Crappie fishing in Mississippi is alive and well, and often we fish with a buddy, a fishing partner. I enjoy a day on the lake when I share it with a fishing buddy more than I enjoy fishing by myself. Don't you?

Let's put this in the context of fishing tournaments. I like to tournament fish, and every crappie tournament I've ever been in was a team event. A good partnership is the first thing that makes for a good, successful day on T-Day.

What makes a good fishing team? I'm not asking why some teams win tournaments and some teams don't. I'm asking more about what makes for a good, fun time on the water during tournament time.

I feel qualified to answer my own question here. I have had really good tournament partners, and I've had some who were mismatches and only temporary. First and foremost, a good partner pulls his part of the load.

Sharing the work load is vital. To me, things like pre-fishing, boat and gear prep and maintenance, and tournament-day duties should be shared equally. The actual catching of fish on tournament day is only part of the whole picture. There is much work to be done to get to that point.

This is a team sport, and, if you're new to it, I suggest you pitch in and do your part. Don't you dare sit back and let your partner buy all the gas, tie on all the hooks, load the minnows, clean the boat, load and unload the boat, cull the fish or cash the checks. Do your part. Don't be scared to jump in there and contribute. The last thing a team needs is a silent partner.

 

Stressful

Rather than being fun, it can be stressful if one team member feels his partner is not doing his part. And I'm not talking about catching fish. Both team members have to understand what their respective roles are in the boat on tournament day.

It should be understood that there is only one captain and there is only one grunt or deck hand on T-Day. Both have duties. Don't confuse roles with relative importance. There isn't any such thing. One is not more important than the other. They're just different and vital roles.

I've learned over the years that I make a terrible grunt. Forgive the double negative, but I don't like not being captain. Just ask my previous partners.

I've had partners (for a very short time) where our differences in personalities or fishing skills or communication styles didn't work. I didn't say there shouldn't be differences in the two partners. I certainly don't need two of me in the boat on T-Day. I need a partner with whom I can work and fish. One who shares the same drive, motivation, and who is flexible and forgiving enough to overlook my weaknesses or when I miss that big one.

Look, I admit I'm hard to live with. On tournament day, I tend to take charge. I give orders (nicely at first), and don't ask for much fishing input from my partner. Don't really want any to be honest with you, unless I feel he knows something I don't.

I've had partners with whom I've lost patience because they didn't know how to use a spinning reel or raise the outboard or use a push pole or who failed to get the net for a big fish. All faults I can live with, if the effort to learn how is there.

I've had irritating partners who mumbled or talked too softly to hear above the wind and the waves. Man, if you want to tell me something, speak up. I'm not hard of hearing yet, but you're behind me looking the other way and the wind is blowing 20 mph or the outboard is running or the waves are banging into the boat. I can't hear you, speak up!

When I was a kid, my daddy kicked my butt plenty of times because I mumbled a reply back to him. Sorry, but that is most irritating to me.

I've had temporary partners who spent the day worrying about the clutter or layout of the equipment in my boat. Some people are neat freaks, some of us are not. Partner, spend your day trying to catch a fish if you're on my boat, not re-arranging my tackle box.

And don't criticize my favorite jig pole or my favorite lure. They may be different from anything you've ever used, but if they're catching fish, try learning something instead of making bad jokes to everyone in ear shot about my 8-foot jig poles and my baby crawdads and my crawdad oil. I like 'em - a lot. Hey, and look, there's another one. Get the net.

On T-Day I don't like partners who go brain-dead on me or quit trying. Wake up, partner. If you see me catching fish 12 feet deep and you're fishing 15 feet deep and not catching fish, change to the depth or lure or tactic that's working.

If you can't catch fish from the back of the boat, move to the front.

Ask questions, stay alert, get in the game and stay in the game. And would you mind getting the dip net the next time I catch a good tournament-size fish?

 

Good partner

I've had some really good partners over the years, too. Previous tournament partners who come to mind that fit my definition of a "good partner" were Morris King, Elmo Lyons, Charlie Henry and Harvey Johnson.

My current, fishing partner of several years, Gil Woodis, is one of the best fishing/tournament partners I've had. Although vastly different in temperament, communications styles and personality, Gil and I find a way to make it work on T-Day. We've grown to tolerate one another and to depend on one another.

Basically, Gil, like the other "good partners" before him, allows me to be captain on T-Day, and he totes his part of the load. We don't win any tournaments, and that's becoming less and less important to us. We do have a good time when we go to the lake. We try to do our best. We overlook each other's weaknesses and irritating habits, and we're still friends at the end of the day.

A good fishing partner is hard to find. Come on, partner, let's go catch one as big as they grow.