Tim Ridley and Lynn Gilliam
show off the fruits of a good day of fishing.
Who would have thought Tim Ridley and Lynn
Gilliam, both handsome enough fellows, nevertheless, would
have ended up on the cover of a magazine; or that Pam
Robertson would have kissed a fish long after she found
her Prince Charming. Yet Pam doesn't dispute the smooch
bestowed upon her catch that helped net a $23,000 first
place prize in 1999's American Classic fishing tournament;
and Tim and Lynn couldn't have worn happier smiles on the
cover of Crappie Journal's 2002 winter issue as they
displayed a check for $50,000 that was only part of their
winnings from the September 28, 2002 Crappie U.S.A.
Classic - the Super Bowl of fishing - in which they were
the national champions.
Both born and raised in McKenzie, champion fishermen Tim
and Lynn have found a little bit of heaven-on-earth in
their aquatic perches, surrounded by nature's best beauty.
The comfort of their retreat has increased over the years
from rustic aluminum fishing boats to the sparkling new
custom Ranger model - complete with a huge Evinrude motor
- that was another slice of the national championship
winnings. The new boat is just one of the boats the team
has won over the past eleven years of tournament fishing.
Tim's dad, Richard Ridley, finally got his own taste of
the new craft last Tuesday when he and Tim ventured to Big
Sandy for a day of fishing.
"He's been having a fit ever since I got it four weeks
ago, he's been just dying to get in it," grinned Tim, who
claimed the custom-made boat as a portion of his winnings.
Tim credits his dad with giving him his start in fishing
as a youth while Lynn says, "My dad (Jerry Gilliam) and
uncles always took me fishing."
Lynn went to high school in Trezevant ("Back when there
was a Trezevant High school," he says, "The Blue Devils
got put down.") while Tim attended McKenzie High School.
Tim married hometown girl Pam Robertson and Lynn married
Janice Lankford from nearby Henry. The Ridleys have two
daughters, Brooke and Candace, and the Gilliams are the
parents of Jeremy, Kayla, and April.
Similarly aged, 42-year-old Tim was born on August 25 and
Lynn, at 44, was born on August 11. That they share their
birth month was somehow only recently realized. "No wonder
we don't get along; we're both Leo's; we fight for turf,"
joked Lynn, after which Tim informed him he was a Virgo.
The good-humored interchange is characteristic of the
bright-eyed banter that sets the tone for the successful
team and close friends.
Both men work in the engineering department of the
Department of Transportation office in McKenzie. They kick
their job descriptions around a bit, discussing surveying
and inspections, before agreeing, "We make sure the roads
are built according to state specifications."
Getting to know each other on the job, the two discovered
they both had an interest in fishing and around 1986 began
fishing together and setting out crappie mats or beds to
enhance their luck.
Lynn explains the mats are made mostly of wood, brush,
treetops or stakes. "Fish relate to structure," he says.
Tim expounds, "It gives fish cover; fish tend to, in bad
weather, stick to cover, just like people do. Fish go to
cover to ambush bait fish, and hide to protect themselves
from other fish and sunlight."
Lynn continues the duo's patient lesson on fish behavior.
"When it's pretty they get out and mingle just like we do
- on high pressure days."
"When it's a low pressure day, you catch more," Tim
finishes, provoking Lynn's laughter. "That didn't hold
It seems Tim's trip with his dad netted "only" 20 fish in
three and a half hours, a number that seems awesome to
anyone who has experienced fruitless hours in fishing.
Not to Tim and Lynn, who are so skilled at their enjoyable
hobby that in 1992 they decided to enter their first
tournament, winning sixth place in the Crappie U.S.A.
Classic at Douglas Lake.
Their appetite whetted, their success waned in successive
tournaments until they learned the real secret of success:
relax, have a good time, and pray.
"When we relax more, we work easier," says one. "That's
when we really started to fish, when we started having
fun," says the other.
But pray about fishing? Why not, when the Bible teaches to
pray without ceasing, and when one recalls it was Jesus
who advised the disciples to cast their net off the right
side off the boat, whereupon they caught so many fish they
could not haul them onto the boat, and especially when one
learns that, for Tim and Lynn, fishing is simply an
extension of their faith.
"We're thankful that the Lord has blessed us with the
ability to fish; he's blessed us so much over the last
eleven years in tournaments," Lynn says, "It makes it so
much more enjoyable to be fishing knowing you're
surrounded by His creation; you see it through different
eyes... There's no telling where we'd be without Him
that's for sure."
"Amen brother," Tim agrees, "There's no telling how many
times we've sat out there and asked for His blessing...
It's just like it's meant to be; His will for us, to fish
together and do good and hope we influence other lives in
a positive way."
By 1999, the two were on the upswing in the tournament
arena. They fished against each other in the American
Classic, Tim teaming with his wife Pam and Lynn pairing
off with his uncle James Gilliam. It was Pam's fine catch
that made the difference as she and Tim won first place by
23/100 of a pound at the end of the two-day tournament.
"He was bumping my back door that day!" laughs Tim, as
Lynn and James placed second in the event.
Lynn one-ups that tale by reporting he and Tim have missed
first place by four hundredths of a pound more than once,
which Tim agrees is a sobering experience when they head
for the scales expecting to win.
Contestants take their top ten fish to the scale, with the
heaviest catch winning. They are allowed to take home up
to 30 fish each, which adds up to some good eating.
Tim and Lynn's primary fishing style is what is known as
"vertical with jigs".
"There are a lot of different techniques in crappie
fishing," Lynn explains. "We have our style and other
folks have theirs," Tim continues in typical tandem as the
two continue their lesson in fishing.
"We fish a lot of different lakes in different states;
there are a lot of different styles that work," says Lynn,
"and sometimes you have to convert your style in different
The two convert to the "trolling method" using jigs and
minnows when necessary, and sometimes, Tim says, "in some
lakes we go back to the way we were brought up fishing -
the old cane pole style of fishing. That's probably how
both started out."
Lynn demonstrates the "tube jigs" that are their first
choice in bait. A fishhook with a small, brightly colored
and big-eyed head is paired with interchangeable,
multicolored jelly-plastic tubes with fringed bottoms that
are, in the right color combinations, apparently
irresistible to crappie.
Experience, water quality, time of year and water depth
all play a factor, the two agree, but, Tim laughs, "Mostly
you use what you hear people are catching them on."
While the duo once fished throughout the year, their
winter and summer fishing has been curtailed by the
demands of family life and, the two joke, advancing years.
"We like to go to the kids' ballgames," they say.
"There's a lot of good fishing that time of year though,"
Tim says, "A lot of people think crappie fishing is only
good in the spring when the fish run shallow, but it's
really year round; you just have to change your tactics
for catching them and for different methods of fishing."
Lynn resumes his teaching mode, "Crappie run shallow to
spawn; what we call shallow is spawning water."
Biologists, he says, say fish must lay their eggs in water
six feet deep or less in order for them to hatch. "They've
got to have sunlight," he explains.
In the winter, Tim says, lake levels go down by five feet
from summer time levels, so that in the spring when the
water overflows the shallower banks, fish go up to lay
"We used to love to go break the ice and go fishing in the
winter," Tim says with a rueful grin, "I'm afraid we're at
the age now where our mind wants to but our body won't
cooperate... It gets to where a little dab'll do you."
In recent years the two have expanded their winter
sporting repertoire increasingly toward duck hunting. Tim,
admitting he is definitely hooked, laughingly goes through
the motions of reeling Lynn in as well.
"What's more fun than sitting there eating and hunting,"
the two agree. Having heat in the blinds is another cold
Tim is the official cook in the duck blinds, and Lynn says
he wouldn't have it any other way, declaring even his
mother's game-cooking recipes don't compare to Tim's
In fact, Tim's cooking may be the primary motive for the
duck hunting exploits as the two declare they prefer
hunting on lakes and flooded fields close to home rather
than heading north for bigger hunts.
"I'd rather stay around here and kill a few than go off
and kill a bunch," Tim says.
But for now, it's spring! And on the lake is where you'll
find Tim and Lynn, having the time of their life in God's