You know what the difference between 27.94 pounds of crappie and 28.17 pounds of crappie? West Monroe’s Matt Saterfiel and Peyton Hemphill do. It’s $16,700.
They know because that’s the difference between first and second place in this past weekend’s American Crappie Trail tournament on Grenada Lake in Mississippi. The local duo finished second to Stephen Sullivan and Jamie Roberson in the two day event against 100 boatloads of the best professional crappie fishermen in America. But trust me, they aren’t complaining. In fact, they feel blessed.
“Oh, yeah, wow. We were so close. But hey, I’m still pumped,” Saterfiel told us Sunday night. “Actually, we were shocked. We were in fifth place on Friday and our scales weigh a little light. We really didn’t know we had that much weight on the second day. I just put the fish in the bag from the livewell one at a time and carried it over to the tank full of water. When I pulled the bag out a few minutes later and headed to the scales, I knew it was heavy. We are just blessed to have caught so many good fish.”
For the record, the top team in the tournament won a $25,700 Ranger Boat. Second place pays $9,000 cash.
“Man, I’m telling you. We never dreamed of winning that much money in a fishing tournament,” Saterfiel continued. “We’re just two guys who are good friends who love to crappie fish. We aren’t on any pro staffs or don’t even have sponsors. We fished the ACT tournament this summer on the Ouachita River and came in sixth and we met one of the B&M Pro Staff guys, Tommy Moss, who encouraged us to come to Grenada.”
Before that, they hadn’t even seriously thought about fishing another pro event. Now they are headed to the National Championship next spring on D’Arbonne. And don’t be surprised if that “don’t even have sponsors” tag doesn’t change pretty quickly.
One of the fish that got them there Saturday was a 2.43 pounder caught Saturday, the biggest fish they landed during their two days of practice and two days of the tournament.
“We had a good limit, but we kept on saying we needed to find one big old dumb fish. Sure enough, we were making a sharp turn and the baits came up in the water column a bit and she nailed it,” he said. “That was our big old dumb fish.”
These fishing friends attend Sunday School together at Mt Vernon Church in Ouachita Parish. Matt works as a financial planner and Peyton works for the Ouachita Parish School Board. They fished shiners — or as they called them in Mississippi, minnows — on every pole all during the tournament. Some were straight double minnow rigs and some were Bobby Garland jigs tipped with minnows.
There were several other 318 anglers who finished in the top 30. Ken Myers and Mark Taylor were 20th, James and Chuck Morgan were 25th and Ron Bilbrey and Thomas Hankins were 30th.
Some of the anglers found it easier to catch big crappie this week than to keep them alive. According to the rules, fish must be alive when they are brought to the weigh-in. With temperatures near 100 degrees for the tournament and oxygen levels lower than normal, a lot of anglers caught huge strings of crappie, but could not get them to the weigh-in alive.
Saterfiel and Hemphill were fortunate they didn’t lose any big fish like others did.
“Keeping them alive, that’s Peyton’s job,” Saterfiel said. “Man, I don’t even like to go back there and look.”
Peyton did his job well. To keep them healthy, they filled their livewells when they first got in the lack and recirculated the water after adding a good bit of ice. They ran the aerator and oxygenator all day long and kept adding ice and Crappie Alive to the water. They attached small belly weights to the fish with small alligator clips to keep them upright in the water.
The event offered the biggest qualifying tournament payout in the history of professional crappie fishing. The top anglers took home $80,125 in cash and prizes.
And it’s just going to get better…
Next stop: Lake D’Arbonne, right in our backyard, for the American Crappie Trail’s National Championship in March of 2019. The top 100 boats who fished the trail this year will qualify. There will be fishermen from all over the country. It will be a biggie!