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Lake life

More on Crappie Masters

Dusty McGehee from Downsville and John Harrison from Jonesboro landed the Slab of the tourney — a 2.28 pounder.

For decades, summer crappie fishing on the Ouachita pretty much flew under the radar. I mean, very few people did it. And the ones that did trolled around the shallow backwater lakes with a long pole and a lone jig. Or they fished a jig in the thick tops along the river.

But speaking of radar — the new electronics available to crappie fishermen today have opened up a whole new world of possibility. Who would have ever thought that here, in the late-middle of July, it would take 14 crappie weighing 27 pounds to win a tournament? That honor went to local anglers Jason Thomas and Shannon Porter. A lot of other anglers from here did well, too. Heath Rogers and Lance Bilberry finished fifth with 23.35 pounds; Dusty McGehee and John Harrison finished eight with 22.48; Terry Richard and Kent Williams finished 17th with 19.78 and Neal Pace and Chad Callender were 28th with 16.76 .

Fishermen can now virtually “see” underwater and not only find schools of fish, but pinpoint the bigger ones. Sometimes like this weekend when they get a lot of pressure, the fish become ultra spooky and anglers have to cast lures like Road Runners past the fish and retrieve them slowly back to the fish to catch them. But they still get to see what’s going on live on their scopes.

Heath Rogers and Lance Bilberry

And, those two pound plus Ouachita slabs were really showing up. McGehee and Harrison landed the biggest of those during the two day event, a 2.28 pounder. A whole lot of 1.80 and better pound crappie were caught.

And here’s something else of a new twist. If you think crappie fishing is just for old codgers who sit out under an umbrella in an aluminum boat and sip a Dr Pepper (or something like that), think again. Two of the top FOUR teams in this event were adult-youth teams. Bryan Young and Diesel Byrd finished third in the tournament and Trey and Tucker Underwood were fourth. The younger guys, Diesel and Tucker, weren’t just along for the ride. They both caught a significant number of fish weighed in by their teams.

Diesel Byrd, left, and partner Bryan Young shown here with tournament champions Jason Thomas and Shannon Porter
Trey and Tucker Underwood

We’ll leave you with a few other little tidbits from the weekend. First of all, most of the good fish were caught in bayous and lakes off the main river channel. They became even more important as the river continued to drop. By now, some of the areas that were hard to get into from the river may be out of reach of anglers without pulling a boat through the mud… Fish were caught around the edges of the timber in 3-4 feet of water and in 8-10 feet of water totally out away from structure. The fishermen that caught those fish in the open were fishing around big balls of shad. Where the shad go, the fish go…

Dan and Sue Dannenmueller

One team that did that was Dan and Sue Dannenmueller of Alabama. They caught fish pulling crank baits with planer boards out in deeper water. They had one bait the fish couldn’t stay off of, but a big catfish ate it early in the second day of competition… Most of the anglers did fish some sort of jig head, many using bladed jigs, but almost everyone had a shiner by itself or as a bait tipper… People had a blast catching fish on the river. Most of the teams that found fish reported catching 20-40 fish a day… Crappie Masters requires anglers to weigh in their fish alive, but in this heat, it’s hard to keep them in good enough shape to turn back. Many of the fish were returned to the river, but those that wouldn’t make it were donated to Louisiana Hunters for Heroes to feed their guests on upcoming special outdoor trips honoring their service.

LHH volunteers were busy utilizing the day’s catch that couldn’t be released back into the river.
Terry Richard and Kent Williams

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