Shawn Dahnke (right) accepted his first place prize from SWC’s Vince Stegura, after realing in 80 spots on two fish.

Shawn Dahnke (right) accepted his first place prize from SWC’s Vince Stegura, after realing in 80 spots on two fish.

Red Drum Classic raises $600 for CBA

BY Erika Zambello

Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance

Skinny Water Culture hosted the first annual SWC Red Drum Classic in Destin late last fall, donating $600 to the Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance’s water quality programs.

Operating the tournament from Local Market, the target species was red drum. As they explain in their blog about the event, “The format for the tournament is really fun and easy.” The more spots on the redfish, the more points an angler racks up. All fish caught with a fly earned double points.

Over 40 entrants participated in the tournament, which took place on a chilly November day. Destin guide Captain Shawn Dahnke came in first place ($500), with 80 spots on two fish. 

Charlie Breitenbach and Tim Creasy tied for second with 16 spots each, agreeing to split the checks ($250, $100) for the two spots rather than try to figure out who was back at check-in first.

Hunter Campbell won the Skunk Pot award, taking home Campbell’s Tough Traps, while Royce Dahnke won the casting challenge and the $250 gift card.

The team looks forward to bringing the tournament back to Destin in 2019.

“Anglers are critical stakeholders in our Choctawhatchee Bay watershed. They’re on the water every day, and many help us monitor changing conditions as well as build living shorelines,” said Alison McDowell, CBA director. “Tournaments like this are a great way to have fun and give back, and we so appreciate Skinny Water Culture choosing CBA as their nonprofit beneficiary!”

Skinny Water Culture is a Florida-based outdoor apparel brand with a full line of clothing. The CBA is a non-profit organization striving to enhance swimmable, fishable waterways through monitoring, education, restoration, and research.


Terry Breland takes stock of a mess of crappie.

Terry Breland takes stock of a mess of crappie.

Pole selection and timing can by key


Hook & Trigger

Crappie is the fish of many names. Sac-a-lait, white perch and specks are all common aliases of the famous crappie. It’s spring time, the water is warming up and the crappie spawn is on the way. I love to catch this fish of many names. I use a couple of tried and true techniques to help me attain enough for the fryer. The two main techniques I will discuss are slow trolling with jigs and slash fishing with minnows. I understand and have seen other techniques in different parts of the south and Midwest, but I believe for our neck of the woods, these two techniques are the most productive.

How To: Gear

Before I start on the technical aspect of crappie fishing, let me run down the type of gear one will need to catch a “mess” of these tasty fillets. One of the most popular and time-tested setups is the trusty cane pole. A cane pole rigged with 6-10-pound test line with a small split shot for weight, a #6 light wire hook, and a bobber is used to adjust the depth. Take a medium-sized crappie minnow and hook it so it will stay alive, then you are in business. I have caught plenty of crappie with this set-up. 

Another popular rig is the jig pole. The jig pole is merely a light weight fly rod with a spinning reel attached where the fly reel usually sits. This setup is primarily used when slow trolling in order to cover water in search of the crappie spawning areas.

How To: Technique

Now let’s talk techniques. Slow trolling is one of the best techniques to help anglers find the spawning fish. Depending on water clarity and temperature, the crappie will spawn from 4 feet to 6 inches. Being able to cover the water by slow trolling will allow you to pinpoint their depth and the type of cover they are using. 

For this technique, I recommend the jig pole and crappie jigs. Crappie jigs are usually built on #4 and #6 light wire hooks with the corresponding lead weight molded on the front of the hook. A fishing buddy of mine from Mississippi uses this technique exclusively. He believes that this technique is good for all two phases of a crappie’s life: pre-spawn and post-spawn. He will use his jug pole as he is trolling an area looking for the fish. Depending on the season, he is assisted by his electronics. Finding structure and marking the fish as well as constant monitoring of the water temperature makes his electronics a very valuable asset. 

The crappie jig will work on a cane pole and I know of people who use cane poles for slow trolling, but I prefer the jig pole.

When it comes to crappie fishing with minnows, I’d rather have my seasoned cane pole. I usually use this technique when the spawn is happening and I have located the areas. I will anchor up on the edge of the spawning area and use a rather lengthy cane pole to drop the minnow quietly into the zone. Let the mayhem begin! 

I have had the pleasure of crappie fishing on Lake Seminole in Marianna with an old soul who has since passed on. We would get a very early start so that we could be first in line at the bait shop to purchase our minnows. Once on the water, he would ease his old Kennedy Craft up on fallen logs next to the spot. We would then deploy about six cane poles each. Every cane pole was equipped just as I mentioned. We were usually culling fish after the second or third hour of fishing.

How To: Weather

The spring crappie spawn offers the best opportunity to catch fish in shallow water. The fish are hitting at anything moving into their spawning territory. They’re not really feeding, but just protecting their beds from predators. Jigs of all colors and live minnows will perform well once you have located the spawning area. 

March weather is something that needs to be considered when looking for spawning crappie. A cold front that sweeps through our area and drops the water temperature will cause the fish to adjust their spawning areas to match the water temperature needed to spawn. Sometimes they will be in deeper water during the spawn to adjust for the cold front. The deeper water may only be 6 inches to 3 feet deep, but the fish will find the temperature consistency that allows the spawning to continue. 

The other weather consideration is the March winds. Don’t be hard-headed and try to make the much-needed subtle presentation while battling the wind-blown part of the lake. Move to calmer water and start your search for crappie. The crappie will move around a lot in the springtime until they spawn. Be flexible and make the necessary adjustments to ensure a successful crappie fishing trip. 

Until next time, good fishing and God bless.