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Sportsman of the Year

The Crappie Masters Sportsman Of The Year Award

In honor of the first Sportsman of the Year Award winner John Schantz Sr.

"We honor you for your dedication to crappie fishing and the Crappie Masters tournament trail, we honor you for embodying the spirit of sportsmanship with your attitude, your friendship and your achievements on the tournament trail and with your fellow anglers.


2015sportsmenoftheyear 2015 CRAPPIE MASTERS SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR


Crappie Masters President, Mike Vallentine, says, “Sportsman of the Year is a person or team who promotes crappie fishing and is representative of what a fisherman should be. They are a good example on and off the water. They promote their sponsors.”

“When you add everything up there are always a number of teams who could win this award,” says Vallentine. “The Westerbergs are very active in crappie fishing in general. They work hard in their central Arkansas fishing club that’s been growing. They are simply good sportsmen who stay to themselves much of the time, do their own thing and do it with class. You never hear a complaint about them.”

Jason Westerberg says, “This award was totally unexpected. It means the world to me to get to fish with my father on the tournament trail. We’ve had a good time doing this and we’ve met a lot of good people. I wish more father/son teams would fish together. We try to be good sportsmen and live in a Godly way. I’m thankful people thought enough of us to give us this award.” 


2014championshipsportsmanyearweb 2014 CRAPPIE MASTERS SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR


Valentine says, “Kyle and Rodney are first and foremost good people. Secondly, they promote and help the sport of crappie fishing. And three, they help and teach others whatever they can so other fishermen can catch more fish. They work hard, seldom ask anything for themselves and are quick to help others. They are great examples of the modern day tournament crappie anglers.”

Schoenherr says, “This is something I had no clue that we might get. It’s such an honor because there are many good people here on the tour and many I feel deserve this more.”

“We didn’t expect this,” says Neuhaus. “It’s just not something a person works for, it just happens. It’s a real honor.”




The Sportsman of the Year Award went to the Power-Pole Team of Charlie and Travis Bunting. Bass Pro Shops Crappie Masters is honored to name the Buntings for this award. Charlie and Travis have helped many anglers over the course of the year and put in hours upon hours to promote crappie fishing and their sponsors everywhere they go. The Power-Pole team recently took the time to help over twenty anglers at one tournament by updating their Humminbird graphs and assisting with wiring issues on their equipment. The Buntings donate their time and expertise, without reward, tournament after tournament and lead by example on how to promote sponsors. Travis and Charlie are sponsored by Power-Pole, Vicious, Tite-Lok, Humminbird, MinnKota, Porcupine Fish Attractors, Mercury Motors, BnM Poles, and Engel Coolers.




The 2012 Bass Pro Shops Crappie Masters Sportsman of the Year award was presented to long time competitor Joe Meyer and Debbie Sosinski. The meaning of sportsman of the year is represented fully by the 2012 sportsman. Crappie Master’s President Paul Alpers says, “Joe Meyer has been instrumental in helping Crappie Masters through out the years.  Debbie Sosinski exemplifies the true meaning of the award, not only for her fight against cancer but also her determination to help others. ”

The couple have endured a lot, with Debbie battling cancer. Vice President Bobby Brown says, “You could meet them on the street with their smiles and friendliness and would not know the battles that they have fought and continue to fight.”

Not only have they handled their battles but they have taken the battle to another step. In 2012 they held a male-female team tournament for breast cancer that raised over $22,500.00. Anglers from all around came to fish and participate in the auction to raise money for battling breast cancer. This will be a yearly event. Their dedication to the sport of crappie fishing, their humanity towards others and spirit they show in their lives truly make them Sportsman of the Year. 




The decision on the 2011 Sportsman of the Year began at the very start of the 2011 season. Anglers began recommending one person for the award. Throughout the year that person was recommended many times over. More anglers came forth with their recommendation than any previous year. Month’s prior to October the angler was chosen.

The 2011 Sportsman of the Year is Ned Rutledge. Ned suffered a second stroke in September and was unable to attend the championship. He is under going therapy as this is written and he is in our thoughts and prayers.

Speaking on his behalf, his long time friend and wife, Betty Rutledge stated, “He would be so honored to receive this award. The 2011 season may of been his most enjoyable year, because of the friends that shared good times and laughed a lot together. The bonus was it all happened around crappie fishing.”

Betty went on to say, “He has a saying, ‘its all about the big one’. He would probably consider the 2010 Grenada tournament as one of his favorite because the number of big fish that week was abundant.”

Ned’s son Brandon Rutledge has fished the tournament trail and with his father. He stated, “It really is more about the people than fishing for my Dad. Dad used crappie fishing as his excuse to meet people, be around friends and make new friends. He would give up a victory in order to help a friend or stranger. “

Brandon stated, “If there was one tournament I could think of, that he would remember most, it had to be his victory at Mark Twain Lake.   Knowing the quality of anglers he faced, and coming out on top against them, was one of the highlights of his competing in tournaments and meant a lot to him. “ Brandon continued, “One thing he never does is play the excuse game. He never blamed losses or bad days on someone or something else. “

We at Crappie Masters could not agree more. Ned’s smile and laugh is contagious. His quick humor is funny. His love of people and friendships are meaningful. When Betty was asked to make a statement she said, “There is no telling what would come out of his mouth.” I could imagine that big smile, a tear as he gathered himself, then a smart remark to a friend, such as Whitey Outlaw, that he has one award that Whitey doesn’t have now. We at Crappie Masters are honored to have Ned Rutledge as our Sportsman of the Year.




The award is to recognize those that are dedicated to crappie fishing and the Crappie Masters tournament trail, embodying the spirit of sportsmanship with their attitude, their friendship and their achievements on the tournament trail and with their fellow anglers.

2009 Sportsman of the Year, Gary Yamamoto’s Bill Braswell presented the award. The Collins were shocked and speechless that they were the Bass Pro Shops Crappie Masters 2010 Sportsman of the Year recipient.  Toni thanked her husband for being a great partner in life and teaching her fishing. With a heart felt speech, Don reminisced about John Schantz Sr. and the friends he has on the trail.

“As with each past recipient, this team is what the Sportsman of the Year award is about.  Quality people that love crappie fishing, that are easily approached, friendly, show great sportsman ship and love the sport. This award gets no prize and cost very little, yet it has become the most meaningful where it counts, in the heart. We are honored to have Don and Toni as the 2010 Sportsman of the Year.”  Bobby Brown, Vice President.




Sportsman of the Year may be the most prestigious, meaningful trophy a person can receive. It says a lot about the person who receives it because it’s a symbol of their dedication to the sport, to other anglers and being the example of what a crappie fisherman should be.

President Paul Alpers says, “This year was very close with four or five that would have been good choices. We based it upon the credibility of the person, how he gets along with other people, his loyalty to Crappie Masters and what he does for the overall sport of crappie fishing. Nobody has worked harder to promote the sport of crappie fishing wherever he goes. He is a good person and has dedicated his whole life to the outdoors including his career as a wildlife officer. He is very deserving of this award.”

“It’s an honor to accept this award,” says Bill. “It was created in honor of John Schantz, Sr. He was a friend and that makes it more meaningful to me. There are many good fishermen on the circuit and many good people who deserve this as much or more than me. I’m really in shock and want to thank you for the award. It’s something I’ll cherish forever.”




"This award is presented to an individual or team who go out of their way to help others," says Crappie Masters President, Paul Alpers. "They may help with trips and interviews with the media, help on the tournament trail but most of all help other fishermen and promote the sport of crappie fishing. These are the people that bring a smile to your face when you're around them." "The 2008 award went to two very special people, Phil and Eva Rambo. This husband and wife team travels all over the country. They have really become an icon in the crappie fishing world. They always stop what they are doing to help others whether it's to answer a simple question or help with a major problem. I couldn't think of more deserving people than the Rambos and I'm proud they were our 2008 recipients." Jonh Schantz Jr. and his family presented the award that was began with their father.




In honor of a great friend to many people and anglers, the first Crappie Masters Sportsman of the Year award was presented to John Schantz Sr.  John fished with his son and family members at many Crappie Master tournaments before becoming ill in 2007.  John was a person that everyone liked and he was there to help anyone that needed help.  He embodied what the Sportsman of the Year award is all about.  He will be missed by us all, yet his memory will be with us all forever.