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Lake life

They caught HOW MANY crappie?

The average crappie fisherman probably won’t catch 260 pounds of crappie all spring at Lake D’Arbonne – maybe not all year. None of them will win $10,000.

But the father-son team of Hayden and Dan Jeffries of Brandon, Mississippi did both of those things – in two days. They won the first-ever catch-weigh-release tournament hosted by ACT with a two-day weight of 259.30 pounds and claimed the $10,000 first place check.

Folks, that’s putting a pound of crappie in the boat every three and a half minutes for two straight eight-hour days on the water.

It wasn’t the big slab crappie that have made D’Arbonne famous. In fact, it was the opposite. They ignored the biggest fish when they saw them on their underwater camera-like live sonar. Their strategy:

“What I targeted was the areas that were slam full of one-pound fish,” said the younger angler, Hayden. “Those are the kind of fish that are usually easier to get to bite. In fact, even when we saw a big fish, we didn’t even mess with them. We just covered a lot of water and dropped baits in front of a lot of fish.”

“We are both worn slam out and ready to go to bed,” Jeffries signed off with.

It was just another day at the office for the hottest team in pro crappie fishing. The duo won the ACT National Championship on the Ouachita River last summer and followed that by claiming the $100,000 first prize in the Crappie Classic in October. There have been bunches of wins in smaller tournaments. Fishing against these two guys is like trying to win a college football championship with Georgia in the mix the past two years.

Unfortunately, only 22 teams fished in this event, which was expected to host a full field of 50 teams. That meant less competition and less visitors to the area, something the lake’s economy depends on. It also mean smaller payouts for anglers, meaning everybody but the top two teams went home pretty much in the red after paying travel, lodging and fishing expenses.

Lee and Keaton Standstipher of Oklahoma finished second with 200.45 and won $3,000. Lamar Bunting and Gene Neuimeir of Arkansas were third with 161.50 pounds and won $2,000 and Patrick Stone and Eric Cagle of Alabama were fourth with 132.35 pounds and won $1,000. Entry fee to take part in these events is $200 per team and each fishermen pays a $50 annual membership fee.

Relax. No limits were broken and few fish were harmed. The fish were caught, weighed and released on the spot where they were caught. The highest finishing local team of Chris Fields and Jared Riser, who are tough to beat on D’Arbonne, finished just out of the money with 129.8 pounds. They got a trophy, but no check.

It’s the first time a crappie tournament has used this format. They usually are won by the seven biggest fish.

Turning these good fishermen loose in a no-holds-barred event on a lake full of crappie was expected to lead to some 100+ pound catches and D’Arbonne didn’t disappoint. The format as taken from the Major League Fishing circuit for bass. The biggest difference is that with MLF, there are cameras in the boat and a Scoretracker updated all day long where people can see the fish caught and weighed on the internet.

The ACT event had volunteer “Marshalls” in the boats to weigh fish, but nobody knew who had caught what, or how much, until they came to the weigh-in…which was more like a “walk-in” since nobody had any fish to show. That was kinda weird, watching a “weigh-in” at a fishing tournament with no fish. To be honest, it was watching a rodeo without getting to see the bull. But that’s just me.

I do like the conservation aspect a lot, but there’s work to do there to make this concept work to generate fan interest. And that’s necessary to grow the sport. Right now the numbers of entrants in many of these type tournaments is noticeably down. A couple of years ago, a tournament like this would have drawn 70-100 teams.

The tournament was sponsored by the Town of Farmerville, Union Parish Tourist Commission, Union Police Jury and Farmerville Chamber.


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