A group of outdoor writers, pro crappie anglers and fishing industry reps came together February 1st through the 3rd at Hontoon Landing Resort and Marina on Hontoon Island, FL to take part in Whitey Outlaw’s 2014 St. Johns River Writer’s Camp. Outdoor writers from several states, pro anglers from as far away as Indiana and industry reps from as far away as Minnesota, came to participate in the event that focused on crappie fishing.
“The camp is all about spreading the good news about crappie fishing,” said camp organizer Whitey Outlaw. Outlaw has been a pro crappie angler for many years and has experienced numerous changes to the sport. “I started fishing as a kid on Santee Cooper in South Carolina with my grandfather and my dad. We fished in little 12- to 14-foot jon boats. Our equipment was 10- to 12-foot cane poles and old-timey yellow corks with a number 2 hook and a small weight mashed on the line.”
Crappie fishing has changed a lot according to Whitey and he wants to be a part of educating the public on the changes and how those changes help folks catch more crappie. “Crappie fishing is a sport that the whole family can enjoy and it has really moved forward a lot.”
“The equipment today is top notch,” says Outlaw. “Products like those from Humminbird, Minn Kota, B’n’M Poles, TTI Blakemore, Vicious Fishing Line, Driftmaster Rod Holders, Midsouth Tackle, Lucus Oil, Yeti Coolers, Reel Adrenaline and Rockport Rattlers are all coming to market to help us catch more fish and make our crappie fishing more enjoyable.” The companies he mentions are all sponsors of the writing camp, signifying their support for growing the sport of crappie fishing.
The camp was organized to pair up writers, anglers, and industry reps during each of six separate fishing and writing sessions conducted on the St. Johns River. Product demos, crappie catching tips and techniques, and anything related to crappie fishing were fair game at the camp.
Outdoor writers are king at these camps. The anglers and the industry reps beckon to their every call. “The writers are the captains of the boat,” Outlaw instructed the group. “When they need a photo, stop and get it. When they have a question, stop an answer it. What ever they need, that is what we are here for.”
One of the participants, Dan Dannenmueller, spoke for most of the participants when he said, “I would like to see the sport grow so it has recognition by all people, especially kids and families. I would like to see crappie fishing become mainstream instead of just being a little sport.”
Dannenmueller’s fishing partner, Garrett Steele, agrees. “Crappie fishing seems to have a stigma or reputation that it doesn’t deserve. It is a fun sport for anyone, not just retirees that go out there and crappie fish. I would like to make it cool and hip for young people too. It is all about education and letting people know about the sport and how much fun it can be.”
Steele went on to give the example of B.A.S.S. “Everyone knows about B.A.S.S. There is so much money, so much visibility, everyone knows about that. We want them to know about crappie fishing too. We can all relate to growing up and fishing as little kids. The first thing we were catching were not bass, it was sunfish, perch, crappie and other panfish. We need to get the word out on how much fun and how challenging crappie fishing is.”
Events like this gathering may do just that. The result of the camp was tons of photos, videos, and story material for the writers that will filter into the public domain to tell the story of crappie fishing, including what’s new and how to use it to catch more fish.
The real winners in this endeavor will be the fishing public as they learn from the emerging stories how crappie fishing can be a fun part of their outdoor adventures.
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