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Lake life

Thinking about crappie cash

Terry Richard, right, of West Monroe fishes with Kent Williams on the CM Tour. They are currently in 10th place in the Angler of the Year race

My favorite outdoor writer ever was Patrick McManus. He wrote a monthly column for Outdoor Life magazine back when it was about real hunting and fishing. He also wrote some great humorous books. Outdoor Life put his musings on the back page, which is why, I think, someone coined the phrase “saving the best for last”.

One of my favorite lines he wrote:

“Scholars have long known that fishing eventually turns men into philosophers. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to buy decent tackle on a philosopher’s salary.”

Well, there are going to be some serious philosophers roaming the waters of the Ouachita River this week— thinking, analyzing, seeking true fish wisdom. And the ones that figure it out best will make some serious money to buy decent tackle. About $130,000 worth!

That’s the cash and prizes on the line in the Crappie Masters National Championship in the event scheduled for Friday and Saturday on the river out of Forsythe Boat Dock. The top prize? The winning team will claim $30,000 with another $10-$15,000 in bonuses on the line. That’s some serious minnow money!

There’s more. This final tournament will also decide the Angler of the Year award, which includes a nifty little check for $12,000. That race is currently led by Oklahoma angler Robert Carlisle, followed closely by Matthew and Bruce Rogers of Missouri. Carlisle won the most recent major crappie tournament on the river with back-to-back seven fish limits weighing a total of 27.97 pounds. The biggest 14 crappie I caught all year didn’t even weigh that much that he caught in two days.

Overall, there will be 100 teams from 17 different states competing for the championship. There will be a good contingent of area anglers, too. Anglers qualified for an invitation through the Crappie Masters national trail and through state circuits, which were started up this year.

The tournament was brought to the river by the Monroe/West Monroe Convention and Tourist Bureau. It will have an estimated $1 million dollar-PLUS economic impact on the area and draw national publicity to the area and the river with a value hard to even estimate.

And now, the elephant in the room for this week’s event. This is the second big pro tournament on the river in the month and both have been met by a visiting hurricane, or the remnants thereof. It looks like the rain from this one may pass before the competition, but depending on how strong it is, the water that gets dumped in the river could change things every day. It will be interesting.

“It should be a fantastic event,” said CM President Mike Vallentine of Missouri. “The Ouachita River is a place folks had never really even heard of a few years ago, but everybody who comes here catches fish. It’s really blowing some people’s minds. In fact, It’s better than even I thought it would be.”

Vallentine acknowledges the fishing could be a little tricky after the storm if it comes our way. Recent rains up and down the river system with Hurricane Laura have had the river a little high and muddy, but a slowly falling river could make things just right. But now there’s tropical depression or storm or whatever Beta that looks like it will come through, too. What will it do? Who knows. In addition, one of the top spots on the river — Bayou D’Arbonne — will already have decent current because they are drawing down Lake D’Arbonne again because we’ve always done it that way. River systems are tricky for crappie fishing. Crappie don’t like current. A little will keep them moving, but too much will have them swimming for a hidey hole. Basically if things change any, you think you’ve figured them out one day and the next they’ll be somewhere else.

Stay tuned. And if you are on the river, please be courteous and helpful with our visitors. They’ve worked really hard to get here and they have a whole lot on the line — and not just a big crappie.

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