SALINE/LARTO COMPLEX —Randy
Hulin's crawfish-red Ragin' Cajun 205 bass boat is
still moving forward as he lowers his trolling motor
into the water.
A grove of cypress trees stands 100
yards to his right, and another group is located several
hundred yards to his left. In the middle of those groves
sit five or six boats filled with fishermen.
Across the way, there are another
20 boats trolling next to a deep-water channel with
many more boats racing toward some unseen destination.
It appears most are doing more running than fishing.
Hulin, though, doesn't pay attention
to the others as he positions his boat in between the
two groves in the open flat.
The boat's forward progress is slowed
with a series of short bursts from his Motor Guide
trolling motor before he ever bends over and picks
up his rod and reel. He gives his depth finder a cursory
glance, adjusts the depth of his cork and then picks
up a small acrylic bottle from his tackle box.
Taking his watermelon-seed
tube jig, he inserts a small nozzle into the jig
and fills it
with Berkley Crappie Nibbles, using his invention called
The Bait Pump — a soft bait injection system
that is catching on like wildfire.
With his jig oozing squashed crappie
nibbles, he cast it toward the open water.
All he needs is a couple of twitches
of his rod tip to entice the large white perch to take
the jig, and the fight is on. Expertly, he reels in
his hefty catch and lifts it into his bass boat. The
hunter has found his prey.
The "Pump" was
invented to mash crappie nibbles, catfish dough or
bait, like shrimp or crawfish, and shoot the paste
into soft plastics like tube jigs, plastic worms or
His uncle had gotten him hooked on
the nibbles three years earlier, but the only problem
was for every crappie caught, one to three nibbles
ended up in the bottom of the boat since the fish shook
The constant mess became more than
his wife, Anna, could stand when it came time to clean
"She wasn't a happy camper," said
Hulin. "So, in order to continue using the nibbles
and to keep peace at home, I had to come up with something
that would get them into the jigs with the least amount
"Nothing worked well, due to
the high viscosity of the nibbles, unless they were
watered down to the point of being so thin they wouldn't
last very long," he said. "Then, I had the
chance to help a friend in Jena design and machine
duck calls made from acrylic. This opportunity opened
the door to his designing of The Bait Pump."
He made a few and tested them in secret
(he didn't even tell Anna at first) to make sure it
worked. When it became apparent his pump worked, he
quickly moved to secure a patent.
"There would be days I would
be catching when others weren't," he said. "I
made and gave away 10 pumps to family and friends,
and it immediately improved their catch where they
otherwise would have struggled."
Word spread quickly and Hulin's pump
(www.thebaitpump.com) quickly became the rave amongst
a growing corps of family, neighbors and friends. And
slowly, but surely, word about the pump is getting
out to others.
The slight breeze pushes the boat
toward the cypress trees, but Hulin quickly brings
it back into the stump field with a few bursts from
his trolling motor. He checks the jig to make sure
it is still filled with nibbles and with a flick of
his wrist, he casts his jig back into the flat. Within
moments, he is reeling in another crappie, slightly
bigger than the first.
"Looks can be deceiving," said
Hulin, a manufacturing engineer at Dresser Industries. "This
appears to be open water, but actually there are hundreds
of stumps just below the surface. The white perch love
to hang out around these stumps.
"By injecting the nibbles into
the jigs, it entices the fish to hold on to them longer," he
said. "When others are having a hard time getting
the fish to even bite, we are catching … maybe
not a limit every time … but we are catching."
As proof, he unhooks the perch, flips
it into the livewell, checks his jig, and casts back
into almost the same spot. The action is repeated time
and again as he expertly maneuvers his bass boat through
the maze of stumps.
A quick survey of the area shows no
one else around. Whether it is frustration or impatience
with a lack of action, the other boats have moved deeper
into the Saline-Larto Complex attempting to locate
pockets of fish.
complex, which borders the 60,276-acre Dewey Wills
Wildlife Management Area,
is a maze of lakes, bayous, sloughs and swamps — ideal
for producing and catching white and black crappie.
Names like Saline Bayou, Big Creek,
Muddy Bayou, Nolan's Bayou, Duck Bayou, Open Mouth
Bayou, Shad Lake, Cross Bayou and Fool's Bayou are
rallying points for thousands of avid crappie fishermen
who flock to the complex year round from around the
state and all over the country.
It is considered one of the best crappie
lakes, as is evidenced by the huge numbers caught annually.
Once an avid bass fisherman and deer
hunter, Hulin devotes most of his free time from October
to May to hunting for 'slabs.' They are also known
as white perch, crappie or sac-a-lait depending on
where one lives.
He calls Saline-Larto home waters,
but he travels across the state with Anna, his wife
of 26 years, and a few close friends in pursuit of
"We've been to the lakes all
around here, as well as, Toledo Bend, Lake Claiborne
and Lake D'Arbonne," he said. "I'm planning
on taking Anna and some friends of ours to Poverty
Point in May, and I hope to make it down to the Atchafalaya
Basin before it gets too hot."
On their trip
to D'Arbonne in March, the Hulins and seven other
couples caught 607 white
perch in three days. The biggest white perch or 'slab'
tipped the scales at 2.10 pounds while the smallest
was 1¼ pounds.
"It was the most amazing fishing
trip I've ever been on," said Hulin, who has been
pursuing white perch regularly for the past 17 years. "It
was misty and cold, and we were catching fish virtually
on every cast. I started out keeping fish that were
a half pound or better, but I soon realized we really
didn't need to keep anything under a pound."
"During the summer (mid-June)
and early fall (mid-October), I fish saltwater with
my cousin in Lake Charles," he said. "A lot
of people continue to fish for white perch on through
the summer, but not me.
"In the summer, you don't catch
them in big numbers," he said. "My favorite
time begins at the end of October and runs through
to the end of May, possibly mid-June. From mid-October
until the end of January, we usually do real well with
jig poles. It - jig pole fishing -- usually peaks around
will "do what I got
to do to catch crappie," he prefers using his
rod and reel. It is more flexible and allows him to
cover more ground.
"My two favorite times of the
year come in late December, when the bigger fish move
into the deep channels chasing the shad, and at the
end of February when they move into the bushes to spawn," he
While everyone is running the bayous
and sloughs of Saline-Larto, he kicks back, waiting.
"There is always a two-week lull
following the spawn," said Hulin. "People
have their days. A friend of mine, Frank Costantino,
caught 50 the other day, but that's the exception,
not the rule.
"The fish are already moving
into the flats in 10 to four feet of water feeding
on the crawfish and the shads. Within another week
or two, they can be found on the edge of the lily pads," he
said. "There are a lot of people using shiners,
but I strictly use jigs. I hate fooling with shiners."
There are many crappie experts in
a state overflowing with bodies of water filled with
this prolific fish, including such well-known fishermen
as Bobby Phillips of West Monroe, J.B Salter of Baton
Rouge, Laurette Mequette of Henderson and David McFaul
Yet, few can get folks "pumped" up
like this "Slab Hunter" can. Where he goes,
people follow, because they know that's where the
© The Alexandria Town Talk
April 21, 2004