They said the bite was a little bit tough, but Heath Rogers and Lance Billberry pulled out a first place catch of seven crappie weighing 14.87 pounds on D’Arbonne Saturday in the South Arkansas Crappie Club tournament. Even though it may take a minute to figure out that D’Arbonne isn’t in south Arkansas, you don’t need to know new math to figure out what that average was per fish. They also weighed in the big fish of the tournament – a 2.78 pound slab. It’s a sign the bite is on, . . . kind of. These guys target just big fish and while they nailed them, the catch-a-bunch bite is still a few days away.
It’s a sign of what’s to come in the next month to six weeks on the big lake and it will be just in time for the big Crappie Masters National Qualifier Feb. 26 & 27 with weigh-ins at Rhett’s old Old Hwy. 15. Fishing hours are from 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. both days with all anglers having to be in line by 4 p.m. on both days.
It’s a tournament that Crappie Masters president Mike Vallentine and the traveling contingent of pro anglers that follow the trail every year look forward to.
“D’Arbonne is just a great place to crappie fish,” Vallentine told us. “You can still register for the tournament and it’s important to get the word out to the local anglers that this is open to anybody. A lot of the anglers that finish in the money in these events are locals and this year, there’s even added incentive to fish. The National Championship will be held in your backyard on D’Arbonne Sept. 22-25. Crappie tournaments don’t get any bigger or better than that. Frankly, folks just love coming down here.”
Vallentine said that it is a post-drawdown year and the fish may not be as stout as they were last year, but it could still take 30 pounds to win it. With the extreme cold weather coming in this week, it will probably push the spawn back a little later and that adds potential for bigger weights. That all depends on the temperature of the water and that tell-tale full moon that seems to give crappie a budge into the shallows.
There’s another big Crappie Masters tournament coming to the Ouachita River on May 6 & 7 that will be a first of it’s kind. It’s a National Championship for individuals. It will be one fisherman per boat, one weight in a one-day tournament. There’s also another catch. There’s a five fish limit instead of a seven fish limit. And it’s an artificial bit only tournament. There are several new type rules, so if you are interested, check out the CM website.
“We are just testing the waters to see if there is potential for this type of tournament. Crappie Masters is still a team tournament trail, but it will be interesting to see if we could add a small circuit just for individuals,” Vallentine said. “We could have some teams split up fishing against each other for the first time ever, but I’m sure that would be a friendly competition.