He called it "venture fishing." I called it a few choice words I can't write here. But before me lay an extremely, thick tangle of small, long branches sticking atop the water from a submerged, major artery of a tree. The trick of the moment was getting a small, 2-inch, white/chartreuse-tail Wedgetail Minnow somewhere in a hole in the thicket with a very light, sensitive, fragile fly rod 8 1/2 feet long.
Without getting hung up on the branches or breaking the rod.
"Just pull the bait up almost to the first guide at the top, and hold the slack with your left hand," said 66-year-old Glynn Lavergne of Savoy. "Then point the rod tip in an open area and start letting some of that slack drop into the thicket."
I thought to myself that this is familiar - sorta like flippin' into the thick stuff for bass.
I did as he Lavergne instructed, and felt a telltale tap and immediately set the hook.
Suddenly feeling the moving heaviness associated with a good bite, I was perilously worried about hauling it out of the thicket without losing the fish or damaging the rod.
Fortunately, the fish's flapping maneuvered its body through the limbs to where I could lift the rod with my free hand and hoist the 1 1/2-pounder into the boat.
"Man, that'll fillet well!" I told Lavergne.
"Let's catch some more while they're biting," he replied.
And we did.
Our trip to the Grimmett Canal in the upper Atchafalaya Basin was a rare one, but I had been there the day before to take pictures and interview hunters during the youth squirrel hunt. I had watched hungrily as anglers and kids were coming out with a few slab sac-a-lait.
To observe their fish is one thing, but to catch them is another.
Of course, no secrets were offered. And I knew not to tempt anglers to lie by asking.
Why even bother?
The answer always is, "Just a few," anyway. That's what we all say to such a question.
But not to worry - I called Lavergne on my cell, as I was pretty confident he would figure it out on the next day.
So on the next morning, we were on the waters of the Grimmett.
Long story short, we caught many more slabs than any of the other boats the day before.
We kept 15 big, luscious white crappie — the largest of which was 2 pounds.
And that’s why Lavergne is known as a crappie master in parts of Evangeline and St. Landry parishes.
He figures them out in a hurry.
His understanding of how to catch crappie is based on years spent on the water. Lavergne proved how efficient an angler he is in 1989 by putting together a massive stringer of fish while fishing Miller’s Lake in Evangeline Parish.
I’ll never forget the day the newspaper I worked for at the time printed a fishing report out of Miller’s Lake in Evangeline Parish. Someone had accomplished the feat of catching 16 sac-a-lait weighing over 42 pounds at the lake’s landing.
Heck, that’s 2.6 pounds per fish.
Of course, I dismissed this report as an embellished stringer, published my misgivings within the newspaper report.
You know how we fishermen are: We turn a 12-incher into a 3-yarder.
Two days later my phone rang.
"Hey, I’m the guy who caught those sac-a-lait that you said were a stretch," the man on the other end of the line said. "And I am here to tell you it happened — and I have the pictures to prove it."
"Who are you?" I asked immediately.
"Chris, this is your cousin, Glynn Lavergne!" he exclaimed.
At that point, I took the report much more seriously, and asked him about weights of individual fish.
I verified all of the information with Ville Platte’s Dickie Fontenot, the recently deceased landing manager at Miller’s Lake.
Lavergne had taken four sac-a-lait over 3 pounds — his largest weighing in at 3 3/4 pounds.
When I asked Lavergne what he did with those fish, he responded, "I ate them."
All I could do was shake my head, since several of those crappie would have made the top 10 in the Louisiana Gamefish Records kept by the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association.
Lavergne had taken those huge Miller’s Lake sac-a-lait by jigging tubes into duck blinds recently vacated at the end of the duck season. He also found several great fish in the buttonwood thickets.
For those not in the know, Miller’s Lake in Evangeline Parish is 2,000 acres, and is available to the public for a small launch fee — but not during the state’s duck seasons.
Three major structure types exist for this lake’s February crappie population: buttonwoods, roseaus and tupelo gum trees.
But this crappie master said one of these structure types is a better place to start than the other two.
"At Miller’s Lake in February, I would certainly encourage anglers to first go and start casting with a small, cigar peg float in the tupelos there," Lavergne said. "Keep working each tupelo tree north to south in the shallow areas. Also, many people do not work the east side of structure, but I do. So you want to cast toward the east side of tupelos as well.
"Then after fishing the tupelos, but I would focus on the roseaus. You want to first cast as near as you can, but during the spawn in late February and March you can vertically jig in these."
Portions of Lavergne’s large stringer of sac-a-lait were also taken in the buttonwoods, where anglers should first start by casting near the structure with a small float above the tube. If that doesn’t work, slabs could be spawning, which means the interior should be probed by jigging vertically.
Directions to the lake: Take Highway 167-N from Ville Platte (it’s the road to Chicot Lake), and then turning left (west) on Highway 376 (Miller’s Lake Road). Then turn right on the South Launch Road to the launch site.