It may not have been actual gold, however it was a $10,000 check plus additional incentives as The Bass Tank team of Zeke Anderson and Dillon Hackler got on a pod of big fish later in the day on Crappie Masters Championship Saturday and went from third to the winners circle in Crappie Masters Grenada Lake National Qualifier sponsored by the Grenada Tourism Commission and AFTCO, March 12 and 13 on Grenada Lake in Grenada, Mississippi shattering all previous records with a 2 day, 14 fish limit that weighed an astounding 42.84 pounds breaking the previous 2 day 14 fish weight of 38.92 by nearly 4 pounds. Believe it or not Anderson and Hackler didn’t run away from the field with that jaw dropping weight, they barely edged out the victory as the former Crappie Masters National Champion and Angler Team of the Year Matthew and Bruce Rogers who put together 42.41 pounds on the heels of a big Saturday weight of 21.55 pounds. But it wasn’t enough and neither of the top two teams had the biggest one day 7 fish weight. That honor went to the day one leading team of Blake Cook and Nathan Caldwell who shocked the crowd topping the scale with a 21.92 pound bag. After two years of spring floods and a ramp closing winter lake drawdown, anglers from across the nation knew if conditions were right, there would likely be record weights. Both came true. The Grenada weather warmed up through the week as did the water which ignited the big fish bite, and the anglers took advantage. Grenada Lake is known as the home of the 3 pound crappie, which was proven over and over as many of those pre-fishing reported personal best after personal best. Some catching over ten 3 pounder crappie not only in practice but it carried over both tournament days. To put all of this in perspective, after the day one weigh in, the top 7 teams broke the previous one day mark of 20. 54 pounds that was also caught on Grenada Lake by Jay and Rhonda Reeve. After Crappie Masters Championship Saturday was completed, 12 teams topped the previous two day record weight of 38.92 pounds caught by David Cox and Steve Hockett. It was one for the record books that may never happen again as all the stars and ingredients aligned for this time in history, but will nonetheless always be remembered as the first time it occurred.
Sitting in third place was right where the Bass Tank team of Zeke Anderson and Dillon Hackler wanted to be. Hackler said that leading adds a lot of pressure to hang on and not fish loosely as they prefer. With only about half a day to prefish due to trolling motor battery issues, the team relied on Hacklers knowledge of fish placement in accordance to structure and depth in the spring and that indeed paid off as they found a group of large fish which bit on day one on jigs in around 4 feet of water bringing in a day one weight of 21.33 pounds leaving them in third place after the weigh in was complete. There was a problem lurking however. The area they found those day one fish was the only area they found in practice so they had to leave a bit early knowing they had to have enough big fish for Championship Saturday which they were confident they did. Day two arrives and what Anderson and Hackler found was the better quality of fish they left were gone. Needless to say the team struggled the first 6 hours of an 8 hour day knowing they had no chance to win with the weight they had in the livewell. That’s when Anderson and Hackler made a critical decision to move with no real idea of where to go so the just started fishing and happened upon a spot near one of the boat ramps that 99 percent of participants drove over or by and did not see the fish, Hackler did in a hole about 14 foot deep, and in 3 drops, all of a sudden three 3 pound plus crappie were in the boat and the rest is history! Well except for a single case of divine intervention. Hackler who is a guide in southeast Oklahoma never carries a landing net in his boat. Anderson told him with the huge crappie in shallow water, they should have a net in the boat. That was a $10,000 dollar decision as Hackler was landing a near 3 1/2 pound fish, it came unhooked in mid-air! Fortunately Zeke was ready with the net, and the fish that otherwise would have landed back in the water landed safely in the net and now the rest is history. Anderson and Hackler used basically the same jigs both days and said the key to victory was team chemistry, moving from their only other location, knowledge of Livescope, and a hook set adjustment by Hackler on the shallow fish they caught. Instead of lifting the rod tip up to set the hook, he swept the rod tip sideways the opposite direction the fish was going which greatly increased their hook up ratio. Zeke Anderson and Dillon Hackler took home $10,000 dollars for the victory plus an additional $1,100 dollars of incentives. They received $500 dollars for using E10 fuel in their boat from the Missouri Corn Merchandising Council and American Ethanol, $500 dollars from the Bass Tank for winning and being signed up for their Crappie Cash program along with $100 dollars for using Jenko Fishing products.
A Championship Saturday weight of 21.55 pounds wasn’t quite enough to claim the win for the father and son team of Matthew and Bruce Rogers who jumped from 6th to runner up in the end with a two day weight of 42.41 pounds and wowed the large Grenada Landing crowd with that weight which looked like it might be enough until Anderson and Hackler came in with nearly the same weight dropping the Rogers to 2nd place. Matthew stated he chased big fish down using live scope and fishing jigs to get his bite in generally shallow water. Rogers said if he had to do something different it would have been fish cleaner on day one missing a few big fish bites. Matthew and Bruce Rogers walked away with the $6,000 runner up money and a good look at another Crappie Masters Angler Team of the Year later this season.
The 3rd place position was taken by the day one leading team of Blake Cook and Nathan Caldwell who wound up weighing 41.02 pounds on 14 fish. The team admitted to feeling pressure going into the second day but were confident in the fish they were casting jigs to would bite, unfortunately they did not leading to a large enough drop in weight, Cook and Caldwell had to settle for 3rd which paid them $4,000 dollars. The local team had limited practice time but came through with a great finish.
4th place prize money of $2,500 dollars went to the husband/wife team from Oklahoma, Richard and Ashley Faulk who stayed in the position they were after day one, weighing in an impressive 40.71 pounds. That weight also meant they were the top finishing Male/Female team in the tournament, and for that won a 12 amp Amped Outdoors Lithium Battery, a new Crappie Masters National sponsor.
Rounding out the top 5 was the third Bass Tank sponsored team finishing in the top 5, Chad Turner fishing by himself who’s two day weight of 40.60 pounds got him a check for $2,000 dollars.
The top finishing Adult/Youth team was the Missouri father/son team of TJ and Alex Palmer who took home a Millennium Marine boat chair and a $100 dollar Everharts Outdoor Store gift card for their 7th place finish of 40.05 pounds which also got them a check for $1,400 dollars.
Big fish of the tournament was big indeed. Lamar Bunting and Greg London brought in a 3.78 pound Grenada bruiser on Championship Saturday and a big check of $1,358 dollars for that single fish. However the team weighed in 38.84 pounds total good for 14th place and an additional $700 dollars for that.
2nd place big fish winner also double dipped as the team of Clay Gann and Todd Froebe weighed in a 3.71 Grenada Lake whopper and rode home with $582 dollars for that fish and another $500 dollars for their 18th place finish with 38.36 pounds.
It was a tournament of amazing results on an amazing fishery, Grenada Lake which will be home to the 2022 Crappie Masters National Championship! News that all anglers can get excited about.
Crappie Masters would like to thank the Grenada Tourism Commission for their long time support and continued support of Crappie Masters.