Dusty McGehee: Lake of the Giants

 

While fishing in the Crappie Masters National Championship last year on D’arbonne, Anders asked me “Have you ever caught a 3-pound crappie?” I told him no so he asked where we could catch one.  Without hesitation I said “Grenada: lake of the giants.”  That was almost a year ago to the date and he has asked me multiple times about going to Grenada.  He has asked so many times, you’d think this place is on the same level as Disney World.

In February of this year, Crappie Masters came back to D’arbonne, and we were lucky enough to win the adult/youth division.  This automatically qualified us for this year’s National Championship.  Anders was ecstatic to take home the title, trophy, and tiny bit of money, but he was most excited about going to the National Championship… because it is at Grenada Lake.

Grenada Lake is in north Mississippi, just off of I-55 about an hour south of Memphis.  It is a 36,000 acre flood control reservoir and is full of big white crappie.  Grenada is ranked each year as the #1 crappie lake in the world.  I’ve been twice and can vouch for this rating.  Sure, I love D’arbonne….It’s a top 10 lake in the country, but Grenada is special.

Why is it so special?  There are a multitude of reasons, but I will list just a few of the reasons that I believe it is.

  1. “You are what you eat” … Grenada crappie gorge on gizzard shad.  This a large species of shad that Grenada is full of.  This species of shad ensures these fish have a healthy diet and can grow quickly.
  2. Cover, cover, cover… Since this is a flood control reservoir, the levels typically get so high that the water gets in all the cover and up in the woods/brush.  This protects the fish from predators like ospreys, eagles, and fishermen in the spring.  
  3. Size and daily limit… Grenada has a 12-inch minimum for a legal “keeper crappie.”  Also, the daily limit is 15/day per person.  Just like managing for big bucks, you have to get some age on them to grow them into trophies.

I think Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries could learn a lot from what Mississippi is doing.  Each time the experts compile a list of Top 10 in the country, Mississippi has 4 or 5 lakes that are always towards the top.  I’m certainly no fish biologist but I’d take a long look into what our neighbor to the east is doing because it’s obviously working.

Back to the tournament… Anders & I will be competing next weekend for the National Championship.  First place will pay out $30,000 and Anders is dead set on winning that.  I will be heading east soon and will pre-fish for 5 days.  I’m definitely aiming for the win, but I don’t have the same confidence Anders does.

Grenada is a beast of a lake.  It is more than double the size of D’arbonne.  Catching fish usually is not a problem but catching big ones can be a challenge.  It will take a 2.25-pound average per fish to win this.  I’ve never had a stringer that big, but I’m going to fish my tail off to try and find them.

Sunday through Thursday will be a grind.  I will be fishing alone and burning lots of gas trying to find the quality of fish it will take to win.  Will I find them?  I sure hope so, but I’m looking forward to Friday.  Friday is the start of the tournament and the first day my oldest will be in the boat.

Anders is a great fisherman and a great net man.  This tournament is about him.  I think he will be able to catch his personal best crappie, and that is the goal.  Anything above that is lagniappe.  

The good thing about having your child as your tournament partner, is that you’re guaranteed to have a great day.  When I get frustrated, he always brings me back to earth.  While he may be good at fishing, it’s the positive mindset that he brings to the boat that makes the most difference.  No matter what’s in our livewell, or how far we might be trailing the leaders, he truly believes that we will find the winning fish.

We fish from 7 a.m.-3 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.  Mentally, this is a tough 16 hours to fish competitively.  But when the boy beside you truly believes up to that last second that you are going to win, it will convince anyone…. and that attitude is contagious.

If you are interested in watching the National Championship weigh-in live, you can check out the Crappie Masters Facebook page.  Weigh-in begins around 3:15 p.m. next Friday & Saturday.

We will try to bring the trophy back home to Lincoln Parish next weekend.  As far as writing a story next week, you may need to wait… we will be busy.

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Dusty McGehee is a native of Downsville and a 2006 graduate of Louisiana Tech University with a bachelors in wildlife conservation. He is currently employed by WestRock and serves as an environmental engineer at the Hodge Mill. Dusty is an avid hunter and crappie fisherman, fishing crappie tournaments with his son when he is not in the woods. He and his wife Rachel have three young outdoorsmen/women: Anders, Ridge, and Mae. If you have a story idea or question about the great outdoors, you can reach Dusty at dusty.mcgehee@westrock.com.


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