by: Matt Foster
It’s the one thing that’s on every tournament fisherman’s mind, winning! But, just what does it take to win a tournament? Is it bait presentation, boat speed, fishing technique, rods, or any of the other factors that can play a vital role in a fisherman’s success or failure? For this article, I reached out to the top tournament crappie anglers in the country to see what they had to say.
First, I spoke to Steve Coleman who alongside Ronnie Capps, sponsored by B’n’M Poles and Super Clean, has won eighty-two out of about three hundred and thirty crappie tournaments across the country. Coleman stated that, “Most of the time, we finish in the top ten.” Coleman said he and Capps use B’n’M Buck’s Graphite Jig Poles and their B’n’M Signature Series Capps and Coleman rods. If the bite is lighter, they will use the BGJP’s and the Capps and Coleman rods when they need to add more weight. While we were speaking of weights, I asked how fast they moved when spider rigging. Coleman stated, “Dead slow!” I asked Coleman how long he sat in a spot without catching fish before they decide to move. Coleman said, “Sometimes if the fish are in a spot and we know they are there we will spend fifteen minutes. If we are catching one here and there we may give it a little longer if they are good fish.” Coleman said to prepare for a tournament he and Capps spend hours and days fishing that particular lake. “We figure which end of the water system is more healthy weight-wise.” Coleman said, “We look for green fertile water with algae in it. We have found that the fish will be bigger in green fertile water as opposed to clear water.” The one thing Coleman said helps them win tournaments is, “Efficiency and having a good partner. You got to be like a machine. If Ronnie is going to do something, I have to know what he’s going to do before he does it and the same way with me. We are the same way with practice; we get there before daylight and we stay until dark. Just spending time on the water.” I asked Coleman for the best advice he would be able to give to someone wanting to get into tournament fishing. He said, “I would get me a good guide and spend two to three days with a good guide and learn from them. If you didn’t get a guide, get on the water and spend time on the water learning the lake. Every time you go out there you have to try to learn something.”
Next, I spoke to Kevin Rogers, who has won thirty-three tournaments in the past twenty-six years. I asked Rogers how long he sits in one spot if he’s not catching fish and he said, “Fifteen minutes max.” Rogers said, “In tournament fishing, you only need seven fish. You have to find a specific area for the biggest fish in each lake. You have to be fishing for the largest fish that live in the lake or you will never win.” Rogers stated another thing he does to help ensure success is, “Study Google earth to get a layout of the lake prior to ever showing up.” By doing so, it lets him see laydowns, coves, points, and other areas to target on tournament day. I also asked Rogers if he had a specific rod he used or if he changed rods for lake/weather conditions. Rogers said, “I have created my own line of rods through Jenko fishing. With the new live scope technology, there is really only one technique I will use year-round, one pole jig fishing. My line of rods comes in ten-foot and eleven-foot. We’re adding to the collection a thirteen-foot Livescope rod and it will be available in July of this year.”
I also had the opportunity to speak with Kris Mann. He and his father, Terry Mann have won over twenty-five tournaments between Crappie USA and club tournaments around Kentucky with dozens of top-five finishes. I asked Mann how long he fished an unproductive area. Mann said, “It depends on what my electronics are saying and how aggressive the fish are. If my electronics are saying there’s fish there and I feel conditions are right for them to bite, I may stay a few minutes. If the bite is aggressive than we don’t stay put too long. I’d say we give most spots five minutes or less. We are a run and gun team.” When I asked Mann what he did to mentally and physically prepare for a tournament, he said, “Just tons of fishing. Time spent on the water builds the reflexes, physical toughness and mental strength for success. We fish in all seasons, in all kinds of weather and in all kinds of water conditions. I love watching BASS tournament fishing too. Those guys get me fired up! I have learned so much from following them on TV and online over the years, too. I think the biggest key to our success transcends both the mental and physical aspects though. Our spiritual health is key to team Mann and Mann’s success on the water. We have confidence that God blesses our hard work when we honor Him with our lives. That is the key to any success we have.” I asked Mann what he does to help better his odds when fishing a new lake. Mann responded, “To be honest, I don’t use online research and local fishing reports that much. I prefer to have boots on the ground or boat on the water in this case! I spend hundreds of hours each year scanning lakes. Looking at water conditions, temperatures, baitfish presence, and the right pieces of structure. We put some structure of our own out but very little. Most of what we fish is found using electronics. Good old fashioned seat time with eyes on the graph.” Mann said the one thing he thinks helps them win tournaments is, “God blessing our hard work.” I inquired about which fishing rod he primarily used during tournaments and he said, “I use a 5’6” B’n’M Sharp Shooter and dad uses a 10’ B’n’M Buck’s Graphite Jig Pole for 99% of our fishing.” The one-piece of advice Mann said he would give someone wanting to get into tournament fishing is, “Let the fish tell you what they want. Don’t get caught up too much in fishing history, dock talk, or fad fishing.”
I also interviewed Whitey Outlaw who has fished local and national tournaments over the past forty years. When I asked Outlaw how long he fished an area without catching fish, he said, “I move a lot whether I’m catching them or not. That seems to pay off very well for me.” I asked him what some of the mental and physical preparations he made before fishing a tournament and he replied, “Mentally, I don’t let other people bother me or worry me by what they are doing or talking about. Physically, I get as much rest as I can before tournaments and during.” I asked Outlaw what were some of the things he looked at or studied when tournament fishing a new lake. Outlaw said, “Water quality, seasons of the year tells me where to look, temperature of the water tells me the depth I need to look at, and weather fronts, in general, determine a lot.” Much like the others, I had the opportunity to interview, Outlaw also stated that, “Time on the water” was the key to winning tournaments. I inquired about how he chose which rod to use on any given day. Outlaw said, “If I’m fishing shallow water, I use longer poles, usually sixteen foot. Mid-range depth fourteen-foot poles, and deep structure I like twelve-foot poles. Water clarity determines in a lot of cases what you use.” The one-piece of advice Outlaw said he would give to someone wanting to get into tournament angling is, “Don’t be afraid to take chances and try new stuff.”
Whether you are a weekend fisherman or an avid tournament angler, I hope you found what the top crappie tournament anglers had to say beneficial and apply it on your next trip!