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Lake life

Oklahomans take the lead

Robert Carlile and Craig Nichols watch as the scales settle in on 14.50 pounds, then show some of the slabs that put them in the Louisiana State Championship lead at D’Arbonne Saturday.

If you had to pick a week NOT to practice for and participate in a fishing tournament, this week just might have been it. Lightning storms, winds from every direction up to 20 mph, big rain, little rain and more rain. A full moon, rising lake levels, muddy water and fish swimming around in circles wondering why the water temperature keeps going up and down. I mean, it’s been like living both sides of the “Fishing Excuse Shirt“.

But seven crappie weighing an average of more than two pounds apiece — 14.50 pounds to be exact — made Robert Carlile and Craig Nichols of Oklahoma forget all that Friday. No Fishing Excuse Shirt for them. After the first day weigh-in of the Crappie Masters Louisiana State Championship on Lake D’Arbonne, those seven fish put them square in the lead for the $6,400 first prize, plus maybe more special incentives they could net. Their big crappie Friday was 2.34 pounds.

As you could expect, they, nor any of the other leaders wanted to share much information about where they caught them, other than “in the mouth” or “down there by the channel where those stumps are”. Tomorrow, we’ll find out more. We did find out they caught them mostly on shiners or some type of jigs, all with hooks in them.

Another out of state team, Arkansans Dustin Harris and Kelley Graham were second with 13.55. Their biggest slab weighed 2.47. The Freddie Dooley/Johnny Lovelady and Dusty McGehee/Landon Pender teams tied for big bass on Day one with 2.60 slabs. It took more than 12 pounds to finish in the top 17. Fifteen of the top 35 teams weighed in at least one fish over 2.00 pounds. Sixty-two of the 70 teams had seven fish limits. Amazing.

Several local teams are well within striking distance. Wes Barmore and Mark Theodus were third with 13.37 and a big one of 2.31; Terry Richard and Kent Williams were fourth with 13.16; Heath Rogers and Lance Billberry were seventh with 12.73 and defending champions Jock and Nicholas Young were eighth with 12.60. Ken Myers and Mark Taylor were 12th with 12.32.

Things are going to get much tougher Saturday in the final round. Will the anglers overcome the odds? The temperature started out at 48 degrees Friday. At starting time Saturday, the temperature is expected to be 64 degrees with pretty much a 100% chance of thunderstorms all day, especially around 10 a.m. Saturday morning, when the north winds are predicted to reverse and gust to a near 20-mph south wind.

There’s more. With more rain on the way, the lake’s rapid drain tainter gates were both opened to six feet mid-day Friday, causing an almost immediate noticeable increase in the current in the lake. That will bring more mud down from the upper reaches of the lake as well. Mud and current are to catching crappie what burnt peanut oil is to fried fish. Yuck.

We’re gonna need to print up another t-shirt with more excuses for fishermen like me. But these guys don’t seem to need one. The final round will be very interesting!

Local anglers, from top, Wes Barmore and Mark Theodus; Terry Richard and Kent Williams; and Heath Rogers and Lance Billberry
Defending Crappie Masters Champions Jock and Nicholas Young (top) and Ken Myers and Mark Taylor with their Friday catches

And then there is this for the rest of us ….

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