Unconventional Tactics Triumph: ACC Crappie Stix Pros Secure Wins with Shallow Water

February 19, 2024

The calendar may read February, but ACC Crappie Stix pro staffers are finding success on shallow fish despite the relatively early date.

In tournament competition last Saturday (Feb. 10), both Matt Xenos, of Tennessee, and Wesley Miller, of Louisiana, discovered eagerly feeding crappie in relatively shallow water. Both came away with tournament wins as a result.

They were among several ACC pro staffers who experienced success in tournaments, including another Lake Okeechobee win by Florida’s Brad Gibson.

“The night before, I told the guy (Josh Sander) who fished with me that we’re going to pull planer boards in shallow water,” Matt said about the East Tennessee Crappie Club tournament on Tellico Lake, near Lenoir City, TN.

“Everybody else was going to fish deep, out there in that 30- to 40-foot range, maybe 20 to 40. They were going to be out there in open water fishing over deep, natural structure.”

Matt, who guides on various lakes in the east Tennessee region, recognized the advantages of fishing shallow, however. A warm rain Friday, followed by the deluge on Saturday, created some predictable situations.

“I knew that warm rain should pull some of those fish up shallow,” he said. “Rain does two things for you. It adds oxygen to the surface level, and that rain warms the shallow water up just a little.

“With a warm rain in February, a lot of times those fish will flush in. They are early spawners, that first wave of spawning fish. You can get some really big females in there. We were catching fish with eggs, and I thought our seven fish would weigh more than those fish still out in deeper water. That’s the way it worked.”

His final total weighed 9.10, more than a pound better than the second-place finishers.

Using a staggered set of 6-, 8-, 10-, and 12-foot ACC rods out of the back of the boat, Matt pulled planer boards of his own creation in two to five feet of water, and his predictions proved true. Trailing the smaller, crappie-sized boards with a leader about five feet long, he pulled jigs with black-chartreuse and blue-chartreuse curly tail or paddle tail plastics at .8 to 1.0 mph. That speed put the jigs at about two to 2 ½ feet deep.

For more information about guided trips or about buying his planer boards, contact Matt through his website, www.wiredforcrappie.com. He also regularly produces YouTube content under the Wired for Crappie brand.

In north Louisiana, Wesley won the Red River Crappie Club monthly event on Grand Bayou, just to the east of Coushatta, LA.

“It’s not a very big lake but has a tremendous population of crappie,” Wesley said. “It’s black crappie dominant, but I did manage to catch two bigger white crappie that really helped my limit.”

Despite the pouring rain – Wesley said he stayed dry courtesy of a new set of Cabela’s rain gear, “the fishing was absolutely on fire,” he said.

“I’ve been guiding down there lately, and the fish have been pre-spawn. In fact, Friday before the tournament, I was down there fishing with my dad. We found some black crappie on stumps, and when we dropped a jig down there – we could see it on the LiveScope – they would aggressively hit the jig. When we pulled them in, they had their spawning colors on. Friday was the new moon, and even though it seems early, I think some of those fish were trying to spawn.”

Wesley also caught some open-water fish with two key factors helping him earn the win. His final total topped 13 pounds.

“I was using the new (prototype) ACC 15’ rod,” he said. “You can really present that bait to those open-water black crappie well with that rod. They would absolutely fire on the bait.”

The other key was the bait itself. He used the Snacky Lures FS200 in his signature Sasquatch color. 

“It’s green pumpkin with red flake,” Wesley said. “Black crappie are not like white crappie, which eat mainly shad. They will eat just about anything, and this jig mimics baby bass, bream, bugs, whatever. It’s my favorite color when I am fishing for black crappie.”

Despite the rainy conditions, Wesley said he probably caught 100 fish on the day.

“Other than the rain, it was one of the best tournament days I’ve ever had in terms of sheer number of fish and having a good time,” he said.

To book a Louisiana crappie trip with Wesley, see Big Sasquatch Outdoors on Facebook or call him at 318.465.1668.

“We fish all bodies of water in north Louisiana, about eight or nine lakes and two pools of the Red River,” Wesley said. “We stay on fish year-round. We really don’t have a season here, so get with me and come and have a good time.”

In Florida, Lake Okeechobee continues to produce big black crappie for guide Brad Gibson (G3 Outfitters Guide Brad Gibson on Facebook or on Instagram @g3_outfitters).

The previous week, he had paired with another ACC pro staff member, Calvin King, to win a pair of tournaments with a record catch. Brad did not shatter any records in a benefit tournament last Saturday, but he still won (along with Ron Veale) with 11.56.

Calvin (Dying Breed Charter, contact him on his personal Facebook page or on Instagram @cal_king863) and partner Shane Altman finished fourth with 10.41.

Finally, in Alabama, the Alabama Crappie Trail event on Bankhead Lake, a Black Warrior River reservoir just south of Jasper, yielded some astounding results. Anglers weighed five fish in the tournament, and guide Jonathan Phillips and his son Wyatt, finished third with 11.03. The winning five-fish limit weighed 14.03, and second place topped 13.

(Contact Jonathan for a guided trip on the lower Coosa or Alabama rivers through Team Phillips Fishing on Facebook. More contact info is available there.)

ACC pro staffers, report your tournament results each week to be featured in a blog post. Tag Andy Lehman or Greg McCain when you post your results on social media or send them directly to Greg at [email protected].