T.J. and Alex Palmer stood on the weigh-in stage at the Crappie Masters National Championship on Lake D’Arbonne Saturday and watched nervously as only one team remained. That was the first-day leader team of Richard Bowling and Gary Lee.
When the digital scales leveled out, the Palmer team had held on for the win. Then they really got nervous. They were so excited and so humbled, the whole crowed got into it. It was a win shared by almost everybody in the crowd as the father and son team hugged and were overwhelmed to the point they couldn’t even talk. It was a spot that they had worked for, but had never really imagined they would be in. But with a quick reminder from weighmaster Brian Sowers and a roar from the crowd, they knew it was true.
Their two day limit of 24.66 won the $30,000 first place prize and even more in bonus money, but just being in that spot was priceless for the team from Missouri. The H&H Fishing Rods & Reels team also captured big fish for the tournament, a fish that actually spurred them to fire on all cylinders and put their nose to the grindstone to win the event.
About 11 a.m. Friday in the first round, things were pretty slow when they landed a 2.55 slab — a rarity for this early fall tournament. The Palmers said they looked at each other and decided they couldn’t let a kicker fish like that go to waste, so they got on their A game and fished as hard and as smart as they could.
The results show… well, the result! A big check, some big trophies and a pair of big smiles.
The team of Clay Gann and Todd Froebe moved into second with 24.38 pounds. Defending national champion Eric Cagle, fishing by himself, took third with Ewith 24.38 pounds. Bowling and Lee slipped to fourth with 24.09.
Local anglers Wes Barmore and Mark Theodos were fifth and led the local contingent. To say it was close is an understatement. The top five spots were separated by only .82 of a pound. Locals Chris Fields and Jared Riser were eighth and Wesley Miller and Justin Smart were 10th followed by Heath Rogers and Lance Bilberry in 15th.
Matthew and Bruce Rogers took Team Of The Year honors and placed sixth with a weight of 23.72 pounds.
Thanks to all the sponsors who helped put up the funding to make this tournament possible, especially the Louisiana Department of Tourism and Lt. Governor Billy Nunguesser, Union Parish Tourist Commission,Town of Farmerville, Union Parish Police Jury and Union Chamber of Commerce.
You can find out more about the tournament and all the finishers at Crappie Masters Facebook page.