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Lake life

Crappie Battle Royale!

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Winner, winner . . .  crappie for dinner

Most people know the big professional Crappie Masters Louisiana State Championship will be held this coming Friday and Saturday on Lake D’Arbonne. But only a handful of people knew about the fierce crappie fishing competition that was going on Wednesday morning on the lake.

While boats of practicing competitors from around the south buzzed up and down the channel, dipped jigs in the sloughs and sent shiners out on the flats looking for crappie that could win this weekend’s top prizes, two fishermen intensely battled in a head-to-head contest just for the fun of it. Kind of. I did mention “intensely”…

It was Crappie Masters President Mike Valentine vs. yours truly, minnow to minnow and jig to jig.

“No matter where you are fishing and what you are fishing for, there’s always that little competitive nature that kicks in,” Mike acknowledged. “That’s part of the fun of it.”

Easy for him to say. After five hours of back and forth catching fish, hanging up and jawing with each other and other anglers up and down the lake, we ended up tied on number of fish caught.  Enter the big fish tie breaker. Fishing overtime, if you will.  To the scales goes Mike’s big one. The readout says it’s a 1.71 pound crappie. Next mine came out of the livewell and you could tell it would be a nail-biter. At screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-2-27-04-pmfirst, the scales read 1.71, but after Mike shook them violently and brushed the water off my fish with his hand, they locked in at 1.69 pounds. Did I mention they were his scales?  It was hard, but I conceded victory without any hesitation and, I might add,  without asking my supporters to burn down any boat houses, protest on the launching ramps or boycott the weigh-in. Sometimes you just gotta be a big boy.

Seriously, we had a blast.

And like most folks, we caught some crappie in the channel, some in the flats and some in between. The big ones were scattered and biting slow. That will probably be the same thing we see in this weekend’s big tournament, which is expecting close to 100 teams to compete for what could be close to $40,000 in cash and prizes. Based on what we are seeing in practice, it will be hard to match last year’s two-day weight of 28 pounds even.

It was fun to spend Mike’s “Day Off” with him on the water. The next four days will have him going from major period to minor period making sure the tournament goes off without a backlash. And I did get some interesting insights about competitive crappie fishing from him as well. Like “What is the main difference in the competitive fishermen who place in the money consistently and those that only win prize money occasionally?”

“Some fishermen just have the knack for finding and catching fish,” Mike says. “It’s hard to pinpoint what it is. They just have it. And a lot of it is in the mental approach to it. The guys and gals that win consistently are always working to learn more, to find more fish, to get on the water earlier and stay later, to catch more fish. And they have confidence that they will be successful.”

Mike said if you watch closely the difference in the champion and the “rest of the field” in the top spots may simply come down to one or two things that can’t be predicted. Someone’s line breaks, a big fish just comes off at the boat or some little something happens.  On the other hand, the winner may have everything go right. Luck does play a little bit in it for sure. Mike agrees with that. Mike equates it to golf, which he used to play all the time before he saw the light and started fishing. When you see the story of the winner of a golf tournament, he has usually chipped one in from the rough or made a 40 foot putt, or his main competitor misses a one foot putt.

The folks in charge of crappie tournaments and crappie businesses that make events like this weekend’s Louisiana State Championship aren’t just putting on events. They see a bigger picture, Mike says.

“We are on a mission,” he says. “We want people to know that you can catch crappie year around, everywhere in the United States. Hot. Cold. Shallow. Deep. There are fish to be caught. Most people fish in the Spring, then put their gear up and wait until Fall or next Spring. We want to make crappie fishing a year round sport.”

One piece of advice if you do that. Get your own scales.

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Don’t forget:

There will be a Kids Fishing Tournament Saturday morning. Bring your fishing poles and bait. There will be prizes for the winners! Here are the details:

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