Sometimes planning is everything. That was the case with the recent Bass Pro Shops Crappie Masters Tournament on Lake Grenada in Mississippi. The two-day tournament resulted in several broken records, happy anglers and big fish. Lots of big fish.
Mike Vallentine, Crappie Masters president, says the unbelievable results from Grenada were at least partially due to good planning. “Our plans heading into the tournament was to give an opportunity to all the tournament anglers to see Grenada at its best. We did that by scheduling the tournament early enough in the season to catch staging females and post record weights.”
The two-day event at Grenada crowned the Mississippi State Champions and set new tournament records.
The pre-fishing wasn’t that great according to Vallentine. A pre-tournament cold front came through on Monday dropping water temperature by 4- to 5-degrees. Mother Nature responded though by steadily increasing temperatures through the week. Warm nights helped keep the water temperature up. As the final pre-fishing day rolled around, the bite was on. Numerous 3 pound-plus crappies came to the hook and the stage was set for an outstanding tournament.
Crappie Masters anglers are allowed to weight 7 fish each day. At the end of day two an amazing bag of 14 fish weighing 38.92 pounds claimed the Mississippi championship. The winners, David Cox and Steve Hockett were in second place after day one with a 7 fish limit weighing 20.11 pounds. They came to the scales on day two with another limit, weighing 18.81 pounds, for a tournament total of 38.92 pounds. The weight was a new Crappie Masters record, and good for a $6,000 check to the new champs from Warsaw Mo.
Whitey Outlaw, a longtime tournament participant, posted on Facebook, “We caught some of the biggest weights I've ever seen. Who would have ever thought over 38 pounds of 14 fish would be possible!”
Fishing from a Ranger boat with a Mercury motor the Cox/Hockett team found their fish in 5- to 7-foot water. Their Humminbird electronics showed the fish staging about 5-foot deep.
They caught their fish on Ozark Rods using custom jigs they make themselves. They tied their choice of black and chartreuse jigs in double rigs for slow trolling the area. Using a Minn Kota trolling motor the jigs were tipped with minnows and pushed slowly in and around exposed stumps. The team attributed their success to boat control and using light 1/32-ounce jigheads in the presentation. Light jigheads allow the minnows to have more action and entice more strikes. A heavier jighead would immobilize the minnows, making them look dead in the water.
The heavy bags of crappie were no accident. Jay Don and Rhonda Reeve weighed in 38.11 pounds to claim both second place and top male/female team. The Don/Reeve team was in 18th place to start day two after weighing in 17.57 pounds with a 7 fish limit the day before. They finished the tournament by breaking the single day record weight with 20.54 pounds. That is getting mighty close to a 3-pound average!
The Don/Reeve team is sponsored by Lake Fork Trophy Lures, Perotti rod holders, Moss Back and TNT tackle. They were fishing 8- to 9-foot water, catching fish at 4-feet. Their lure of choice was chartreuse glow Lake Fork Live Baby Shad jigs fished on Pro Angler rods. They fish from a Lund boat with a Yamaha motor equipped with Humminbird electronics and a Minn Kota trolling motor. The team earned $3,000 for their second place finish.
The team of Jeremy Aldridge and Jason Daniels weighed in the third place weight of 37.81 pounds. Sponsored by Silent Stalker, they were in 19th place after day one, with a weight of 17.51 pounds. They added 20.30 pounds on day two.
The Aldridge/Daniels team fished in 8-foot water, catching their fish at 3.5-feet deep. They gave credit to Silent Stalker as a key factor in their success because it gave them a stealthy presentation on the second day of fishing when fish can be spooky.
They rigged B’n’M poles with double hook minnow rigs and live minnows. Their Polar Craft boat, Yamaha motor, Humminbird electronics and Minn Kota trolling motor rounded out their equipment choices. The third place finish netted the team $2,500.
The previous single day (7 fish) record weight was 19.33 pounds. Six teams improved on that record in the Grenada tournament. Jeff Riddle and David Maddux set a new big fish record with a 3.87 pound slab. Twenty-nine teams weighed in a crappie over 3 pounds and 64 teams weighed bags averaging more than 2 pounds. The average weight per fish over the course of the tournament was 2.40 pounds.
The results from this tournament and others indicate that the future of crappie fishing in America is strong. Crappie fishing is often a family affair and results like those from Grenada encourage anglers to get out there and give it a try. Crappie are fun to catch and also great on the dinner table. Vallentine summed up the tournament saying, “The crappie fishing industry is growing and strong. This type of exposure will only create more excitement and get more anglers interested in crappie fishing.”
The next stop for the Bass Pro Shops Crappie Masters Tournament Trail is the first leg of the Alabama State Championship, in Wilcox County/Camden, AL. The event will be held on the Alabama River, March 29, 2014.
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