Editor’s Note: Strike King Pros Jackie Vancleave and his partner Tim Blackley of Tennessee recently won the Crappie Masters National Qualifier Tournament on Lake Guntersville, qualifying them to compete in the 2011 Bass Pro Shops Crappie Masters National Championship that will be held in late September on the Alabama River. Vancleave has crappie fished for 38 years, and when he’s not fishing tournaments, he guides crappie fishermen on Reelfoot Lake out of Blue Bank Resort in Reelfoot, Tenn.
Part 1: The First Practice Day at the Crappie Masters National Qualifier Tournament on Lake Guntersville the End of May
Question: Jackie, why did you decide to become a Strike King pro?
Vancleave: I’ve fished with Strike King Lures for many years and believe in the company and its products. When Strike King came-out with a line of crappie lures, I tested them and found them to be some of the best crappie lures on the market. Tim and I were honored to be chosen by Strike King to become a part of their professional staff.
Question: What tournament did you and Tim Blackley just win?
Vancleave: We won the Crappie Masters National Qualifier Tournament at Lake Guntersville, qualifying us to compete in the 2011 National Championship, which will be held on the Alabama River in late September.
Question: What did you know about Lake Guntersville and the crappie in this lake before you arrived there?
Vancleave: Tim and I knew absolutely nothing. We’d never seen the lake before. We did a little research on the computer and found everything we wanted to know about bass fishing on Lake Guntersville, but couldn’t find anything about crappie fishing. You only ever hear about bass fishing on Lake Guntersville, but the crappie fishing is a local secret.
Question: How many days did you pre-fish for this tournament?
Vancleave: We pre-fished for two days.
Question: What did you learn on the first day of practice?
Vancleave: We learned that a number of black crappie was holding on the bridges in water from 4- to 14-feet deep. However, those crappie only weighed about 1- to 1-1/4-pounds each, which weren’t tournament-winning-size crappie. We always start fishing the bridges anytime we go to a lake we’ve never fished before, because that’s where the crappie usually will be holding. If you don’t know where to fish for crappie on any lake you fish, begin with the bridges first.
Another advantage to fishing the bridges is that in the middle of the day, when the sun’s up, and the weather’s hot, the bridges provide shade and cover for the crappie. So, you often can catch crappie around bridges in the middle of the day when you can’t catch them anywhere else. We caught crappie around the bridge we fished.
Question: How did you catch your crappie?
Vancleave: We vertical-jigged with a B’n’M Pole using 6-pound-test Vicious line and the Strike King Rage Tail Slab Hammer Crappie Grubs tipped with shiner minnows. We found that the bubblegum-chartreuse and the pumpkinseed-chartreuse-colored grubs produced the most crappie. When we dropped our jigs straight down to the bottom, brought the jigs up 3 to 4 inches and moved the jigs to the left or the right, the crappie would hit the jigs.
We always start fishing from the bottom and then work our jigs up higher in the water column, until we find the depth of water at which the crappie are holding. We found that the biggest crappie were always closer to the bottom than the smaller crappie. When we brought-up our jigs from the bottom, we caught more crappie, but they were smaller.
Question: What size jigs did you use?
Vancleave: We used 1/16- and 1/4-ounce Strike King jigs with the Rage Tail Slab Hammer Crappie Grubs. When I fished deep, I used the 1/4-ounce jig, and when I fished shallow, I used the 1/16-ounce jig. We held our boat right-up against the bridge columns, and that’s where we found the crappie.
To fish with Jackie Vancleave and learn how he fishes with the new Strike King crappie lures, contact him at 731-431-9700 or on his cell at 731-538-2547, or visit http://www.reelfoot.com/vancleave/index.htm.
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