Writing a column about crappie fishing in August is a tough assignment for me. Y’all know I don’t like fishing in hot weather, and August is about as hot as it gets around these parts. Even under the shade tree at Ross Barnett’s Fannin Landing, temps after mid-morning are intolerable to me.

OK, I admit it: I wouldn’t do well if I had to work for a living in the outdoors this time of the year. I have a great respect for those of you who do. Stay hydrated, and let the younger folks tote the load.

My dear, departed father-in-law, Boots Herndon of Verona, made a living his entire life running a chain saw for the local power company. Boots was tuff as nails, friend. He’d just grab another gear when conditions got tough. I can see him now, grinning from ear to ear, sweat-soaked all over, steel hard hat and gloves, and a huge chain saw purring away.

Boots, who wasn’t much of a fisherman, went on a fishing trip or two with me. We were at Chotard one summer, and the gar were biting. Boots had never seen a gar before, and he watched intently as I unhooked the first gar I caught with our one and only pair of pliers.

It wasn’t long until Boots had his first gar on his line. That jumping, writhing, toothy fish had ole Boots buffaloed for a while. I watched as Boots tried to figure out just how to grab hold of this never-before-seen monster from the deep.

Finally, I said to Boots, “Leave the fish outside of the boat, in the water and use these pliers. Grab the hook with the pliers and shake the gar off.”

With pliers in one hand and the fishing line with a 3-foot gar on it in the other hand, Boots proceeded to try to follow my suggestion. He pulled the fish alongside the boat and reached down with the pliers to grab the hook.

Of course the gar jumped straight up at Boot’s face and startled him. “Expletive!” yelled Boots as he jumped back, and turned loose both the fish and the pliers at the same time.

There was dead silence as Boots peered over the side of the boat into 30-foot-deep Chotard water.

“What are you looking for, Boots?” I finally asked.

“Those danged pliers — we’re going to need them!” he said.

“Well you dropped them,” I said. “Looks like you’re going to have to go swimming, Boots.”

“The heck, you say — not with them toothy critters swimming around down there,” he retorted.

It was bothering Boots that he had lost my pliers, and he kept peering overboard into that deep, dark water.

“Well, I guess I’m going in after ‘em,” he finally said.

“Hey, Boots, hope you can hold your breath a long time,” I said.

“Why?” he asked.

“Well, it’s only 30 feet to the bottom,” I told him.

“What? Never mind. I’ll buy you some more pliers when we get back to town,” Boots promised.

September is finally here

I know it’s hot in September, too, but it’s not long until that first breath of cooler weather whispers in. And, the Magnolia Crappie Club’s first tournament of the new season is in September.

Let me tell you about it.

What has become our biggest turnout tournament of the season, our Grenada Big Mama Open, will be held on Sept. 21.

The team catching the heaviest white perch wins the prize money. See www.magnoliacrappieclub.com for tournament details and payouts.

Look, in the world of crappie tournament fishing, the MCC Big Mama Open is a big deal. This year, the tournament has gained a valuable new sponsor. Grenada’s Tourism Bureau is the newest in a long line of sponsors.

West Point, Mississippi-based B’n’M Fishing also is a big supporter, giving out lots of door prizes and offering $500 bonus bucks if the winning crappie is caught on a B’nM pole.

Same deal with Sardis-based crankbaits: Catch the heaviest crappie on a Bandit crankbait, and earn yourself an extra $500 bonus.

We had 11 states represented by over 70 teams last September, and everyone seemed to have a great time, win or lose. MCC will host a free BBQ on Friday night for tournament competitors lakeside under the main pavilion at Grenada Landing.

Fall cranking

I love the fall season — absolutely love it. Why? In my humble opinion, pulling crankbaits work better in the fall compared to any other season. Stable weather — not too hot, not too cold — limited windy conditions.

And the shad migrate into fewer and more-concentrated areas, meaning the concentration of white perch becomes much greater, too.

Don’t be afraid to try different lures. I own more crankbaits than any 10 fishermen you know, and I’m constantly looking for something new. And, I don’t get anything free. I have no sponsors. I don’t wear any fancy “pro staff” shirts.

In other words, I buy every crankbait I use. That also means that when I tell you a particular crankbait is good, you can trust that I know from personal experience just how good I’ve found it to be. I am no one’s “spokesman.” Got it?

This year, I’ve become a huge fan of the Academy Sports private-label crank — what they call H2O X-Press. Model S, Model M, Model D are the various depths you can get. The colors are all good, and the bait is a quality-built lure. I’ve fished over 100 different X-Presses, and all run straight and true right out of the box.

And, I bought most of mine for $2.49 a piece or less — caught them on sale and loaded up, friend.

I change the hooks to red trebles on all my cranks — regardless of the brand, size or running depth. I paint a red gill plate on every bait if it doesn’t already have one. I doctor here and there with mostly Sharpie pens and/or cheap fingernail polish. I’m big on reds, oranges, glitter and white.

Don’t get me wrong: Bandit Lures are still one of my favorites. And I love me a Wiggle Wart when the water gets cooler and muddier. Oh, and medium-running, jointed Cotton Cordell lures worked great this past June — love those odd ball, jointed baits.

Get ready, folks. The best time of the year to crappie fish is upon us. Come to the Grenada Big Mama Open on Sept. 21 and catch you one as big as they grow.