All during the Lucas Oil American Crappie Trail National Championship week on Lake D’Arbonne, even in practice, fishermen were all murmuring the same thing: “It’s gonna be close. It’s gonna be real close“.
Nobody could have imagined how right they would be. Second day leaders Tony Hughes and Jeff Riddle of Tennessee brought in their third straight seven fish limit Saturday, with the final stringer weighing 11.27 for a total of 35.94 pounds.
Daniel Porter and Jeremy Aldridge weighed in the same number of fish and when the scales had cleared Saturday at the end of day three, their total weight was 35.93.
That, folks, is one one-hundredth of an ounce of crappie.
Did somebody say it was going to be close? The reason was that anglers kept catching fish between 1.50 and 1.75 pounds everywhere they went. The big two-plus pound females that had been biting the past couple of weeks were spawning out and losing egg weights just prior to the event.
“It was epic, just epic,” said an elated, but exhausted Matt Morgan, the man behind the ACT. “I mean, really, you know. You have a three-day crappie tournament with the best crappie fishermen around and at the end of the day, it’s one one-hundredth of an ounce. Oh my. What else could you want? What can I say? It was epic.”
It was epic for Hughes and Riddle for sure. They won cash and prizes — including a new fully rigged Ranger Z518 boat and Evinrude G2 150 motor woth $50,750. Porter and Aldridge didn’t do badly, gaining $8,300 in cash for their runnerup spot. Porter is from Missouri and Aldridge is from Mississippi.
Riddle summed up how he felt about Lake D’Arbonne pretty simply in front of the final day’s weighin crowd.
“This is simply the best crappie fishing lake I’ve ever been on in my life,” he said.
“It was so exciting and these are just such great guys,” Morgan continued. “At the end, the guys that lost by such a slim margin were so gracious and so sportsmanship like. It is truly a professional group and I’m thankful for them. I also thank all the people of the region for the hospitality and the effort they put into making this a great event. It’s a fantastic fishery. Thank you.”
It was ironic that both teams didn’t do well in their first spots of the day on Saturday and went to their secondary area. It just happened to be the same spot, so as, Hughes said, “We just decided we’d shoot it out right there.”
And how about the team of Capps and Coleman? That would be Ronnie Capps and Steve Coleman of Tennessee. They finished 13th in the tournament, but it certainly wasn’t lucky. They had a great final day and netted their second consecutive B’n’M Angler of the Year award. That, too was worth a fully rigged Ranger Boat valued at $25,975.
They edged the father-son team of Terry and Cole Stewart of Mississippi for the AOY award.
The top local angler team was Steve Periotti and Stuart Baum of Calhoun who finished with 35.52 for fifth place. Matt Saterfiel and Peyton Hemphill of West Monroe finished tenth with 34.90. Other locals making the prestigious top 25 were Heath Rogers and Lance Bilberry of Farmerville in 19th; Jason Thomas of Monroe and Scotty Johnson of Ruston in 23rd; and Palmer Frost and Bily Rogers of Downsville in 24th.
Congratulations to the new ACT National Champs and Anglers of the Year! And to the local teams who fished their way to the top of the sport! You can find more out about the tournament results, photos and upcoming announcements from the tour in the coming days on their Facebook page:
The three-day event posed a unique challenge, but the D’Arbonne crappie held up to the task — as did the fishermen. Day one started with 80 teams which was cut to 50 the second day. For the final day, only the top 25 teams survived to fish for the title.
Here are the top 25 in order of finish:
This was the first national championship fishing event of any kind ever held on Lake D’Arbonne and drew big crowds to the weighins and a huge amount of national attention from the crappie fishing world. The economic benefits will continue for years to come. Some folks think it doesn’t help them, but tax money from visitors helps pave our roads, pay our emergency responders and grow our community in Lake D’Arbonne Country. These kinds of events have also brought housing growth to the lake not seen since the lake was first opened. That, too, generates hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue locally.
Don’t take these events for granted. If Union Parish doesn’t take some positive, coordinated and aggressive steps to retain these events, somebody else will scoop them — and the benefits – right out from under our feet. We’re already seeing the first stages of that. It would be a shame to look back in a couple of years and moan about “the big ones that got away”.
Speaking of which, the ACT will be back in the area later this year with it’s final qualifying tournament for 2019. They’ll be fishing on the Ouachita River on September 13 & 14, hosted by the Monroe/West Monroe Visitors and Tourist Bureau.
And as we do every Sunday, we’ll leave you with this thought from the Bible. Winning a fishing tournament crown is big news, but the real important crown is this one from James 1:12:
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”
It’s been a busy couple of months. Lakedarbonnelife.com will be taking a couple of weeks from they keyboard to let our hands heal from catching and handling all those fish. We will be back with you with the outdoor news, some even true, on April 16!