Wednesday was a bluebird day — bright clear blue skies, fairly calm winds and high pressure.
But the highest pressure on Lake D’Arbonne wasn’t on the barometer. It was probably on a duo most crappie fishermen just know as Capps and Coleman. In the competitive crappie world, those two names go together like Brooks and Dunn in music or Batman and Robin in the movies.
Capps and Coleman have won close to 80 crappie tournaments overall. They’ve fished together since they were teenagers and, no slight accomplishment, they’ve won over a million dollars fishing! Currently they are in the lead for the prestigious B’n’M Angler of the Year Team title on the American Crappie Trail. They won the title last year. The ACT is holding its annual National Championship on D’Arbonne Thursday through Saturday.
Wednesday was a Media Day event where several teams like Capps and Coleman took outdoor media and tour sponsors out for a fishing trip. I was lucky enough to get to fish with them. Capps & Coleman… & Kinny! Nope. I don’t think that will catch on. And yes, they do have first names, too. Ronnie Capps and Steve Coleman.
Now, about that pressure. Don’t worry, it won’t bother them. They’ve been there before. But they are looking right down the ramp at the possibility of winning not one, but TWO fully rigged Ranger boats this weekend. The first would be for the Angler of the Year Team. The second will go to the national championship winners. It’s right out there in front of them, dangling like a big old shiner in front of a two-pound crappie. The odds are against them as they compete against 80 awesome pro fishing teams who also want to get their hands on some of the more than $100,000 in cash and prizes. But don’t think they aren’t going to give it their best shot.
In fact, when I asked them one word to describe how they approached fishing, it was “competitive” !
“It’s a lot to think about, but we’ve just got to go fishing and do what we can do,” Ronnie said, as he unhooked a 1.34 pound fish from his Capps and Coleman Double Minnow Rig. Yes, they even have a fishing rig named and marketed by B’n’M with their name on it (see below for more info). “It will take some bigger than this one, though. This is the first time we’ve ever fished a three day event so it does cause you to change your strategy a bit. You’ve got to make the fish you are on last for three days. We want to catch as much weight as we can every day, but we can’t sit on them and hammer them every day.”
Ronnie said the way the bite is going now, with fish scattered and the spawn underway, he figures it will take five or six one and a half pound fish and one or two “lucky” bites over two pounds each day to win it. That would be around 36 pounds total for the three days. But first, anglers have to make the top 50 cut to keep fishing after Thursday. They have to make the top 25 cut to make Saturday’s finals.
Wednesday, Capps and Coleman pretty much had their plans mapped out for the tournament. We went and hit some “new” water. Their ability to scan the bottom structure, find the right types of areas and then catch crappie is amazing. One spot Ronnie pointed to the pole in front of me and said “you should get a bite right there”. Boom. A crappie nailed it. We caught and released about a dozen crappie there before moving on looking for the next spot.
Despite the pressure of the situation, they were great to fish with. They shared information, joked with each other and me and we had a good time. Both have retired after 30 years on their “day jobs”, Ronnie as a wildlife officer with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and Steve as an employee at the Lake County Regional Prison. They have been fishing together since they were teenagers. Both of them call Tiptonville, Tenn., home, about a six hour drive to D’Arbonne.
They have several sponsors on the tour, but their main sponsors are B’n’M, Super Clean and ProBuilt Jigs.
The double minnow rig:
Capps & Coleman minnow rigs are pre-rigged hooks, line, weight and swivel rigs that you can just tie on your line and immediately start fishing two live shiners. They are part of the B’n’M fishing product line. They come in four sizes from 1/4 ounce for fishing from 2-7 feet deep; to 1/2 ounce for fishing from 7-12 feet deep up to 3/4 ounce for fishing as deep as a crappie wants to go. The weights are important because they hold the bait down in the strike zone no matter how fast you want to troll.
The directions on the back of the pack show you everything you need to know. Here’s a special tip — you can even take the MR14 (1/4 ounce) rig and cast it, retrieving it slowly under a slip cork. That works great this time of year.
The Lucas Oil American Crappie Trail National Championship gets started in earnest on Lake D’Arbonne tomorrow with three days of intense fishing for more than $100,000 in cash and prizes. Weighins are at 3 p.m. Thursday and Friday at D’Arbonne Pointe and Saturday at Railroad Park in Ruston.
There are nearly 20 teams with local ties in the big event. The link below has a list of all the top 100 teams that qualified. Check it out to see where your favorite local anglers stand coming into the Championship.
While we’ve featured Capps and Coleman today, make no mistake about it — there are a lot of fine people fishing this circuit and they are the kind of people you’d like to all see do well — both the traveling pros and our local anglers. Despite how many fish they may or may not catch this weekend, they are winners just for being here. And our area is a big winner for being fortunate enough to have them.