Thatcher Wehmeyer and Buster Braun from Stover, Missouri, said they had one really good spot for the American Crappie Trail tour stop on the Ouachita River for this weekend. They made it count. They landed a seven fish limit weighing an amazing 13.29 pounds to take a commanding lead in the event. They also caught a 2.31 slab that took big crappie honors for the day.
The winner after tomorrow’s 3:30 p.m. weigh-in at Forsythe Park boat landing will take home a new $26,000 fully rigged Ranger Boat as part of more than $50,000 in cash and prizes. Eighty one teams from around the country are fishing the national event.
Crappie fishing isn’t generally thought of as a great summertime angling adventure in these parts, but these fishermen and the Ouachita River shut down that rumor Friday. As you could expect, getting details about where they were fishing or with what lures out of any of the top finishers after day one was almost impossible with that much at stake. It was almost like watching a Democratic debate where everyone said “let me make this clear”, but nobody did.
We expect to get more details tomorrow (from the fishermen, not the Democrats).
There was one consensus, though. The crappie in the river were much healthier and active than in last year’s tournament. Many felt like it was due to the prolonged high water this spring and good quality water this summer. The water was hot, with many areas of the area nearing 90 degree water temperatures. Fish seemed to be bunched up in certain areas and not spread out as much as last year, especially the bigger fish that it takes to win a tournament like this. That’s why one key area may make it or break it for the winners.
Anglers can fish anywhere from the Felsenthal Locks to the Columbia locks and any waters in between that are accessible by boat from the main river.
Many anglers also found themselves adding several new items to their arsenal for this event — packs of Gatorade, umbrellas and bags of ice to throw in the live wells to help keep the fish alive. The hot temps forced several anglers to weigh in early to keep from losing their catch. Fish must be alive to be weighed in.
Several local 318 teams cracked the top 25. Here’s a quick look after Day one: