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Lake life

Even the playing field

Matt Morgan had a lot of ideas when he laid out the American Crappie Trail. One of them was to make the professional fishing circuit as professional as he could. One thing he set out to do was to attract local anglers, but also even the playing field for the touring pros that had to travel hundreds of miles and didn’t have as much time to spend on the water at a lake like D’Arbonne. Matt knows competitive crappie fishing because he was one of the most successful touranment anglers out there. He gave that up to pursue his dream of raising the bar for pro crappie anglers.

So he came up with a set of rules based on other successful fishing circuits. If you aren’t fishing the tournament, they may not make much difference to you. If you are, you better play pretty close attention. These rules are in effect for all ACT tournaments, including the upcoming ACT National Championship on Lake D’Arbonne.

Some of the “even playing field” rules right out of the ACT playbook:

  • OFF LIMITS: Tournament waters have been off limits the 10 days prior to the first day of the official practice (which is Saturday for this event).
  • COMPENSATION: No one can be hired or compensated in any way to fish with you or mark fishing spots for you 60 days prior to any tournament.
  • INFORMATION SHARING/GATHERING: ACT tournaments will operate under a NO INFORMATION RULE. Once the 10 day off limit period starts, contestants cannot purchase, barter, solicit, or receive information from any person who entered official tournament waters during the established off-limits period for all ACT events. Passing of GPS coordinates is not allowed. Talking with Game and Fish officials during off limits or practice to obtain information is not allowed. Asking bait and tackle stores or guides is not allowed.
  • Any information that is available to the public is fair game in “scouting” a tournament water. Using the internet and or social media is considered public information and is permitted. Contestants that are confirmed for the tournament are permitted to talk and share information with each other.
Winners of the last ACT tournament on D’Arbonne in 2017, Alex Rude and Josh Gowan
Texan Johnny Decker and lake resident Glen Hunt

And so, now in the spirit of the followiing the “information sharing” rule but still giving a fishing report, I’ll share what I know heading into the tournament. Since it’s on social media, it’s within the rules, not to mention nothing I know will help anybody!

Here ya go: The fishing had been really good the past month or so. Even this past week, it was very good. Fish were being caught just about everywhere. In the first part of the week, fish were moving shallow and knocking the scales of shiners and the paint off jigs for a couple of days, as witnessed by the fish caught Tuesday in the photo above.

Then the full moon hit and the fish apparently partied all night. Cold morning temps and a north wind prevailed for the past couple of days and as one man on the lake said Thursday, “The fish just decided to stop spawning” (kind of like when Forrest Gump just stopped running). Not entirely, but the only good bite was in the morning. By afternoon, catches were almost nil. There are two theories here. One is that the fish moved back off to deeper water — not all the way to channels, but close to the spawning grounds. Another thought is that the fish are just there, but they just won’t bite even if you drop the jig by a tree and bounce it two or three times on their nose. Of course, talk to ten fishermen and you’ll get eleven different reports.

But those bank fish aren’t the fish that will win the ACT title. By the time the tournament rolls around, the big and little fish may be in shallow again. There are still some good catches being made in the deeper water, especially on the flats and some in the channels. And example of that is the photo below of a good mess of fish caught deep by the famous “Team Overalls” Thursday on the lake.

You can bet that is where the pros will be focusing most of their attention — on the deeper fish. That’s where the bigger ones will probably be. And with this new “Life Scope” sonar technology, they won’t be worried about numbers. They’ll spend a lot of time focusing on individual fish — the best seven fish they can find each day. It’s going to be really interesting to see how the fish react to all the pressure from boats and baits this coming week — especially the big ones.

As for the lake this weekend — be patient. It’s going to be busy. Tree fishing will remind you a lot of riding around the parking lot at Wally World on Saturday afternoon looking for an open space. As soon as one opens up, another car will pull in. Same thing with the trees. Get my drift?

I’ll bet most of the teams catch seven fish a day, but will the big slabs hold out? Or will weights decline each of the three days? Or will the pros learn more each day and increase their weights each day? Come see for yourself next weekend. Weighins will be at D’Arbonne Pointe Thursday and Friday and the final weighin Saturday will be at RailRoad Park in downtown Ruston.


I do have one last tip that will make less serious fishermen laugh, and the serious guys mad.

The plain truth is, I know where the winning stringer will be caught….


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