Red River crappie have anglers seeing “green”
From cane poles, Styrofoam minnow buckets and red and white bobbers to a quarter of a million dollars in prize money, crappie fishing has come a long way, fast.
Just ask Jeff Larch and Jared Fyock of Arkansas, winners of the three-day Mr. Crappie Invitational Classic on the Red River out of Shreveport this past weekend. They led for all three days and caught three seven fish limits weighing 35.27 pounds to claim the $100,000 first prize. Louisiana anglers Justin Smart and Wesley Miller, who both live in the Shreveport area finished second in the event with 32.08 pounds. Their second-place payday wasn’t too bad for three days of fishing either — a check for $40,000.
The top 25, which fished the final day of the shootout that was part of the 2021 Crappie Expo, shared another $110,000 in prize money, bringing the total payout to $250,000. Two other teams made it to the final round and cashed paychecks. Andre Smith from Schriever and Tim Hebert from Thibodaux finished 13th with 29.78 and Trey and Tucker Underwood of Ruston were 14th with 29.48. Both those teams won checks for $4,000.
And at first glance, the Red River doesn’t look like much of a crappie fishing hole. But truth is, the rolling river is a great spot to crappie fish, so it’s a natural to host the Mr. Crappie Invitational Classic. The fishing was headquartered out of Bossier City’s Red River South Marina. Fishing was tough as the anglers were crowded into some of the best fishing spots on the river. Stumps, fallen trees and shallow water areas that anglers had to battle also made the fishing tough.
What it took to win
But in the end, it was a simple strategy that led the two anglers to their victory.
“Just like everybody else, we ran 180 miles of river looking for fish during practice and we had virtually nothing, except where everybody else was fishing and not catching many big ones,” he told the audience at the weigh-in. “On the last day of practice we said, heck, let’s check it right here close to the boat ramp and see what happens. We found a few fish and there were enough to carry us the whole three days. We didn’t burn fifty cents worth of gas and caught the fish right in sight of the boat ramp.”
The eventual winners were the last team to weigh in, which left Smart and Miller sitting in the leader’s chairs waiting in suspense. As Larch and Fyock approached the scales, weighmaster Chris Jones, a well-known fishing emcee and weighmaster, announced it would take 8.49 pounds to win the tournament. When the last crappie hit the scales, the weight for Larch and Fyock on the final day was 11.68, pushing them to victory.
Getting the fish to bite
But the two Louisiana anglers in the second spot were still very happy.
“Look, this is a great tournament and we are as excited as we can be to just be here,” said Miller, better known as “Big Sasquatch,” a full-time fishing guide with Big Sasquatch Outdoors. “We were so excited when we found out it was coming here. The Red River is a great fishery although it is tough to fish sometimes. We caught our fish in a little bitty ditch in the back of the lake that we found holding big fish. There weren’t a lot of big fish, but enough to get us here.
Miller said he tied on one of his small hand-tied homemade crappie jigs and got the sluggish fish to bite.
“You had to drop it right on his head and hold it still and in a minute, he’d come up and hit it,” Miller said.
The Classic and corresponding Crappie Expo at the Shreveport Convention Center also had local tourism promoters seeing green. They estimated a $2.6 million impact from the event. The Expo featured more than 100 crappie-related companies promoting boats, lures, rods and reels and putting on fishing seminars. Also featured was what was billed as the “world’s largest fish fry,” feeding thousands of visitors to the show. Fish for the fish fry were donated by competing fishermen and guides in the area.