James, partner-son Chuck and grandson Kingston
Second in a two-part series
A career in the Maintenance field taught James Morgan the importance of an organized, methodical approach to things. That has transferred to his crappie fishing. When he retired and moved to Lake D’Arbonne, he had a plan.
“I told my wife six years ago I was going to slow down and start enjoying life. I bought a boat and started to crappie fish. That’s all I want to do. I hooked in with some serious crappie fishermen and learned a lot. I’ve never done anything more fun. I always have a plan of where I’m going and how I’ll fish,” he says. “But I am also looking at my watch. I set a time limit and if what I’m doing isn’t working, when times up, I go do something else.
“One thing I love is the continual excitement of it,” he says. “It’s not like bass fishing where maybe you’ll catch seven or eight all day. With crappie fishing there is steady anticipation. And then there is the camaraderie. Even in competitive crappie fishing tournaments, there are always people willing to help you. It’s not like any other sport. People will share information and techniques and I’ve even had them give me baits on the lake. I do the same for them. If you pass someone else crappie fishing, they’ll ask how you are doing and if you aren’t catching, they’ll say try this depth or try this bait. It’s a friendly sport.”
Right now the fish are still deep, but they will transition into the flats as the water warms and then within days, they’ll start heading shallow for spawning. The key this time of the year is staying flexible and staying where the fish are. He also reminds fishermen that the fish don’t all stay deep, in the flats or shallow at one time. There are fish in all those areas for at least a month in the spring. They don’t all spawn at the same time.
James ideal fishing trip is taking a single pole and fishing with it, but he will also expand that to spider rigs of four up to eight poles if that is what is working. He fishes rods from 11 – 14 feet long most of the time. Single poling allows you to feel the “thump”. Spider rigging requires you to watch the tips of the poles carefully for a little “bob”. Sometimes it’s so subtle you just think you saw the pole move. If you think it moved, you better set the hook.
It’s almost funny watching a couple of fellows sit up in the front of the boat with James numbering the poles from left to right. You’ll be talking and all of a sudden he yells, “No. 4, No. 4….” That means if you haven’t already, you need to get that fourth pole out of the holder and get the hook set, especially when the fish are hitting 14-18 feet deep.
He rarely uses shiners, unless the fish make him. Recently, they’ve been making him. He also likes black and chartreuse jigs and uses a 1/8th ounce jig head, sickle hook and a bluegrass color plastic trailer in various brands from Bobby Garland Slab Slayers, Stinger Shad or Mid-South tube jigs. And no matter what lure he’s fishing, he uses a crappie niblet on it or a Bait Pump with tube jigs to pump them full of niblets. He likes that because you don’t have to add one every time you pull the bait out of the water.
Again, we return to James maintenance background for his final piece of advice: “We tend to be troubleshooters,” he says of maintenance and instrument/electricians. “We’ll analyze the situation and try different things until we get it working. You need to do that crappie fishing. Don’t get locked in on one area, one bait or one technique. Be ready to do something different. On the other hand, if you are catching, stick with it. In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
The Sportsman Channel Wednesday@5:30am & Saturday@8:00am