Somewhere out on the meandering Ouachita River this weekend, some place between the I-20 bridge and the Felsenthal Lock and Dam, somebody’s gonna win a fully decked out brand new Ranger fishing rig. Some dozen or so other angler teams are going to win cash and prizes that could all total in the neighborhood of $60,000 or more. Some catch, huh?
In the meantime, local restaurants, tackle stores, hotels and gas stations are rolling up sales on the cash registers. Crappie cha-ching.
Yep. It’s all about the crappie.
The American Crappie Trail is coming to town with the first-ever national professional crappie fishermen on the Ouachita River. This tournament stands on its own, but is also part of a bigger picture on the 2018 tour that will conclude with the ACT National Championship in our backyard in the spring of 2019 on Lake D’Arbonne. Around 70 teams have registered for the event. Practice is underway on the river this week.
“Our tour fishermen are excited to come and fish here,” he continued. “It’s a great fishery and the facilities are just fantastic. The folks at the Monroe/West Monroe Chamber and Convention and Tourist Bureau are great to work with.” From a fisherman’s standpoint, it is so convenient to have hotels, restaurants, bait shops — everything — right within a couple of miles of the fishing waters. The Union Parish Tourist Commission and the Ruston CVB also played a part in getting ACT to the area to begin with. They all deserve a pat on the back for seeing the value of this to our region.
The guys on the big end of the poles this week will be the best-of-the-best crappie pros from around the country. But they’ll have to wrangle river crappie out from under the noses of a large contingent of local and area crappie anglers to take any of the prize money home, though. Stay tuned here this week for regular reports about the tournament.
“It’s going to be an interesting tournament,” says founder and tournament head honcho
Matt Morgan. “We are hearing a lot of whining and crying from some of the teams that they aren’t catching fish. Some are saying they aren’t catching any big fish. Some others are being strangely quiet. What I’ve learned this means is that both of them are probably catching a lot of fish.”
Morgan says he doesn’t think this is going to be an eight-pound a day tournament. There is a seven fish per day limit. Morgan says he expects it to take two 11 or 12 pound stringers to win the thing. I can’t tell you how they will catch them because it could be won one poling, it could be won long lining or a guy could get on them with a double minnow rig. It could be shallow. It could be deep. There are fish all over the place.”
Friday and Saturday the questions will be answered. Weigh-ins will be held at 3 p.m. at Forsythe Park Boat Ramp to determine the winners.
With miles of river channel, backwater sloughs and bayous and river lakes to fish, they keys to catching big fish consistently will probably break down to the basics of Fishing 101 — finding the right body of water with sumps, laydowns, oxygen in the water and fish food, like roaming schools of shad.
“I think that’s it,” Morgan said. “What people knew two weeks ago doesn’t necessarily apply right now. Things change on this river quickly. Fishermen right now are just trying to figure out which part of the pond has the best quality water and food supply for the fish.”
Morgan and tournament Master of Ceremonies and weigh-in guy Jame Bryant put his theories to the test today on the river. They headed south below the tournament’s official waters and Bryant said fishing was pretty good.
“This is the first time I’ve been here,” he said. “We took about 100 minnows and headed south. We didn’t even turn on the electronics. We just picked a bank and started spider rigging down it. We got a lot of fish. We probably had a limit weighing 8-9 pounds in just a couple of hours.”
Jamie closed with a compliment for the river and it’s fishery. And a little chuckle to the folks who say the fish aren’t biting.
“It’s a beautiful place to fish,” he said. “And I had a lot of fun. Let’s just say this, the ones that are saying they only catch little fish, they’re probably, how do I say it? Sandbagging!”