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Lake life

Morgan: fishing & serving


First of a two-part series

James Morgan lowered the trolling motor into the water and headed into the wind while I made my way to the right front deck seat. James began preparing four 16-foot long fishing rods baited with Capps & Coleman double shiner rigs and settled in beside me.

“Here. I’m even going to bait your hook for you,” he said, laughing as I lowered the bait on the second pole on my side into the water. That was a bigger service than you might think, considering it was close to 30 degrees when he dipped his hand into the cold water. Then James began baiting his lines. But before he could even get a shiner in the water, I was reeling in a pound and a half Lake D’Arbonne Crappie.


James and Mike Vallentine

“Here, you baited the hook. You take him off,” I said, getting in my own laugh. He did. And chunked the fish into the livewell, too. Boy, this kind of service could spoil a fellow.

It wasn’t exactly a good day for crappie fishing, either. This was the day a few weeks ago when it was 27 degrees at daylight and 66 degrees when school, crappie school in my case, got out that afternoon. The wind was very cooperative, though. It blew hard from the north, south and West all at different times in the same day!

James is one of the top crappie fishermen living on Lake D’Arbonne. His success is a combination of having great gear, studying different ways of catching fish and putting in a lot of practice. A lot. He fishes almost 150 days a year.

A key part of his growth as a crappie angler is also his participation in the Crappie Masters tournament circuit and learning from top anglers around the country. He will be in the field for the upcoming Louisiana State Championship here, fishing with his son Chuck from Natchitoches. They finished in 14th in last year’s event.

Recently Crappie Masters President Mike Vallentine came down from Missouri to do a little prep work for the tournament here, which will hold its weigh ins at D’Arbonne Pointe on Friday and Saturday, Feb.  26 & 27. It was James he called to take him fishing and the duo caught quite a few nice fish. I happened to be on the lake that day and even snapped a few photos.

Besides catching his fair share of the fish, James has also served as a driver for a camera boat when Karl Kalonka shot his TV shows here last year. He even catches enough crappie to donate to feed the guests at the Lake D’Arbonne Media Day sponsored by the Union Parish Tourist Commission.

On a recent trip on the lake, we also took Buster Craig of Marion State Bank out to shoot some video footage for a short video promoting crappie fishing on the lake. Another instance when James could have been fishing, but was helping others (By the way, we’ll share that video I mentioned on the bank’s video site on this page as soon as it is finished).

If you haven’t figured it out already, I’ll make it clear: He not only fishes hard, he works hard to make this a better place to live and promote crappie fishing on the ‘Bone.

Next time you see him, tell him “thanks”.


James and Karl Kalonka with some D’bone slabs


              We’ll share some of James’ top tips for catching crappie.



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