Bobby Phillips has been catching crappie on the Ouachita River since before most of the competitors in the upcoming Crappie Masters Individual National Championship were born. The 77-year-old West Monroe legend started out when he was five years old and he didn’t even know he was fishing for crappie They called them “specks” and used a hand-cut cane pole with cotton line and a big red and white bobber.
Times have changed, but Bobby already knows where the next Ouachita tournament will be won.
“No question about it,” says Bobby, the founder of the Honey Hole.
“It’ll be won south of Little Rock down by the posted sign. But watch out for the Llamas. They’ll spit in your eye.”
That’s Bobby’s pat answer when somebody sees his picture on Facebook with a mess of fish from the river. Where’d you catch them? Yep. South of Little Rock. And since the entire river system is south of Little Rock, that pretty well narrows it down, right?
Now, he does have a serious bit of advice for anglers fishing the big event May 6th -8th on the Ouachita River in Monroe and West Monroe with the winner taking home $12,500 and the title at the Crappie Masters Individual National Championship. And that’s something that is hard to come by from other anglers who are fishing the event. Bobby isn’t fishing in it, so he doesn’t mind talking about it. Those anglers that are fishing it are tight-lipped and you have a better chance of hearing the truth on CNN than from one of them BEFORE the tournament!
“The crappie are going to be up in the backwater of the creeks and the lakes and they’ll still be spawning for the most part,” Bobby says. “The water in the river system is a little cooler and they spawn later. They won’t be in the river because it just has too much current.”
The river has been on a fall and should stabilize around 31 feet for the tournament. That’s a good thing for the fishermen, but some of the big ones may still be a little hard to get to.
“They love to get back in those button willows and spawn and it makes it a little tougher,” Bobby says. “If the river starts to fall, those fish will move out to the nearest little dropoff, but they won’t leave that shallow water until the water just makes them do it.”
Bobby’s favorite baits are hair jigs and Bobby Garland plastic tails. The river is full of little crawfish this year and he likes crawfish type colors, or standards like Blue Thunder and Chartreuse with white pearl.
You can check the river’s current level and projections for the week here:
As a special bonus, we’ve also got a few words for you today from new Crappie Masters owner Blake Jackson. We had a chance to talk with him recently about the Monroe tournament and CM in general.
The new Crappie Masters ownership is in effect and Blake will be at the Ouachita River tournament this weekend. It’s a family run operation and Blake will be heading it up. His family is the owner of Ozark Rods and runs a couple of tackle stores near their home in southern Illinois, so they are no strangers to crappie fishing. He also fished competitively through college and is turning his attention to crappie. Blake is only 22 years old, but because of his experience, he feels like he’s up to the task. He also points to the number of younger anglers — some the same age as himself — that are making waves on the pro crappie circuits. The younger fishermen are the key to growing the sport for the future.
He isn’t making any major changes to the trail, awards program or structure, but his biggest plans are, in his words, “to bring more renewed energy to the sport of crappie fishing.”
“Our whole goal really over the rest of this year and into next year is to bring that new energy and to give competitive crappie fishermen a platform where they can grow, promote sponsors better and hook in with everyday crappie fishermen. We want everybody, whether they are tournament fishermen or not, to feel like part of the Crappie Masters family.”
The tournament on the Ouachita is a first-time individual championship and Blake isn’t sure how much interest there will be, but if they get 40 boats, he’ll be happy. Double that and he will be real happy. That shouldn’t be hard because there is a $12,500 guaranteed first prize!
For more information on the event, check Crappie Masters website or visit their Facebook page.