In six weeks, the best competitive crappie fishermen in the country, including a large contingent of 318 anglers (as in Area Code 318) will descend on the Ouachita River in Monroe as the American Crappie Trail’s tour hits town once again.
The two-day event will be held September 13-14 out of the Forsythe Boat Dock. The river will be off-limits to tournament anglers from August 30-Sept. 8. Practice days will be September 9-12. There will be more than $50,000 in cash and prizes on the line, including a fully rigged Ranger RT 188C with a 115 Evinrude going to the winners.
The ACT held a regular season tournament on the river last summer and catches were pretty good, but low-water conditions followed by torrential rains that brought the river up on day two hampered anglers. The father and son team of Terry and Cole Stewart from Mississippi was able to develop a pattern spider-rigging D’Arbonne Bayou, which led to 12.01 pounds, giving them a solid lead going into day two. Storms to the north brought a drastic change in the river system on day two, and with waters rapidly rising, the bite became extremely tough on all anglers. However, their 8.34 pounds was enough net the win. They also won big fish of the tournament with a 2.09 pound slab.
We decided a preview of the upcoming event would be nice, so we contacted one of the most successful competitive crappie anglers in the country and asked him how we would approach the tournament. Here’s his take.
“This year the river (including Bayou D’Arbonne) is open for fishing from Felsenthal to the Columbia Lock and Dam. Last year I-20 was the cutoff point going south, so we are opening up a ton of new water,” said ACT tournament director Matt Morgan. Before Morgan developed the ACT, he won won several national crappie championship and is a dominant angler. Obviously he can’t fish his own events, but he still can’t help but speculate how he would fish it if he were competing.
“If I was going to fish it in the fall with the river being up as long as it has been this year, I think I’d migrate more to trying to find a pattern in the river itself,” he said. “We’ve proven time and time again that the bigger fish stick closer to the main river and the only thing that would mess that up with be heavy current.”
Morgan says he would be looking for heavy slack water with some cover on the river primarily to target first. But, as always with successful competitors, he would have a backup plan for some of the river lakes. It may surprise some local fishermen, but Morgan says he thinks the biggest fish on that pattern may come come from the new southern waters.
“I fished some of the Ouachita and river lakes down there last year just for fun and they’ve got some good fish. There’s a good opportunity down there,” he said. “The water is really fertile on both ends. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this year’s event isn’t won down south, or maybe even by someone who fishes south one day and north the next.”
Morgan says the biggest thing opening up the new water will do for anglers is let them spread out some. A few anglers were on good fish in the river lakes last year, but they just got beat to death. The new waters allow the fishermen to spread out a bit and put less pressure on certain areas.
“The most exciting thing about the tournament this year is not just the great place we have to put on the tournament and the great fishing, but the fact that the whole river system has been reloaded with crappie with all the floodwaters this year. For a long time this spring, the fish were back in the woods and out in pastures in the flood water, fattening up and being able to hide from fishing pressure.”
The ACT field will also be fishing a variety of baits, Morgan said. “Some anglers will stick with multi-pole spider rigs and shiners, but if the fish are in the tops you might see somebody single pole and win this one,”
So, there you have it. The tournament will be won north or south, or both. And the winner will use jigs or shiners. Or both. Sorry to take all the suspense out of it. What did you expect from a fisherman?
Seriously, it will be a great event and a great weekend for fishermen in this area. Even if you don’t fish, its always fun to come out and watch the weigh-in. For more information, check out their website.