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Lake life

Crappie Masters countdown continues


Defending Louisiana State Crappie Masters Champs Paul and Elizabeth Turner

Normally by now,  crappie fishing fever on Lake D’Arbonne would be here in full swing. But Mother Nature has put a chill on things and hasn’t been nice to fishermen so far this spring. That’s about to change this coming week whether she likes it or not.

Crappie Masters is coming to town, and its going to be a busy week of practice fishing for around 100 teams of locals and visitors from at least a dozen states. There will be TV show filming, a Media Day featuring a fish-off among local First Responder reps, a Kids’ fishing event and oh, yes — that $40,000 professional crappie fishing tournament.

It will be Crappie Masters week on the ‘Bone, culminating with Friday and Saturday’s two days of competition with weigh-ins at D’Arbonne Pointe just off old Hwy. 15. And lakedarbonnelife.com will be bringing you the most in-depth and timely coverage in the world on the Crappie Masters Louisiana State Championship.

Where to start?  How about with the fishing?

Last year it was the Paul and Elizabeth Turner show on D’Arbonne as the couple from Covington, Tennessee won the 2017 title.  After two days of tough fishing conditions, the duo caught consecutive seven fish limits and bested 95 other teams to claim $7,000 in prize money and the coveted title. Their total weight was 26.02 pounds and Saturday’s catch was anchored by a 1.93 pounder. Paul says being a defending champion doesn’t necessarily change the way he has to fish, but he jokingly adds “sometimes I may have to hide more than I get to fish”.

The guys and gals that fish in these kind of events are used to changing water and weather conditions. That’s what separates them from the everyday fishermen like me that can catch them when things are good, but have to stay home and watch Wagon Train on TV when they are not.

What’s it gonna take to win this week? Fishing has been tough. The weather and water conditions have been tough. That will continue into next week. Most of the time by now, fish are on the flats, but very few good fish are being caught in less than 20 feet of water. We decided to ask a few folks and see what they say.

Let’s start with Paul Turner, who says he “honestly doesn’t have a clue.” Turner adds “I’ve never had to fish that lake when it was muddy, so I don’t know. I think if the water is stable and we can find some clearer water, it will take 24 pounds to win it. If it keeps coming up and has a lot of current and is really muddy and the bite is off, it might surprise some folks and 14 pounds might win it. I don’t expect that, but I’ve seen it happen before on some mighty good fisheries. Those fish gotta eat and I know they are getting ready to spawn. I will know more about it after a few days on the lake.”

Next up, some more optimistic local fishermen. D’Arbonne guide and tournament fisherman

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Nick Young of Farmerville says it will take 27.00 to win and he admits the biggest challenge is fluctuating muddy water.  Terry Richard, one of the winning team members from two years ago sees the winning weight at 26.88. He sees the current as the main challenge. Crappie don’t bite very well in current. And it makes it very difficult to keep your lure in front of the fish’s face.

Local touring pro James Morgan predicted 27.63 before all of the rain and he’s sticking with that pick, even with the changing conditions. When the weather warms, the fish will probably be scattered and most are still deep, he said.  Tournament pro and Crappie University instructor Ken Myers thinks the fresh water will be the biggest challenge and will create tough conditions. He still thinks 25.87 to win it.

One good local fisherman who isn’t going to be able to fish the event this year is Sam Roberson. Sam’s not as optimistic as many of the others. He says 20.00 will win it because of the crazy weather and it’s impact on the lake. The fish are scattered and it has been one of the most challenging early springs that Sam can remember.

Local pro Steve Danna is leaning the same way, saying 21.22 is going to win it, less than most expect because of the rising water, current and below average water temperature.

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Dan Dannenmueller and his wife Sue from Alabama fish together as Crappie Mates. He is optimistic about the D’Arbonne event because he often uses his electronics to find out what the weather and water changes do to fishing. He’s no stranger to D’Arbonne and his approach will be to look past the “normal” locations and find out if they went to the banks or spawning grounds with warmer nights and rain. His pick:  27.90 pounds.

And finally, we let the Crappie Master himself “weigh in”. Mike Vallentine, President of the organization, says D’Arbonne’s past performance is enough to keep him optimistic no matter what the conditions. He picks 26.58 even with stained water, current and rising temps.

And here’s my pick (gosh, I thought you’d never ask!):  I think the current, muddy water and changing conditions will scatter the fish and it will only take 22.90 to win it.  The main other thing I’ll predict is that a few fishermen will catch lots of big fish, but not as many fishermen will catch as many big fish as usual. The overall weights for the tournament and numbers of fish may be down considerably.  Mother Nature may yet get to show us who is in charge. But the fishing will still be BETTER than at most places you can go drown a minnow or swim a jig!

As Paul Turner says, “Ya’ll have one of the finest crappie fisheries I’ve ever been on. And I’ve been on just about every one of the good ones. D’Arbonne is full of fish and full of good fish. Take care of it.”

And we’ll close our pre-tourney week report with a quick look at the weather forecast and the lake level forecast for the next few days:

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