Lots of Small Catches & Abundant Bait Fish Paints Hopeful Future
Written by Doug Wynn - Published on September 22, 2021
Hey Y’all from the Excel Storm Cat 230. We all know the saying “Life Happens”. That has been my situation the last couple of weeks. I just haven’t taken time to sit down and put a report together.
I did have the privilege to fish Reelfoot Lake with my friend and sponsor, Jeremy Mattingly of Crappie Monster. Jeremy is an expert on Livescope and has been putting up some very impressive catch pics on social media. We met at Blue Bank Resort and soon found out why Reelfoot has a reputation of being a very dangerous lake if one doesn’t respect it.
We had no sooner left the resort till we felt his Nitro boat slide up onto an unseen tree in 15 or so feet of water. This scenario repeated itself several times during the day. I don’t see the 4500-pound Storm Cat ever being used there.
My point of being there was to first watch how Jeremy handled his boat control then second, how he approached using the Livescope to target crappie among the immense cover that is Reelfoot. It didn’t take long to learn I have what I need on my boat, I just didn’t have it arranged the way it should be or use some of it in a way that will allow me to apply this technique to KY and Barkley Lakes’ cover.
I left with a cooler full of slabs plus the confidence I was lacking. Jeremy is a ball to be around and fish with. If you get a chance, follow him on Facebook and Instagram. His videos are both funny and educational. He also sells a great line of plastics. His Upper Cut bodies in Icicle and Margarita on 1/8th ounce jig heads were the ticket. The crappie wanted a smaller presentation. I’m finding that to be the same on our lakes.
My buddy Justin was on Barkley last week and said he had to drop all the way down to a 1/64th ounce jig while Livescoping. I know some others are saying minnows are their bait of choice while vertical jigging cover.
I had a great time fishing with a couple of guys from Ohio last week. As has been the case lately, we got totally different conditions and wind directions (mostly east) and speed each day. Rain made me appreciate the top on my boat the first day. We found some decent crappie but our whole trip was dominated by the white drums of KY Lake. I often catch them, maybe a couple per week. I think we had 7 that day! Every time our Picos got slammed by a big fish, it ended up being a drum. While fun to catch, they weren’t our target.
We changed tactics the 2nd day and pulled horsehead blade baits with little to show for it. I rarely do this in 80-degree water but when things aren’t working, you need to try something different. This is a tactic I normally use once the water cools below 60 degrees. Sometimes you just must swing for the fences, hoping for a different result.
I’m catching some nice crappie and some BIG yellow bass on the crankbaits. We did have one nice Hybrid bass last week, a welcome sight. I think once we get some of these storms and fast-moving fronts out of the way, we will see great fishing for the rest of September all the way thru the fall. While fish will bite most every day, the changes in weather have kept me scrambling to keep up with the pattern for the day. Stable weather will help with that. I am seeing huge numbers of schools of shad and other baitfish. I’m also seeing lots of 7 to just under 10-inch crappie. The future looks bright.
Our lakes are about a foot above winter pool now and the gremlins are starting to show their wicked selves. With all the flooding south of us recently and the massive amounts of current, I’m seeing trees and other hazards that have made their way into our lakes and decided to stay in places we haven’t seen them before. Keep a close eye out for floating and stationary hazards where there haven’t been any.
The amount of recreational boat traffic has dropped a bunch. That makes fishing our bays and creeks much more enjoyable, especially during the week. The past two weeks I’ve noticed an increase in the number of large cruiser type boats along the river channels. While we don’t normally consider these an aggravation when fishing, their wakes are something that must be respected. The boat may have passed along some time ago before their wake makes it into the bays and secondary channel areas.
Many of these boats throw a wake that rivals barge traffic. Just be aware of them because the wake can sneak up on you when running at plane speeds or above. Also, this is now the time to turn that GPS map on and keep it on when running. I run Humminbird sonar units with LakeMaster map cards. These allow me to set a lake level offset for the lower levels as well as shallow water conditions. The shallow water areas are highlighted in red.
It is amazing how much red (0-4feet) is on my screens now. The average boater thinks of a lake as being a big bowl, shallow around the banks and deep in the middle. Be warned that this is the kind of thinking that could end up seeing one get into trouble with boat damage or getting stuck in a shallow area, hundreds of yards from the bank, on Ky and Barkley lakes.
The calendar says fall is here. We will start seeing water temperatures start slowly dropping during the cool nights to come. Wear your PFD and kill switch. I saw a video of a boating accident at Reelfoot recently where a person was running too fast, struck an underwater object, was thrown out and then run over by his own boat due to not wearing his kill switch. He will survive his injuries thanks to the quick thinking of nearby fishermen. We might not be as lucky as that guy.
Be careful out there! With lower lake levels, boaters are forced into the deeper channel areas and they can get crowded. Be considerate of others and help those who need help. Ruining part of a fishing trip might save somebody from harm. I believe in karma and by helping somebody else, karma will come back to you.
Welcome to our slice of Heaven.