Skip to main content

Southern Charmed at Reelfoot Lake

Southern Charmed at Reelfoot Lake

Reelfoot Lake is a great symbol of southern culture. Its bald cypress trees — the last standing in this Tennessee swamp — are hardy, just like so many of the people here and in Mississippi and Louisiana and throughout the rest of Dixie. The lake's bottom is as sticky as Gulf Coast gumbo, and will suck you in, like the hospitality of a good southern mama.

Lead_DSC0148

But it is also wild. A place where giant blinds with satellite TV, kitchens and couches inside — all the amenities of home — can get burned to the ground if you mistakenly blow a call at your neighbor's swing ducks. There are stories of men getting shot over mallards, and some still avoid taking young hunters to Reelfoot because you just never know when a local is going to lose his temper with a clueless weekender.

The experience is all very southern, from the niceties of the waitresses, fried hushpuppies and sweet tea at The Pier restaurant, to the exuberance of long-time duck and fishing guide Jackie Wayne Van Cleave.


Mallard_DSC0131


"The more I come here, the more I fall in love and respect the south and people who live here," said a fellow hunter in town for a few days of chasing fowl. "Sure, there are people here that are lazy and dishonest just like anyplace else. But you won't find a larger concentration of folks who work this hard and take so much pride in what they do."

Enter Jackie Wayne. He grew up in Samburg, on the banks of Reelfoot, wading near the shore, collecting turtles to sell. Now in his 60s, the man has made his entire financial existence off crappie and mallards, guiding clients since he was a teenager. He still has a lot of young man in him€¦still loves every morning of the 60-day season whether the ducks are in or not.

GuideDSC_0058

"The only thing Jackie knows is work," said Banded/Avery PR man John Gordon. "This lake is how he has survived. If you took it away from him, he would die."


Van Cleave, who is sponsored by Banded and Strike King fishing lures, was found by Tommy Akin, a man who has launched many careers in the outdoor industry, at a boat show in Indianapolis when Jackie wasn't but 18 or 20 years old. He was working the show for a boat maker and ran out of fliers when Akin and fishing legend Bill Dance walked into his booth.

GroupDSC_0036

"We got to talkin' and Tommy invited me out to dinner with Bill," Jackie recalled. "It was a real swank joint and they ordered for me. When they brought out my meal, I said, 'this is the biggest danged crawfish I had ever seen!' 'Course it was a lobster, and Tommy and Bill were rollin' on the floor laughin'. Back then, I didn't know a damn thing."


PupDSC_0089

But he knew Reelfoot, and still does. We white-knuckled morning boat rides in the dark through tight cypress breaks in shallow water, but Jackie just kept singing his favorite tune and gave the mud motor a lift out of the water if we were about to cruise over hidden stumps or bogs. For Jackie, Reelfoot truly is home.

"I would bet Jackie hasn't spent more than 300 nights away from here," said Akin. "He has kin in Nashville, but it's hard to get him out of Samburg. It's where he is most comfortable."

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Franchi 12-Gauge Affinity Semiauto Shotgun

Franchi 12-Gauge Affinity Semiauto Shotgun

Craig Boddington and Eric Poole take a look at the new modern Franchi Affinity shotgun.

Swedish Duck Hunt

Swedish Duck Hunt

Kevin Steele takes part in a family driven duck hunt in Sweden.

Browning A5 Shotgun -

Browning A5 Shotgun - 'Gun Stories'

Gun Stories host Joe Mantegna talks about the origin and history of the Browning A5 shotgun.

Picking a Puppy

Picking a Puppy

Wildfowl contributor Mark Romanack shares advice about choosing your next retriever.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Waterfowl hunters must find creative ways to practice the demanding types of shooting challenges we face.7 Ways to Improve Your Shooting Skills How-To

7 Ways to Improve Your Shooting Skills

Mark Romanack

Waterfowl hunters must find creative ways to practice the demanding types of shooting...

Mallards are masters of avoiding hunting pressure.Are Mallard Ducks Becoming Nocturnal? Conservation

Are Mallard Ducks Becoming Nocturnal?

David Hart

Mallards are masters of avoiding hunting pressure.

Chef Jacques Haeringer shows you a great tasting goose legs recipe that will satisfy everybody at the dinner table.Beer-Braised Goose Legs Recipe Recipes

Beer-Braised Goose Legs Recipe

Chef Jacques Haeringer

Chef Jacques Haeringer shows you a great tasting goose legs recipe that will satisfy everybody...

We might not see anxiety or worry in our dogs, but it is there and can affect hunting ability. How Stress Affects a Dog's Hunting Ability Retriever

How Stress Affects a Dog's Hunting Ability

Tony J. Peterson

We might not see anxiety or worry in our dogs, but it is there and can affect hunting ability.

See More Trending Articles

More North America

Traveling to hunt waterfowl is no longer elitist and many of the best dream trips are surprisingly10 Surprisingly Affordable Dream Waterfowl Trips North America

10 Surprisingly Affordable Dream Waterfowl Trips

Skip Knowles - June 21, 2017

Traveling to hunt waterfowl is no longer elitist and many of the best dream trips are...

Here are five top locations for killing a pile of snows this spring.2020 Snow Goose Forecast Conservation

2020 Snow Goose Forecast

Mark Chestnut - December 27, 2019

Here are five top locations for killing a pile of snows this spring.

On the edge of the Prairie Pothole Region looms a buffetof trophy ducks on public land that hardlyNebraska: The Hidden Sand Hills North America

Nebraska: The Hidden Sand Hills

Mike Gnatkowski - February 23, 2018

On the edge of the Prairie Pothole Region looms a buffetof trophy ducks on public land that...

For a true southern green-tree experience, head down the L'Anguille River, Arkansas, and hunt with a legend. Old Man River: Duck Hunting the Arkansas Timber Stories

Old Man River: Duck Hunting the Arkansas Timber

Skip Knowles

For a true southern green-tree experience, head down the L'Anguille River, Arkansas, and hunt...

See More North America

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Wildfowl subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now