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The Crappie Masters National Championship

by

Tim Huffman

 

The 2009 classic had every element of an unforgettable event. Pre-fishing was good with everyone catching fish. Slow trolling, fast trolling and pulling crankbaits were all successful techniques at Grenada.

 

Pre-Tournament

Practice fishing took center stage with a lake small enough that nobody could hide. Shallow water was hit hard but big fish were also holding in deeper locations too.

How much practice? Some teams had fished the lake throughout the year to get a feel for fishing during the fall classic season. A few teams had spent weeks preparing by spending a lot of time checking different areas of the lake for quality fish.

 

Wednesday

Noon was team registration. Fishermen lined up to sign in and to take a look at what the sponsors were displaying. They had the opportunity to visit with sponsors to discuss new products and how to use time-tested ones. The time was well-spent for both the sponsors and fishermen.

The boat parade followed the registration. The parade is to entertain the people of the town, show them our appreciation and to let them see our event is a major one. Several teams got very creative with extensive designs while other fishermen simply displayed a flag and showed support to Crappie Masters. The best overall float went to Pat Clifford and Andy Salmon’s ‘Big Fish’. The most creative was ‘Gilligan’s Island by Tracy and Mike Miller. The funniest went to Jeanne and Rod Fry for ‘The Viking’.

Wednesday evening featured the Welcome Banquet at the Holmes Community College. Briana Dean, accompanied by Tina Lawler, provided the entertainment. Briana also performed at the awards banquet with her husband on drums and Jamie Johnson on guitar.

 

Thursday

Media fishing morning had a good number of sponsors, local dignitaries and members of the media. Fishing was very good with several quality fish coming to the scales. First place went to Bass Pro Shops Kevin East with a 2.45 pound crappie while fishing with Robert Gier and David Townsend. City counselor, Larry Bance fished with Elwood Shepherd for second place with a 2.26. Third place was Allen Clemons with a 2.24 while fishing with Coy and Gilford Sipes.  The group met at Western Sizzin for lunch and awards.

 

Friday

The first day of fishing brought joy to some and pain for others. Several teams had lost outstanding catches of fish. Most were caused by bringing the fish up from deeper water. Teams were using all the tricks including ‘fizzing’ the fish to try to keep them alive.

The weight didn’t meet expectations for what many fishermen thought would come to the scales but there were a lot of two-plus pound slabs caught. As always, Grenada Lake provides good fish to wow the crowds during weigh-in.

 

First Place

Matt Morgan and Kent Watson from Indiana took the first place lead and held on even though they finished eleventh place on day two. Their one-pound lead on day one was enough to keep anyone from catching them even though others caught more weight on the second day. The champs earned two Tracker V18 boats with 150hp Mercury motors worth $45,000.

“It was about 1 o’clock before we had our seven fish,” says Kent Watson. “We caught a couple early this morning and I think three fish before moving to a different location. We ended up catching 11 or 12 fish all day today and probably 15 fish yesterday. We made runs across different contours. When depth would change sometimes we would pick up. Sometimes the fish were in the flats. We fished 14 to 22 feet deep.”

Matt Morgan says, “I’ve been fishing this lake for three years and the last two days have been the toughest I’ve seen. We fished with Glow pink Road Runners with orange/chartreuse Crappie Thunders tipped with a medium minnow. You get 250 of the best crappie fishermen in the world pounding on it for a while combined with all the fresh water that’s dumped into the lake with the rains and it’s going to make it a tough bite like it’s been. Last week we were using 1.5 ounce sinkers and by this weekend we were using 1/4-ounce just to be able to see the bite. With the bigger sinkers we were lifting our poles up and minnows would be gone and we hadn’t seen a bite. That’s how light they were biting.”

What was the pressure like around noon when you only had a few fish and your first place lead was in jeopardy? “I try not to worry about that,” says Morgan. “If you let all that stuff get into your head you’re done. Today, for example, when it got daylight instead of seeing a total of 10 boats in the distance like yesterday we had 30 boats right in our area. We knew we couldn’t split up those fish and come out on top so we knew we would have to leave. Having three fish in the boat at 10:00 o'clock never bothered me but I think my partner was getting a little nervous. We stayed patient and the afternoon proved to be the best time. Another thing that helped is that we’ve been in this situation four times before and we’ve learned putting two good days back to back isn’t easy especially when you get the enormous pressure from other boats on the second day. It’s easier said than done, but fishermen need to remember at the end of the day it’s still just fishing so try to keep baits in the water, be patient, consistent and persistent.”

“We came down last weekend and fished. We got lucky and found a couple good batches of fish. All the rain and fishing pressure changed things throughout the week. We tightlined, pushing minnows with 16-foot BnM Pro Staff poles. Our Humminbird 997 and 797 electronics makes a huge difference.”

Watson continued, “I’m really at a loss for the right words. To compete with, and beat the best teams in the country is a feat and milestone I’ll never forget. It will take a little time for this to soak in.”

In efforts to keep the highest integretiy in our tournaments there were several teams, including Morgan and Watson, with someone in the boat with them to verify their on the water catches.

 

Second Place

Steve Coleman and Ronnie Capps finished with 25.67 pounds earning $10,000 for a second place finish. That’s not unusual for them be in the top three but to come from 53rd place is a different and difficult feat. They were the first team to take the hot seat and watched as places ten up to second place on day one weighed in. They remained in the hot seat looking like they might win their first Crappie Masters event. But it wasn’t to be as Morgan/Watson, the last team to weigh in, moved into first place.

“We went for broke,” says Capps. “There are some big monsters at 26 feet deep in 36 feet of water right now. We caught a few in practice, three in thirty minutes, and caught some yesterday on the first day of the tournament but we couldn’t keep them alive. I thought I was an expert at keeping fish alive but I didn’t pay enough attention. In five minutes they were gone. It wasn’t even a question. I made a bad move going for big deep fish but that’s what we thought it would take to win the tournament. As it turns out it took less weight to win than what we guessed. Went for the home run and it didn’t work out.”

Coleman says, “We did differently today and went shallow so we could keep the fish alive. We started out using Capps and Coleman minnow rigs with a 1.5-ounce sinker. We also went to a heavier 214 hook instead of a 214EL because of the brush. We used 12 pound test P-Line and 16 foot BnM jig poles.”

“When the fish aren’t biting people will start moving.” Says Coleman. “We just stayed there and was patient. We caught some fish but had to switch techniques because the bite got finicky. We moved fast and covered a lot of water but switched to a jig, a black/chartreuse Southern Pro tube. We just loosened our drags and pulled them 8 to 10 feet in 30 feet of water. We moved fast. We were pulling through the bushes and busting brush. There were three types of weeds and only one type was holding fish. You had to know what to look for. That took us a while to learn. We weren’t catching the 2.7’s and 2.8’s like from deep water but we could keep the fish alive.”

Capps says, “We started with minnows until the sun got up. Every time we would grab a bite of structure I would turn the boat. It’s like a bad dog, if you turn and run he’ll get you. The same with the crappie here today. Hit the structure, stop and no bites but turn the boat and take the baits away from the fish and they would hit it.”

“With the 1/8-jigs we switched to we just ran them into the brush at about nine feet deep. The fish were buried in the weeds.”

“Never quit,” says Capps. Sometimes I think we over fish and over analyze a lake but we did find the big fish if we could have kept them alive. I also want to say that without a Humminbird Side Imager you can’t compete consistently. And last, I would like to thank all the folks at Grenada Lake and Hampton Inn for a great time.”

 

Third Place

Kenny Browning and Kerry Browning won $5000 for third place with 25.52 pounds. The team came from 33rd place.

“We had two good weigh-in fish die on the first day and that really hurt us,” says Kenny Browning. “We had over 14 pounds by 10:00 o'clock but only weighed in 12.02 due to the dead fish. We used a different method to keep them alive today and it helped. The first day I was punching them (with a needle) in the wrong spot so I learned a valueable lesson.”

We just went out and pulled crankbaits in deep 30 to 32 feet of water. We pulled them about 20 feet deep. Our setup was Bandit 300 series crankbaits in Awesome pink and a few we painted; BnM and Wally Marshall poles; thin Vicious line that we needed to get deep; and 150 to 200 feet of line out. We varied our speed from 1.3 to 2.0 miles per hour. The river channel pockets seemed to be best keeping the Bandits at 20 feet.”

“I’m disappointed losing fish but it’s awesome to finish this high. It’s our best finish.”

 

Fourth Place

Ron and Barbara Hollingsworth caught 25.44 pounds to tie for fourth place. They were also the top male/female teams earning them a Minn Kota trolling motor.

“We prefished for ten days,” says Ron Hollingsworth. “We fished every day looking for a big fish or two in an area. After pre-fishing is over I try to put the whole story together and pick the spots that give us the best odds for catching big fish. We fished both days in the same area.”

“I had surgery on my shoulder so I set up 8 rods across the back and planned to troll crankbaits. We pulled Bandit crankbaits, used BnM and Wally Marshall poles, Vicious line and Humminbird electronics. We kept our baits 16 to 18 feet deep.”

 

Fourth Place

Russell Riley and Allen Outlaw tied for fourth with a weight of 25.44. They moved up from 34th place after day one.

Riley says, “We practiced for four days. We were pulling crankbaits in 25 feet of water. We went from dark to light colors. We started on the main lake between two main points. We got a big break when we watched one the locals going faster so we speeded up and it paid off.”

Outlaw says, “We tried at least 17 different colors. We used both Bandit and Wally Marshall crankbaits. We caught some of our good fish on Road Runners tied above the crankbaits. We use a barrel swivel and hand-tied leader. We used the big motor and windsocks yesterday but used the trolling motor today.”

“We made a couple of bad decisions on Friday with the first being to tightline in shallow water. We went to plan B a little late.”

Riley says, “It was a great experience fishing with Crappie Masters and we hope to be back again.”

 

Sixth Place

Former champs David Stancil and Earl Brink made a big jump from 62 place on day one with a total weight of 25.43. Brink says, “We caught fish in practice using 1/4-ounce Show Down jigs while fishing deep. Those fish moved on us so Friday we decided to pull crankbaits. We pulled them 20 feet deep in 32 feet of water. We used Vicious line and Wiggle Warts.

 

Seventh place went to Roger and Bill Gant with 25.31 pounds moving up from tenth place. Eighth place was Tony Lowrie and Anthony Reason with 25.25 fishing consistently both days. David Cox and Tim Logan finished ninth with 24.83 moving from third place on day one. Finishing the top ten was Elmo Adams and Glenn Stewart with 24.78 pounds moving from 46th after day one.

 

Not all fishermen had good luck on day two. Former classic champs Coy and Gilford Sipes fell from 2nd place down to 46th. Joe Miller/John Peyton, Sam Sandage/Cheryl Sandage, Tom Sobaski/M. Sobaski, Diane Stevens/Lonnie Stevens and home lake favorites John Harrison/Kent Driscoll all fell from the top ten.

 

Big Fish was caught by the adult/youth team of Tony and Jakob Burnworth. They weighed a 2.83 slab on day one.

Second big fish was caught by Richard and Peggy Lindsey on a black/chartreuse Bobby Garland Stroller at 7:05am on the first tree they fished. Richard says, “I said this is going to easy but it went downhill from there.”

The top adult/youth team was the father and daughter team of Chris and Olivia Naifeh who had a weight of 25.15 pounds.

 

 

Day One (final top ten)

1 Morgan/Watson 15.70

3 Cox/Logan 14.35

7 Lowrie/Reasons 13.47

10 Gant/Gant 13.31

18 Hollingsworth/Hollingsworth 12.56

33 Browning/Browning 12.02

34 Riley/Outlaw 12.01

46 Adams/Stewart 11.85

53 Coleman/Capps 11.47

62 Stancil/Brink 11.25

 

Day Two (final top ten)

1 Coleman/Capps 14.20

2 Stancil/Brink 14.18

4 Browning/Browning 13.50

5 Riley/Outlaw 13.43

6 Adams/Stewart 13.13

9 Hollingsworth/Hollingsworth 12.88

11 Morgan/Watson 12.82

20 Gant/Gant 12.00

25 Lowrie/Reasons 11.78

64 Cox/Logan 10.48

 

 

 

2009 National Championship

1st-10th

28.32 Morgan/Watson

25.67 Coleman/Capps

25.52 Browning/Browning

25.44 Riley/Outlaw

25.44 Hollingsworth/Hollingsworth

25.43 Stancil/Brink

25.31 Gant/Gant

25.25 Lowrie/Reasons

24.83 Cox/Logan

24.78 Adams/Stewart

11th -20th

24.65 Outlaw/Parrot

24.60 Harrison/Driscoll

24.54 Willamson/Williamson

24.52 Christopher/Christopher

24.39 Sandage/Sandage

24.24 Hitchcock/Tucker

24.12 Parker/Cole

23.98Miller/Peyton

23.97 Mansfield/Riedinger

23.93 Hinson/Hinson

21st –30th

23.88 Clark/Phillips

23.85 Buchanan/Buchanan

23.84 Matheisen/Bentley

23.82 Canon/Williams

23.51 Watters/Watters

23.39 Lindsey/Lindsey

23.36 Kinsler/Kinsler

23.36 Walker/Wright

23.28 Walters/Solomon

23.15 Finkley/Fulgham

 

Big Fish

2.83 Tony Burnworth/Jakob Burnworth

2.80 Richard Lindsey/ Peggy Lindsey

2.70 Matt Morgan/ Kent Watson

2.63 Kendall Pate/ Joe Duncan

2.59 Tammy Watters/ Dennis Watters

 
KMS-Inc