Local angler Chris Fields who admitted he hadnt been fishing the Ouachita River much and hadn’t had a lot of tournament success recently, turned it all around in one area and put together enough fish and weight over 3 days to win the first and historic Crappie Masters One Pole Artificial Bait Only Individual National Championship held May 6,7, and 8 on the Ouachita River at Monroe and West Monroe, LA, and hosted by the Monroe/West Monroe CVB, and sponsored by HH Rods and Reels.
High water, scattered fish, and a tough bite met some of the top anglers in the country when tournament practice started and that trend continued into tournament days at this new concept and format tournament that allowed just one angler in the boat and a 5 fish limit daily. Anglers reported finding fish few and far between and not many big fish showing up. But as is the case in every tournament, someone will find the better fish. That someone was Chris Fields from nearby Farmerville, LA who found a lake he knew about but hadn’t really fished, and that lake had quality fish in it. The trick was that the water had to stay high enough to get in and out. Once in, Fields found he had the area to himself other than a couple of locals and that he was confident if he managed the fish right that there would be enough fish and weight to keep him in contention. He was right. Sitting in second after the day one weigh in behind Matthew Rogers, Fields claimed the lead after day two and never looked back, making it into the final 12 to fish on Crappie Masters Championship Saturday and eventually winning with a 3 day, 15 fish weight of 27.02 pounds taking home a check for $12,500 dollars along with the $500 dollar Missouri Corn Growers Association/American Ethanol bonus for using e10 fuel in his boat, and Chris also had the big fish of the tournament, a big 2.21 pounder that was good for an additional $460 dollars. Fields generally had his bite early in the day catching fish suspended over deeper water. He stated that day two was a close call as the river level dropped while in the lake making departure a bit of a chore. Fields also said leading after day two allowed him to “just go fish” on Championship Saturday knowing he was confident he’d left enough fish to at least bring in around the same weight as day one and two, but a problem arose. He noticed around 10am that one of his better fish was on its side in the livewell and wasn’t sure he could match or upgrade so after a short time, made the decision to come to the weigh in and not chance losing the fish which could have cost him the National Championship. Chris said his key to victory was that decision and managing the fish in the area he was fishing.
Runner up was no stranger to being at or near the top of the leader board, Matthew Rogers who slipped a bit on Championship Saturday eventually weighing in 25.91 pounds good for a $2,000 check. Rogers targeted fish a bit shallower but with the same land features as the area Fields did. Rogers said he used hair jigs and a swim bait to catch his fish. Rogers was focusing more on the bigger white crappie, but did find some quality black crappie as well. Leading after day one with 9.40 pounds, and falling to second after day two, Rogers was in the position he wanted to be going into Championship Saturday but stated he second guessed himself and made the wrong decision on where to start and which fish he would go after which eventually led to his second place finish.
Jumping from Fourth to third on Championship Saturday was the always competitive Robert Carlile who barely missed the runner up spot weighing in 25.70 pounds good for $1,100 dollars. Carlile said of course he wanted the title but was happy with his finish stating that over the 3 days he found fish and some good fish but really never could find the consistency he needed and fish would move on him and also said he lost a large fish that could have changed his finishing position if not for losing it near the boat. Carlile said he went from north to south on the river at times making 50 plus mile runs to try and get the fish he needed to make a run at the title.
Fourth place went to HH Rod and Reel angler Trey Underwood who weighed in 25.38 pounds over the 3 days and was leap frogged by Carlile on Championship Saturday. Underwood was fishing shallower water in fact plowing through mud and rock to get to the area he was fishing. Underwood stayed consistent throughout the tournament but could never find the kicker fish or two he needed.
Rounding out the top five was the Millennium Marine angler Tony Hughes who weighed in 24.26 pounds over 3 days. Hughes said he caught a lot of fish during the tournament but also was sharing water with other competitors and felt the area got picked over, pressured, and somewhat fished out to make a run to the top.
Crappie Masters would like to thank all the anglers that came to the Monroe/West Monroe area to fish this first of its kind, and historic event. Crappie Masters would also like to thank the Monroe/West Monroe CVB for hosting the event, and HH Rods and Reels for sponsoring it.
Next up is the two day National Qualifying tournament at the famed Kentucky Lake out of Camden, TN on May 21st and 22nd. For information and to get registered go to crappiemasters.net.