With an ice covered lake less than a week before day one of the Crappie Masters National Qualifier and Louisiana State Championship February 26th and 27th on Lake D’Arbonne in Farmerville, Louisiana, the 113 competing boats were subjected to not only daily changing weather conditions, but frankly conditions seemingly changed by the hour along with the fish bite and location as water continued to warm during the week. Tournament days were no different than practice as day 1 brought a driving rain in the morning, and Crappie Masters Championship Saturday was met with much warmer conditions, but extremely dense fog which greatly limited competitors confidence in moving from location to location which in the end did keep some teams from going to their best fish. Weight predictions were all over the place as water temperatures went from the mid 50’s to the mid 30’s in less than a two week span. However with the best anglers on the water it was inevitable that someone would locate and catch the spooky D’Arbonne crappie, and the HH Rod and Reel brother team of Jason and Brandon Threadgill put a little shock and awe into a large weigh in crowd at Rhett’s Tails and Shells breaking a Lake D’Arbonne one day 7 fish weight limit with a phenomenal 17.32 pounds taking over a pound and a quarter lead over the second place team of Heath Rogers and Lance Billberry. As fate would have it the Threadgills would need nearly every bit of that lead to claim their first Crappie Masters National title. Brandon did the pre-fishing for the team and stated he looked at every inch of the lake, finally targeting in on generally one location that had quality fish and decided the team would focus their attention there. Brandon also knew with warming water daily, those fish would likely move up in the water column which they did. On day one that knowledge played out early and quickly as the team was culling weigh fish in the first hour of the competition. Another critical key to the teams victory was staying with the fish knowing the bigger fish would start to become extremely active in the afternoon hours as in 14 feet of water those fish would rise to within 4 to 6 feet of the surface, at times shallower. The Threadgills theory was those bigger females were staging to spawn on individual trees and those are the fish they targeted, at times chasing them as far as two hundred feet. Everything went right for the team knowing they had a big weight but were surprised at the 17.32 pounds. Day one does not a championship win though and day two went much different. The team caught fish and were never in panic mode relying on the afternoon big fish bite. With just a couple of hours remaining and the big fish bite not nearly as active, a bit of panic set in, but the team ground it out and figured they had around 14 pounds to take to the scale and prayed that would be enough. It was but barely! Watching team after team weigh what they hoped would happen generally did, day two weights were down, and when the time came to see if they would claim victory or suffer a hard loss, the Threadgills knew they had to top the 30.83 pound weight of Lamar Bunting and Greg London meaning their 7 fish would have to total 13.52 to claim victory. It was close, but in the end Jason and Brandon Threadgill weighed in 13.89 pounds for a two day total of 31.21 pounds claiming victory, the title of 2021 Louisiana State Champions, and the $10,000 check that went with it. The team caught their fish casting at times 40 feet, small jigs and hair jigs to the fish, and said the key to victory was finding that group of fish in practice, and the equipment to stay on and chase the bigger fish down. Jason and Brandon Threadgill walked away $10,000 dollars and added an additional $500 dollar E10 bonus from The Missouri Corn Merchandising Council and American Ethanol for using E10 fuel in their boat. They also claimed the $100 Jenko Fishing bonus for using Jenko products, and $200 dollars for using HH Rods and Reels.
Jumping from 5th to runner up was the team of Lamar Bunting and Greg London who had a big day two and nearly claimed the title weighing in a two day weight of 30.83 pounds. Bunting and London did the same as all the top teams did, casting jigs and hair jigs to specific fish up in the water column. Bunting and London took home the second place prize of $6,000 dollars.
Rounding out the top three was a young up and coming Arkansas angler Brandon Smith who jumped up one spot and claimed a $4,000 check for his effort by bringing in 39.72 pounds over the two tournament days.
Fourth place money went to the former Crappie Masters National Champion and Crappie Masters Angler of the Year team of Matthew and Bruce Rogers with 30.29 pounds taking home $3,250 dollars and putting the team in a good position to make a run at another Angler of the Year title.
Fifth place went to the team of Chris Fields and Jared Riser weighing in 30.23 pounds which put $2,500 dollars in the team’s pockets.
Top Male/Female honors went to the Oklahoma husband and wife team of Richard and Ashley Faulk who won a Humminbird graph for bringing 27.10 pounds to the scale over the two days.
The top Adult/Youth award went to the local father and son team of Dusty and Anders McGeehee who get to enjoy a $100 Everhart’s Outdoor Store Gift Card and a MinnKota Trolling Motor bringing in 26.71 pounds.
The Big Fish of the Tournament competition was as close as it gets being decided by a .01 difference. The $1,582 big fish prize went to the team of John Harrison and Blake Phillips who nearly made the 3 pound club with a D’Arbonne dandy weighing 2.92 pounds.
Barely missing big fish honors was the top ten team of Heath Rogers and Lance Billberry who weighed in a big 2.91 D’Arbonne hog on day 1. That fish was worth $678 dollars on top of the )1,900 dollars they received for finishing in 7th place.
It was year two of the D’Arbonne brainchild of Rhett of Rhett’s Tails and Shells, the Crappie Masters Bottom 30 Tournament. The Bottom 30 teams after day one have the opportunity to fish against each other and which team has the top Crappie Masters Championship Saturday weight wins the Bottom 30 money 1st place prize of $1,500 dollars. That was won by the Adult/Youth team of Brian Young and Diesel Byrd. Second place went to the team of Keaton and Les Standstipher who if not for a day one mistake likely would have had a top 10 finish, nonetheless took home $900 dollars for sticking around and turning disappointment into a positive. Third place of $600 dollars went to Jason Morgan.
A big shout out to Rhett’s Tails and Shells, K & M Coffee, Corks, and Camo, Origin Bank, and Ludwig Marine for donating $3,000 to give those anglers an opportunity to take a check home.
Of course the Crappie Masters Lake D’Arbonne National Qualifier and Louisiana State Championship would not be possible without the incredible support of our hosts who include:
The Union Parish Tourist Commision
Union Parish Chamber of Commerce
City of Farmerville
Union Parish Police Jury
Louisiana Office of Tourism.
Next on the Crappie Masters tournament trail is a stop at the home of the 3 pound crappie, Grenada Lake on March 12 and 13. Go to Crappie Masters.net and get registered today.