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Creating a Summertime Family Fishing Trip of a Lifetime

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John’s Note: School is out, you’re at the lake, the weather is hot, and fishing is no good – or is it? You can have some of the best fishing of the year for you and your family, if you follow the advice of a 40-year veteran fishing guide and tournament crappie fisherman, Jackie Wayne VanCleave (731-538-2547 or 731-431-9700) of Samburg, Tennessee.Creating a Summertime Family Fishing Trip of a Lifetime03

“I’ve been fishing for more than 40 years,” my fishing buddy and friend, Jackie Wayne VanCleave reports.

“As a guide on Reelfoot Lake in northwest Tennessee, out of Blue Bank Resort, 1-877-258-3226) I’m often called on to take families fishing. Families may include a mom, a dad and possibly three or more children. I have my War Eagle 2072 set up with five pedestal seats, so everyone in the family has his or her own comfortable seat from which to fish. We always have a lot of fun, and a family can take home enough fish for several good meals after the trip.

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“My job is to create a fishing trip of a lifetime each and every day I’m on the water, and I guide many crappie trips in the summer. Because of new side-scanning depth finder technology, I can take a family on a successful crappie trip on any lake in the country. I use a Humminbird depth finder that allows me to see the bottom, the structure and the crappie 100 feet on either side of the boat. When I spot the structure and the crappie, I can mark those spots as waypoints, allowing me to find fishing places more quickly.

“Another thing many people don’t know about crappie fishing is that during the extremely-hot weather of the summer and the very-cold weather of the winter, crappie usually school on structure as deep as 35 feet or more and stay on those same spots for 2 to 3 months. If you find five or six sites spots where the crappie are schooled-up on deep structure in the summer, you can mark those spots as waypoints and go back to fish at any time, particularly in the winter.”

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Many family anglers may not have a side-scanning depth finder, since they cost over $2,000. There is a steep learning curve. The simple solution to this problem is to hire a guide like my friend Gifford “Sonny” Sipes of Moody, Ala., (205-640-5299 or 205-919-0982) a world-class tournament crappie fisherman. Using his side-scanning depth finder and his fishing skills, he goes to lakes and guides families or individuals to places where they can catch crappie during summer months. They can take hand-held GPS receivers like the HuntTrack from Bushnell (, 913-752-3400) and mark the same spots on their GPSes that he finds with his side scanning-depth finder. Once you have those GPS coordinates marked, you can return to fish those locations all summer.

According to VanCleave, “When I guide here on Reelfoot, I don’t even use my depth finder, since I have 40 years of experience knowing the places where crappie hold. And, you can catch big crappie in the summer here just like you do in the spring. They just don’t have those big stomachs like they do in the spring when their stomachs are full of eggs. At Reelfoot, we catch crappie all year, mainly by trolling. I usually rig with a jig and minnows on a B‘n’M  crappie rod. I use a 1/2- to 3/4-ounce sinker on the end of a Capps & Coleman double-minnow rig and fish vertically right over the spot.

“Crappie: How to Catch Them Spring and Summer,” “For Hot-Weather Fishing Success, Head to Reelfoot,” “Reelfoot Lake: How to Fish for Crappie, Bass, Bluegills and Catfish and Hunt for Ducks,”click here to get these books.

About the Author

John Phillips, winner of the 2012 Homer Circle Fishing Award for outstanding fishing writer by the American Sportfishing Association (AMA) and the Professional Outdoor Media Association (POMA), the 2008 Crossbow Communicator of the year and the 2007 Legendary Communicator chosen for induction into the National Fresh Water Hall of Fame, is a freelance writer (over 6,000 magazine articles for about 100 magazines and several thousand newspaper columns published), magazine editor, photographer for print media as well as industry catalogues (over 25,000 photos published), lecturer, outdoor consultant, marketing consultant, book author and daily internet content provider with an overview of the outdoors. Click here for more information and a list of all the books available from John E. Phillips.

Next: Don’t Buy Catfish for a Summer Fish Fry – Catch Them with Jackie Wayne VanCleave

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