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Lake life

All eyes on the ‘Bone

In less than a month, all eyes of the region’s crappie world will be on Lake D’Arbonne for the Crappie Masters annual Louisiana State Championship.

D’Arbonne will be the third stop for CM this season, with the actual tournament Friday and Saturday, Feb. 22 & 23. Before they get here, the touring pros will hit the St. Johns River in Deland Florida this weekend and Lake Talquin in Gadsden County, Florida, on Feb. 8 & 9 in the two legs of the Florida State Championship.

“We always look forward to coming to D’Arbonne,” said Mike Vallentine, President and tournament director for Crappie Masters. “It’s a fabulous fishery and the people are fabulous as well. They always make us feel welcome.”

What really makes these events interesting is the fact that the fields are made up of traveling pros, with their colorful wrapped-to-the-max high performance boat and truck combos as well as the same local guys in the 18-foot Lowe’s crappie boats that you see on the lake on any given Saturday. And believe it or not, a majority of the events are won by local teams.

It isn’t for the weak of heart. You have to be willing to fish in all kinds of weather and conditions. For example, last year’s tournament was won by Nick and Jock Young with 24.40 pounds in terrible conditions. Rain had raised the lake nearly three feet and it was muddy swift and just plain yucky. Practice week was terrible. But they overcame the odds and won the event.

Nick also guides on the lake and now’s a good time to give him a call. But right before the tournament, it will be too late. He and the other anglers going after that prize money will be a little bit more quiet about when, where and how they catch fish. You might have a better chance of getting a straight story out of CNN. If you want to make a quick trip before tournament practice time, you can catch Nick at 318-243-8646 or on Facebook at D’Arbonne Lake Guide Service.

As far as Crappie Masters goes, there’s is one other thing that keeps many ordinary crappie fishermen from taking the bait — a hefty $350 entry fee. But there is also a big payback. Last year’s winners took home $6,000 cash with almost another $12,000 to the rest of the top ten. Exact payout is determined by the number of entrants.

It takes a lot of support and coordination and financial incentive from local groups like the local Tourist Commission and the Chamber to put on these events. And trust me, there are dozens of other lakes and towns that would love to have what we have right here in our backyard. Never take these events for granted.

“Fishing on Lake D’Arbonne has become an industry for Union Parish,” said Peyton McKinnie, local businessman and outdoorsman. “It is now economic development due to the recent national exposure. We can’t miss out on opportunities like this.”

For more information on the tournament or entry information, go to http://www.crappiemasters.net/home/2014-bass-pro-shops-crappie-masters-tournament-schedule/tournament-details/350-february-22-a-23-lake-darbonne-farmerville-la-louisiana-state-championship


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