John's Journal... Entry 85, Day 4
Pope's Best-Ever Day of Fishing
EDITOR'S NOTE: I now know why anglers consider Weiss Lake near Centre, Alabama, on the Georgia/Alabama border, the Crappie Capital of the World and why Steve Pope of Centre, Alabama, ranks as one of the best guides anywhere. Pope has guided on Weiss Lake for 13 years and knows the water and the fish there like the back of his hand. His crappie-fishing techniques radically will change your ideas if you fish structure. This week, Weiss Lake's Crappie King will share his secrets to trolling, choosing a jig, locating fish and catching a limit of colossal crappie at Weiss Lake.
Pope's best day of fishing came when he had four anglers in the boat with one of them in a wheelchair. "We caught 120 crappie by 10:30 a.m. 10 inches or better," Pope said. "The fish weighed from 3/4-pound up to almost 3 pounds."
Cheryl's Hand-Tied Jigs make a big difference in Pope's success. "I couldn't find or buy the type of jig that I really wanted for crappie fishing, so my wife Cheryl and I decided to design our own jig. The biggest difference in our jig and any other jig on our market is that the jig doesn't fall like a rock in the water. It flutters down through the water like a dying shad. Crappie are lazy fish and they don't want to chase the bait very far. When they see those jigs flutter past them, they'll eat them up."
These Viper Jigs fall slower because they have rubber bodies and maribou-plumed tails. The Popes describe the colors of the jigs by the color of the head, the body and the tail. For instance a blue/blue/blue jig has a blue head, a blue body and blue tail.
"If the water color is dingy, we use dark colors," Pope says. "Blue/blue/blue, blue/green/blue or blue/black/green are our best muddy-water colors. As the lake clears, we'll use triple chartreuse -- or green/green/green." Pope selects chartreuse or green as his favorite year-round colors.
Pope pulls his jigs on 6-pound-test Solar Green line because of its visibility. "Eight-pound-test line is too heavy and won't let the jig get down in the water like it should," Pope reports. Four-pound-test line isn't strong enough to hold a big fish. Although you'll get more bites on 4-pound test than you will on 6-pound test, you'll lose more fish."
The Popes don't wholesale their jigs; they only produce them for their guides and the fishermen who order them over the phone. Their jigs sell for $7 a dozen for the regular hand-tied jigs and $8 a dozen for the special-tied jigs.
Pope quickly tells everyone who asks that when he takes a party out fishing he doesn't want to catch any crappie personally. "My job is not to catch fish," Pope said. "I'm not getting paid to show my party how many crappie I can catch; my job is to make sure they catch fish. "If I'm catching crappie on the front of the boat with the two poles 13 feet outside the boat and fishing shallow, then I'm doing something wrong. I'm probably trolling too slow. So if I speed up my troll, my party's jigs will rise in the water. Then I'll quit catching crappie, and they'll start taking them. I'll be proud even if I don't catch a single fish all day if my customers catch every fish."
To learn more about how to catch big crappie on Weiss Lake, or, to check out fishing conditions at Weiss, contact Steve Pope at (256) 927-6617, or go to his website www.weisslakeguideservice.com.
For other proven tactics on how to catch crappie, return to Night Hawk's Homepage, and click on books. To receive a brochure or to order John E. Phillips' book, "The Masters' Secrets of Crappie Fishing," which contains more than 50 experts' tips for catching more crappie, call (800) 627-4295.
TOMORROW: Steve Pope's Typical Report