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Lake life, Louisiana fishing

Gum balls, crappie and three lakes…

This is the second of a two-part series:

Gum ball machines and crappie fishing tournaments. How in the world could those two be connected?

Today, as we look further at the Crappie Masters organization that will be bringing the first big-time professional crappie tournament to Lake D’Arbonne next spring, the answer unravels. Missouri resident Mike Vallentine, the current president of Crappie Masters, Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 5.37.57 PMexplains:

Crappie Masters was founded and started by Joe Miller,” Vallentine said. “Joe contacted Paul Alpers about his idea of starting Crappie Masters and these two got it started. His idea was put on a crappie tournament and have a guaranteed payback of $10,000.00 no matter how many showed up. The funding to get this started was secured by putting out 250 gum ball machines. The revenues from them were used for expenses. The first ever Crappie Masters event was held on Truman Lake in Missouri where over 100 boats showed up to fish for over $10,000.00 in cash. So the story goes that Crappie Masters was started .25 cents at a time.”

That’s pretty cool! So if you are wanting to fish the big tournament next April 18 on D’Arbonne, Caney or Claiborne and the $200 entry fee for two fishermen seems steep, you might want to see if you can get your hands on a gum ball machine or two…

Here’s how Crappie Masters was drawn to our area: “Our attraction to Lakes D’Arbonne, Caney, and Claiborne were from following all the press the area was receiving for the size of the crappie being caught,” Mike said. “Tournament anglers tend to want to fish lakes that produce larger crappie so I thought this would be a good fit.”

Crappie Masters will draw folks from around the country. There are usually around 120 anglers in each tournament with an average payout of around $12,000 in cash and prizes. While it is a serious business, it is also a lot of fun for Vallentine.

“It is a lot of fun getting to meet all the fine people you meet across the country at the tournaments,” he said. “It is different everywhere you go when it comes to the food, fishing, and local amenities but the one thing that never changes is the people. They are so receptive and willing to help and in return, it makes putting these events on a lot simpler.”

Vallentine took his first look at the three lakes last week and here were his initial impressions. First Lake D’Arbonne: “Wow, look at all the structure. I could catch crappie here one pole fishing.” As for Caney: “I’d say its a trolling lake. Looks very fishable. Has that quiet, isolated feel to it” and as for Claiborne, “That lake reminds me of one of our lakes close to home — Lake of the Ozarks, with all the shoreline and boat houses and docksScreen Shot 2014-07-01 at 8.13.00 AM.”

Valentine had one closing thought: “All I would like to add is that this will be an interesting tournament due to the fact that it could be won off of any of the three lakes. All Crappie Masters tournaments are open to all anglers. 60% off our tournaments are won by local anglers so I want to encourage everyone to come out and fish the tournament and have a great time. There are lots of ways to win prizes.”

Anybody want to buy some gum balls?

PS – There will be lots of folks involved to make this happen, but one Lake D’Arbonne fisherman, James Morgan, needs a special “thank you” for his volunteer involvement and hosting Mike on his visit here. Good job, James!


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