“Okay”, said Matt Loetscher, “we’re on top of the brush pile. Drop your shiner straight down and you ought to get a bite.”
Loetscher’s comment was directed at me and I did exactly what he suggested. The shiner had no sooner descended to the brush pile when I felt the bite. Setting the hook, I hauled the chunky crappie to Loetscher’s waiting landing net.
This was one of more than 40 crappie our party of four outdoor communicators hauled aboard in little more than two hours of fishing Toledo Bend recently.
We were there at the invitation of Johnny Wessler, Executive Director of Louisiana North, a marketing coalition for 29 parishes in north Louisiana.
Our trip to Toledo Bend was the final leg of our four-lake excursion across north Louisiana.
We visited lakes Claiborne, Caney, and Caddo in October with Toledo Bend scheduled next on the docket. However, flooding rains postponed our trip to the Bend until a few weeks ago and thanks to Living the Dream guide service, guide Matt Loetscher in particular, we were exposed to one of the hottest tickets in this part of the country, that being catching Toledo Bend crappie hand over fist.
Loetscher is one of eight full-time guides working for Living the Dream and he is one of the best. We fished over planted brush Loetscher had placed in strategic locations around the lake and at each stop, the crappie were cooperative.
“Generally throughout the summer, the brush piles will produce for us. We cut a bunch of trees, willows and sweet gums in particular, and the fish really relate to this cover we provide. These two species of trees have plenty of foliage and provide cover and shade for the crappie. The brush draws bait fish and this concentrates the crappie into small areas,” said Loetscher.
The brush piles are not randomly dropped into the lake requiring incidental location of the piles. As each tree is lowered into the lake anchored by a concrete block with empty plastic jugs at the top of each tree to cause it to stand upright, a GPS (global positioning system) mark is put on each top so that guides can put clients right on top of each brush pile.
“Some folks like to use Christmas trees as cover to attract crappie, and these work okay. However, the trees we use – we’ll build as many as 200 brush piles a year – have lots of natural foliage which tends to stay on the brush for a long time,” Loetscher said.
The trolling motor Loetscher uses has a GPS system built into it and while the guide is busy keeping hooks baited and netting fish, the trolling motor keeps the boat on top of the brush pile.
How does Loetscher know where to place his brush piles? Are they dropped randomly into the lake with the outside chance crappie will find them?
“I do lots of research, spend hours studying topographic maps and I spend time graphing with my sonar and imaging to find areas more likely to attract fish. If I find a spot where there are some fish hanging around natural cover such as stumps or brush, I’ll enhance that spot with the brush I plant there,” Loetscher said.
In spring, crappie are attracted to shallow water where spawning takes place. However once the spawn is done, the fish migrate to deeper water looking for shade and shelter where there is plenty of forage to help them recover from the rigors of the spawn.
Loetscher and the other guides at Living the Dream guide service work hard to provide a good fishing experience for clients. It must work because last year, Toledo Bend gave up 45,000 crappie credited to clients served by the guide service. See www.ltdguideservice.com for info.