Josh Gowan: CrappieMaster Tourney on Lake D’arbonne, LA
I always figured I’d end up on a stage in LA, and this past weekend it came to fruition. Of course the big city lights were replaced by sunrises and sunsets, the movie stars were instead friendly Cajuns, and Santa Monica Boulevard was a cypress laden bayou. Northern Louisiana is home to one of, if not the best, crappie fishing lakes I’ve ever visited.
Lake D’arbonne is reminiscent of Reelfoot in that it is full of stumps, but where it varies is the bottom contours and channels, among other things. Looking at a detailed map of the lake shows dips, rises, ridges, ditches, flats, channels and so on. There are plainly marked boat lanes that allow you to run wide open from one spot to the next, but the second you pull out of the lane it’s easy going unless you dislike your lower unit.
My wife and I arrived Monday night to our accommodations at D’arbonne Pointe, a newly constructed resort that promises to cater to the women while overlooking some of the finest crappie fishing in the nation. There is a boat ramp on site and what must be nearly a half-mile of deck to tie your boat up.
The lodge itself was immaculate. It was the type of place that made you want to take your shoes off before walking in. An open floor plan equipped with leather furniture, flat screens, fireplace, and literally every amenity you can imagine on the bank of a gorgeous lake, with large windows and vaulted ceilings that absorbed the sunrise over the water into the living room and kitchen. The Pointe is also equipped with multiple RV hookups, a beach, a 3,000 square foot deck, and an in-ground swimming pool. For more information on booking or photos of the resort go to www.darbonnepointe.com.
Now on to the fishing! My first day on the lake was spent utilizing the Humminbird Sidescan and investigating what was under the water rather than above it. I didn’t have to drive far to see fish stacked on a ledge, and stopped and gave my box of anxious shiners an opportunity. The next five days were spent dragging slab after big-mouthed slab to the boat!
On Wednesday Chippy arrived and I acquired a much needed net man. I just don’t have it in me not to use every pole holder, and pushing 8 poles through shallow water with a plethora of angry crappie resulted in a lot of lost fish. He was as amazed at the sheer numbers of big crappie as I was, and the slaughter began.
Mind you, this week would culminate in the first Bass Pro Shop’s CrappieMaster’s tournament ever in the state of Louisiana, so we weren’t fishing to catch a ton of fish, just to pre-fish and locate ideal spots. That was a difficult task, being that everywhere we stopped we caught crappie. We caught fish in 2-foot of water and 25-foot of water, and everywhere in between. Saturday’s weather report called for storms, but throughout the week the report had been perpetually wrong, so we were less concerned than normal.
We began the tournament morning in a spot we’d caught good fish all week, spider-rigging through scattered cypress trees on the edge of shallower, thicker cypress grove. The crappie had just finished spawning and were moving out, and we’d caught some pigs there the day before. Unfortunately, during the night the big crappie moved further out and the catfish moved in by the 1,000’s!
By noon we’d caught around 30 crappie and 30 catfish, but nothing over 1.4-pounds (crappie that is). We decided to pull out and head across the lake to a deep ledge loaded with stumps. Around 1:30 the rain started, and the bite turned on full force. We caught 6 of our 7 fish that we weighed at the tournament from 1:30 to 2:30, even after running out of minnows! I put a black and pink CrappieMagnet on my #2 Tru-Turn minnow hooks and a pink crappie nibble, and the crappie ate them up!
We knew we had a good bag of crappie, but when it comes to tournaments, you never know what everyone else has, especially with a massive field of locals in the tourney. Our 7-fish limit weighed 10.75-pounds, which garnered 3rd place (and a nice check) in the 61 boat field and qualified us for the National Championship. We were only beat out by the Duck Commanders themselves, John Godwin and Jay Stone, and last year’s Anglers of the Year Whitey Outlaw and Mike Parrot! It was an amazing trip to an amazing lake and I can’t wait to get back!