Volunteer State, and how I wish we could take a few woodies as well, being that they make up the majority of the ducks we see!

Tennessee’s teal/woodduck season opens on September 13th and runs through the 17th, and then from the 18th to the 21st it is teal only. If only there were some sort of reciprocal license like there is on the Mississippi River, then maybe a meager outdoors writer could afford to hunt both states!

Fortunately there is no season on catfish, and the anglers whom traverse the big waters of the Mississippi River are having an excellent year. Drift fishing and bottom bouncing with cut-bait is a technique that’s hard to beat year ‘round, but it is especially effective in late-summer fishing. Big, blue catfish are coming off the spawn and they are hungry, foraging for their next meal. Like most years, the river is lower during the late summer which concentrates the catfish in smaller areas. With hunting season right around the corner, the next few weeks may prove to be my last chance to get out and drift for a monster blue cat, so I’m going to do my best to get it done!


LTC Scott Allen, Josh Gowan and Josh “Crow” Crowley with a king mackerel from the Gulf of Mexico


Heartlander Abroad Part II: Mexico Beach

By Josh Gowan

The iconic family vacation, an escape from the familiar scenery and brain-numbing doldrums of our day jobs, when we lock up the home front and pack enough food and luggage (and in my case fishing gear) to start a new civilization on a deserted tropical island. Of course, any hopes of starting anew and populating our own little piece of paradise were dashed when we realized we were all related, so procreation was out of the question, and we burned through (pun intended) all 8 bottles of 50 SPF sunscreen by Wednesday!

Mexico Beach, part of the “Forgotten Coast” on the inner stretch of the Florida Panhandle is truly a gem. Thinking back, I’m not quite sure how we happened upon the locale last year, but we’d been to Gulf Shores and Destin, and we’re looking for something different, and we certainly found it! My sister wanted to drive into Panama City one night and eat and shop because she’d never been there, and we were all reminded of why we liked Mexico Beach so much!

It is the equivalent of taking one of our small towns in the region, Portageville for instance, and stretching it along the beach. No high rises, no stoplights, and most importantly no crowds. The only negative trait of this particular destination is that it’s only about five miles from the next time zone, causing our iPhones to switch back and forth regularly, and at least once activating my 5am alarm an hour early!

While my travel companions look forward to the R&R side of vacation, I was there to fish, and fish I did! After four years of fishing the Gulf of Mexico from various places, one week per year, I fall into the “veteran tourist” category of fishermen. My rapid climb up the ranks is due to persistence and application, and more trial and error than the Manhattan Project!

I love to shore fish, and brought everything needed to keep four lines in the water at all times. Unfortunately, the majority of my catch consisted of saltwater catfish. The locals say they are not good to eat, and I didn’t keep any to try, a mistake I will not repeat next year. You see, I have come to understand something about the locals. They are privy to a ton of unbelievably white, meaty fish that does not exist outside of saltwater, and therefore deem fish that us lowly mid-westerners/southerners find delicious not worth the trouble of cleaning! I have been told by multiple locals that shark is not worth feeding to your dog, and let me tell you something my friends, it is phenomenal to my landlocked palette! It filets just like catfish, and pan-fried in cornmeal it tastes better than crappie, and you all know my love for fried crappie! Next year I will definitely try the catfish for myself, and make my own judgment!

Soon after arriving at our townhome, I met Lieutenant Colonel Scott Allen, who worked at Tyndall Air Force Base (right next door) and lived there full time. Not only did Scott send us to the best restaurant we’ve ever been to and let us borrow his array of ocean toys (long board, kayak, etc…) while he was at work, but he took Wednesday off to take myself and my brother-in-law Crow out in his boat fishing. The fishing was slow and Scott was apologetic, but we had a blast, especially Crow who reeled in a 27 inch king mackerel which I grilled the next night! We were surrounded by dolphins at one point, and jumped some of the biggest, bluest waves I’ve ever seen!

On Thursday my mother and stepdad/fishing buddy Perry showed up, and Friday morning found us on the pier and me intently trying to get Perry on some ocean fish! It didn’t take long, and he was bringing in an array of small fish with the Sabiki rigs that we cut up for bait, and once we found the right spot we reeled in shark after shark after shark! We kept our limit and I filleted and pan-fried them for lunch, the plate was clean in a matter of minutes!


Josh Gowan shore fishing at Mexico Beach, Fl.


By Josh Gowan

Heartlander Abroad: Mexico Beach, Fl.

An eerie calmness lay about the sea, the waves ceased to break, and the water temperature dropped 10 degrees in a matter of minutes. The Gulf of Mexico and all its’ inhabitants felt the presence of their greatest threat, the dreaded return of the one predator that could not be defeated, evaded, or defended against…

This is how my arrival played out in my mind, the entire Gulf and all its’ fish and crabs shivering in fear as I walked onto the beach, in slow motion, and accompanied by dramatic music. The reality was less cinematic, unless you consider “The Three Stooges” cinematic! Within a few hours of getting settled into our house, I walked out to the beach to check on my old honey-holes. I eased down to the rock jetty that was the source of my massive blue crab haul last year, and promptly received a push from a rogue wave, causing me to lose balance and slide off the moss-covered rock I was standing on and into a few more, each one more sharp and jagged than the last.

Like most people, I’m actively involved in social media, and recently saw the story about the man who was in the Gulf with an open wound and contracted some sort of brain-eating ameba, and died within a few days of coming home. My wife, sister, and 1,000 or so other people I know saw the video as well and warned me to steer clear of the water, being that the rocks cut me up pretty good. I used peroxide and triple-antibiotic cream every few hours, and had decided to stay out of the water for 24 hrs. My entire family was down at the beach, and I was sitting out on the deck watching them, when my neighbor got home and we started to chit-chat.

This gorgeous, sparsely populated stretch of beach is located right down the road from a large military base, and my neighbor Scott, lives here full time and is a helicopter pilot, specializing in flying rescue missions. He asked what I was doing up here alone, and I showed him my injuries. He said “you know what the best cure for cuts and scrapes is? Salt water!” He swears by the healing power of the ocean, and being that he’s lived on the beach for longer than I’ve been alive and is the picture of health, I put my trunks on and headed to the water!

This morning (Monday) was the first day I fished. I was up at 5am looking for my fishing partner, my brother-in-law “Crow”. He was nowhere to be found, so I loaded up my four surf rods, four 4’ PVC shore rod holders, tripod, 40 lb backpack style tackle box, the five-gallon bucket that held water and the bait I caught last night, and my coffee and made the 50 yard walk through the sand in my flip flops. I no more than got the first stake in the ground, and here comes my partner…

Unfortunately, the wind was blowing around 40 mph and the waves were both enormous and relentless, slamming small patches of seaweed into my lines, and creating constant havoc. I managed a few catfish, and Crow caught a small flounder. In the morning we are heading to the pier, and Wednesday we’re going out fishing with a friend, from then on, who knows!

The best part of this particular locale, and why we drive past much more popular tourist traps, is the lack of people. Yesterday afternoon, we shared 150 yards of beach with one other family, and today is not much different. Now if go-karts and waterparks are your thing, this isn’t the place for you, but if spending time on the beach is your number one priority, the “Forgotten Coast” as they call it, is hard to beat.

The most interesting part of our trip thus far was our meal last night, but that story will have to wait, as I am nearly out of room and am being summoned down to the beach to see the latest seashell the kids harvested!


Kyle Duke with a 40 lb. blue catfish


By Josh Gowan

Gorgeous Weekend in the Outdoors

At least I assume it was a gorgeous weekend in the outdoors, it was a gorgeous weekend in my backyard! July/August is a tough time in the outdoors writer’s circles, as most of us are consumed with family vacations and gardening, there’s nothing to hunt, and it is generally too hot for most folks to fish, and for most fish to bite. I have found a few new hobbies while taking some time off from the lake, which was necessary in order to preserve my pennies for vacation!

My son and I have been doing quite a bit of woodworking, repurposing old pallets and turning them into old pallets, but in different shapes and colors! We were contemplating going worldwide with our business, but had a massive corporate fallout when our Director of New Product Development (my son) got a splinter, and our Industrial Pallet Separation Machine (my jigsaw) burned up on the same day, but we’ll be back! My other newfound hobby that provides zero fish or game to the freezer is volleyball. I know, and I have no explanation other than my entire family plays, we all need the exercise, and darn it, it’s fun! Fun that is, right up until Saturday evening when I jumped as high as I could (my wife said I couldn’t have been more than 10-11 inches off the ground, but I’m quite sure I recall looking down and seeing the top of the net just below my feet..) and hit a magnificent shot, consequently twisting my spine into a pretzel. So this week’s article is brought to you by Ibuprofen, Flexereal, and Ziplocks (in the gallon size.) After all, when pressing a bag of ice against your back, it’s best not to skimp on cheap, unreliably sealing bags!!

Now for some actual outdoor news! The bite over on Reelfoot is slow by all accounts I’ve heard. I had a few different guys give me reports of catching anywhere from one, and up to as much as two, crappie! The number one activity going on at the lake is catfishing, and you can catch all you want! Some anglers are jugging, or floating the Black Swans out across the big part of the lake and catching boatloads of cats, and the rod and reel guys are catching even more. The key is using Sonny’s Stink Bait smeared on to Doc’s Worm with a 1/2 oz. to 3/4 oz. sinker. Cast out, wait for a bite, and set the hook, then the fun begins!!

Over on Kentucky Lake the bass fishing has been tough, and according to Kick’n Bass Guide service the high pressure system we’ve had over the last week has been the reason. The bite should dramatically improve as the cool air moves out and we return to normal summer weather patterns. Captain Rich has been catching good numbers of crappie pulling crankbaits in 16-19 ft of water out of the Kick’n Bass pontoon, for more information on what these guys are hauling in go to and click on the Kick’n Bass fishing report.

The bullfrogs have been both large and plentiful, and it’s a shame more folks don’t pursue them. Missouri has a regulated season, and is scheduled by tradition rather than common sense, opening on June 30th (a Monday this year) rather than the last Saturday in June. Frog gigging is a lot like dove season, it has no competition from other seasons and is mostly taken advantage of on opening weekend. With the conservation departments of all states putting increased participation at the top of their list of goals, a bit of logic would go a long way when it comes to scheduling the seasons.

The hottest bite and biggest game is still, and will continue to be monster blue cats on the river, in this case, the Ohio River. My old buddy Justin Berry from East Prairie, MO has been piling up the big blue cats. He’s still using fresh caught skipjack, drift-fishing in 38 ft. of water. He depends heavily on his Humminbird 1199 depthfinder, where he can actually see the fish biting the bait! I’m going to get out there with him soon!


Greg Kriedler of Portageville, MO with his first fish!


By Josh Gowan

Cool Front and Bowfishing

We’ve all heard the old saying, “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.” While this may be accurate, sometimes an overwhelmingly positive second impression can completely overturn the first. I’m talking of course about our dear friend the polar vortex (DUN DUN DUNNNN!!) I lambasted the weather media for exploiting a doomsday-ish term they found lurking in the first printing of the Encyclopedia Britannica, used simply for sensationalism and attracting viewers, back in January when it first appeared. Now my tune has changed, drastically, and after the type of weather we endured this past weekend, I’m celebrating the coming of another polar vortex!

Although it was so hot and humid it made your knees sweat on Saturday, we are allegedly on the verge of much cooler weather, with lows in the 50′s and high’s in the 70′s! Wednesday looks to be the best day to take advantage of the weather, with the barometer well over 30. Although I spent the weekend in the pool, manning the grill, and playing game after game of volleyball (I have no explanation for my new-found love of America’s 17th favorite sport, but dang it it’s fun!) there were some among us who got out and caught and/or shot some fish!

My buddy Kevin Murphy was back at Kentucky Lake pulling crankbaits, and put up decent numbers of crappie again, although he dealt with some serious trials and tribulations in the process. The tactic of pulling crankbaits, as I have described in this article previously, requires baits to be 100+ ft. behind the boat and moving at a speed of 1.5 mph respectively. Pulling eight crankbaits is the norm, and even with poles spreading them out as much as possible, incidents arise. Kevin found crappie in 12 ft. of water, right off a 10 ft. flat. The problem was that the 10 ft. flat was loaded with catfish, largemouth bass, stripers, and so on. The only way to get to the crappie was by making big, wide turns over the flat the cross back through the target area. One 10 lb. catfish took it upon himself (or herself, I didn’t ask for specifics) to engulf one crankbait and fight through the other seven lines, providing one of the biggest clusters Kevin had ever seen. The color that worked the best, was once again “Awesome Pink” in a Bandit 300 series.

Jon Hunter from Southeast Missouri is the founder of SEMO Bowfishing, a bowfishing team that travels and fishes, or shoots, tournaments. Jon got into bowfishing in 2010, and started fishing tournaments shortly thereafter. He hooked up with another avid bowfisherman, Corey Bates in 2012, and SEMO Bowfishing was officially started.

For those of you who know nothing of the sport (and I am only slightly more informed), these guys rig up a boat with more lights than a Def Leapord concert, stand up on platforms on the deck of the boat, and quietly ease through the shallow waters looking for “rough fish” to shoot with a bow and arrow. The arrow is attached to a string, and once shot the fish is reeled in with a reel attached to the bow. This is not a hunt for food, but for game, which is why the conservation departments of most states limit their quarry to only rough fish, i.e. Asian carp, grass carp, common carp, buffalo, and gar. These species are not sought after by conventional anglers, and are therefor overpopulated and under-harvested, and the limits are quite liberal.

Jon’s equipment is extensive, but starts with an AMS Power Eagle bow with AMS Tiger Shark arrows. He fishes out of a 2070 Express rigged with eight, 50 watt Air Ranger Allwater LED’s, and ten, 27 watt LED’s. All the lights run off a 24 volt system, and when the power gets low, an onboard generator kicks on to recharge the batteries. He uses a 101 lb. Minn Kota tiller handle trolling motor, an 899 Humminbird Depthfinder, and a Yamaha 90 horsepower outboard. He built his own raised deck that puts the angler (or hunter, to be honest I’m not sure how to categorize the predator in this setup) up above the glare of the sun or the lights. The line is 200 lb. Decron braid.

The tournaments differ in that some are rewarded for a team’s biggest 20 fish, biggest 30 fish, most fish, or total weight. There is always a “Big Fish” prize, and there is always a side-pot for most fish shot. This past weekend was the First Annual Flying Carp tournament at Peoria, Il. on the Illinois River. The problem was, the carp were not flying. The tournament directors had to deal with high water that kept the airborne and invasive fish from showing up, so they opened the contest to all rough fish. This played right into Jon’s hands, as he quickly gave up on the Asians and went to more familiar tactics targeting grass carp and buffalo.

Team SEMO Bowfishing, which can vary in team members but consisted of Jon Hunter, Luke Hunter, Josh Harding, and Max Clark from Outdoors in the Delta, won 1st place with their 20 fish haul weighing in at 179.3 lbs., and won 1st place Big Fish with a 19.73 lb. grass carp. They earned $1,825 for the win, and this marks SEMO Bowfishing’s 3rd win of the year, with other two coming at Wappapello and Reelfoot Lake. The next tournament is at the Bowfishing Association of America’s World Championship next weekend at Kentucky/Barkley Lake. Jon wanted to thank his sponsors, Viscious Fishing and Outdoors in the Delta.


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