A field of anglers from all across the country came together on January 20th and 21st, 2023 to kick off the 2023 Crappie Masters season on the historic St. Johns River out of DeLand, Florida for a National Qualifier hosted by the West Volusia Tourism Advertising Authority.
Over 80 anglers that hit the water on day one and were blessed with beautiful weather. Afternoon temperatures broke into the low 80s with the wind staying around five mph all day long.
The South Carolina team of TC Lloyd and Mike Huffstetler were the only team to break that 15 lb mark on day one with a weight of 15.83 lbs. TC and Mike were sitting in a great position after the first day, with a 1.34 lb lead over both teams of DJ Hilbun and Allen Green along with Lamar Young and Justin Churchwell, who were tied with a weight of 14.49 lbs for second place.
Larry and Steve Durden along with Sam Cooper, who fished alone this weekend, rounded out the top five at the close of day one.
Championship Saturday was set and the leaders after day one, Lloyd and Huffstetler, instantly faced boat issues as soon as fishing hours began. Fortunately for them, the owner of Jenko Fishing, Matt Jennings, allowed TC and Mike to use his boat for the remainder of the event.
TC and Mike did not allow the one-hour delay to get in the way of stopping them from netting the largest bag of the day on championship Saturday, though, with another near 15 lb sack, weighing in at 14.91 lbs. This put them at a two-day total weight of 30.74 lbs and earned them $10,000.00.
TC and Mike strictly one-pole fished in the main river chasing down individual fish using forward-facing sonar with very little room for error, catching only 10-12 fish each day of the event.
TC stated following the conclusion of the weigh-in, “We just put our head down and covered as much water we could, looking for two plus pound fish. Once we would identify one we would chase that fish up to 100 yards up or down the river.”
Lamar Young and Justin Churchwell brought in the second largest bag of the day, just behind TC and Mike, allowing them to land in the second place position with a two-day total of 28.53 lbs. Lamar and Justin also on day two brought in the biggest fish of the event with a monster 3.00 lb St. Johns River black crappie. Lamar and Justin took home the hardware along with a check worth $4,000.00.
Like many anglers did in this event, Lamar and Justin fished a couple different mud lakes off the river, switching up between pushing and pulling techniques. “On day two we really had to slow down to get bit,” Lamar said.
Sam Cooper rounded out the top three for the first stop of the 2023 season with a two-day total of 27.47 lbs. Sam fished alone this weekend and took home a check worth $1,500.00 along with some hardware.
Sam fished similarly to the winners of this event, strictly focusing on the main river using forward-facing sonar to chase down individual fish. On stage during weigh-ins, Sam said, “I just put my head down and grinded it out, covering as much water as possible.”
In fourth place was Lisa and Wayne Wyant, who took home a check for $1,000.00 along with an additional check worth $250.00 for being the highest-finishing male/female team in this event.
Team Wyant fished patiently both days, spider rigging at a speed of 0.1-0.2 mph in a 150-yard stretch off the main river.
Rounding out the top five was DJ Hilbun and Allen Green with a two-day weight of 26.26 lbs and received a check worth $800.00. DJ and Allen spent both days of the event spider rigging in many different mud lakes to put together two very good days of fishing.
Crappie Masters would like to thank The West Volusia Tourism Advertising Authority and Georgia Turner for their support and hospitality.
Additional local sponsors include Highland Park Fish Camp, Big River Marina and Lodge, Parramore’s Camp, St. John’s Marina and Resort, and a special thank you to Porzig Realty Beth Broxton, and Guild Mortgage for providing Kids Fishing Rodeo prizes.