Richard Bowling and Gary Lee of Missouri grabbed a bucket of minnows and put their foot on the trolling motor to catch a seven-fish limit of crappie weighing 12.62 to take the Day One lead in the Crappie Masters National Championship on Lake D’Arbonne Saturday. The duo have a fin up on the rest of the field fighting for the $30,000 first prize. They plan on following the same pattern Saturday in the finals as they caught their fish on Friday. They feel like they have enough fish to win it if everything goes right, but admitted this will be a close one.
“We were minnow fishing and we just covered a lot of water…a lot of water,” the duo said. “We sometimes went 100 yard between big fish and even when we found one, it was a tough bite. They aren’t really feeding. And with the weights so close, it’s going to be a tough tournament. “
That’s about all the details the two fishing partners wanted to talk about and who could blame them with so much on the line. Eleven teams are within a pound of the leaders and 10 more are not much further behind.
TJ and Alex Palmer, also from Missouri, landed the biggest crappie of the day Friday and came in second not far behind the leaders. The Palmers had seven fish weighing 12.48 and the biggest was a 2.55 pounder, a huge slab for this time of year.
Overall, a lot more fish were caught and bigger fish than most had predicted during practice. With many fish looking like they had been on a Jenny Craig diet all summer and all the pressure on the lake, it looked like it might be a tough go. But all but four of the 139-man field weighed in a seven fish limit.
“I’m surprised by the size of the fish today,” said weigh master Brian Sowers. “They caught a lot better fish today than I was expecting”.
Wesley Miller and Justin Smart, who spend a lot of time on the lake guiding, were in eighth third after day one. The top finishing local team were Union Parish residents Chris Fields and Jared Riser, both regulars in the check cashing line at crappie tournaments. They are currently in 13th just a pound out of the lead.
The complete top 20 is shown below. Stay tuned to lakedarbonnelife.com after the final weigh-in for exclusive coverage of the tournament champions and other award winners .
Anglers spent extra effort trying to keep fish alive to be returned to the water, but the heat took a toll. Those fish that didn’t make it were donated to Hunters for Heroes for upcoming events. HfH and Crappie Masters estimated more than 70% of the fish were returned to the water alive.
A large group of sponsors make it possible for this tournament and others that have a huge economic impact on Lake D’Arbonne Country, including the Louisiana Department of Tourism, Town of Farmerville, Union Parish Tourist Commission, Union Police Jury and Union Chamber.