Ten years ago, who would have dreamed that white perch fishermen from around the country would show up at Lake D’Arbonne and the Ouachita River wiht a combined half million dollars worth of fishing boats, tackle, military grade sonar and more baits than a small tackle store carries to compete for nearly that much in prize money.
Who would have dreamed that two local bodies of water would become media darlings in the world of competitive white perch fishing and become famous to the point most of us actually started upscaling our fishing lingo, broke down and called the fish “Crappie”.
Crappie, it seems, are the more prestigious of the white perch clan. Bigger, more socially acceptable and, although often mispronounced like a potty word, crappie are the up-and-coming sports fish of much of the country. And forget calling them sac-a-lait, the somewhat smaller, much less politically correct cajun fish of the family from down in south Louisiana.
So Crappie it is. And here’s the rest of the story.
In the next 18 months or so, there will be not one, but TWO world championship crappie tournaments and two qualifying tournaments held in our back yard. Don’t be surprised if there isn’t another qualifying tournament added to that schedule before it’s all said and done. Here’s a quick overview:
The third stop of the 2019 Crappie Masters Trail will kick off the activities on February 22 & 23 on Lake D’Arbonne with the Louisiana State Championship. Last year’s tournament was hampered by flood waters, but Nick and Jock Young figured them out and landed two seven fish limits weighing 24.40 to claim the crown.
The 2019 tournament will be the fifth year for Crappie Masters on D’Arbonne. Jay Stone and John Godwin caught 12.30 to win the first event, a one day tournament in 2015; Terry Richards and Casey Rayner caught 28.00 to win in 2016 and Paul turner and Elizabeth Turner caught 26.02 to become the only non-local winner in 2017. Lots of fish. Big fish. Make that big crappie.
Crappie Masters has also announced that it’s 2020 National Championship will be held on the Ouachita River out of Monroe sometime in the fall. More details on that later.
Next up this coming Spring, perhaps the biggest event related to fishing ever held on Lake D’Arbonne, especially when it comes to prize money and national exposure for the lake and our region.
The American Crappie Trail will bring its 2018 National Championship to Lake D’Arbonne on March 28-30. Even though the tournament is held this year, it is actually the final tournament for qualifiers from the actual 2018 tour.
The weigh-in for the Championship will be held on Lake D’Arbonne the first two days, then the field will be pared down to the leaders, who will fish against each other. That final weigh-in will be held at Railroad Park in Ruston, where the champion will be crowned.
There’s more for ACT anglers later in the year. A qualifying tournament for the 2019 championship will be held on the Ouachita River Sept. 13-14. The ACT fished the Ouachita last year, but hot summer weather made it a tough tournament. The later fall date should improve fishing, the ability to keep catches alive (which is a priority for ACT) and draw even more anglers.
The ACT has held two previous qualifiers in the area. In 2017, Josh Gowin and Alex Rude caught 24 pounds to win the event on D’Arbonne. In 2018, Terry Stewart and Cole Stewart caught 20.35 to win on the Ouachita River. More big crappie. One unique thing about the ACT is that the winners of every tournament take home a new Ranger Fishing, pushing the event payouts to well over $50,000. The largest payout for an ACT qualifier last year topped $80,000 on Granada Lake in Mississippi.
The tournaments provide more than venues for competition. The anglers also share techniques, lures and approaches to catching crappie that can help any anglers. And the economic boost is immeasurable. So, as you can see, crappie fishing isn’t cane poles, styrofoam minnow buckets and an orange and white cork. It’s become big time, and it’s still on the grow. Northeast Louisiana is fortunate to have great crappie fishing and plenty of support to help get these tournaments to come here. Trust me, there are dozens of other towns and lakes that would love to have them. We need to do all we can to keep them here, not just for the tremendous economic impact but because, well….it just means more! Even if it means we have to get all uppitdy with our fishing lingo.