Catching a two-pound crappie isn’t rare, but catching a bunch of them in a competitive pro tournament in all kinds of changing conditions makes it more of an oddity. But when angler after angler comes to the scales with two pound+ crappie and many pushing three pounds — it gets folks attention.
And then, this happened.
The winners of the Louisiana State Championship Crappie Masters tournament on Lake D’Arbonne Feb. 28 and Feb. 29 weighed in their best seven fish two days in a row that totaled 30.36 pounds. That’s a 2.2 pound average. That catch earned 22-year-old Matthew Rogers and his father, Bruce, of El Dorado Springs, Mo., a check for $10,000. Their seven fish Saturday, Feb. 29, weighed 16.47 pounds. Terry Stewart of Brandon, Mississippi and his daughter, Terra, of Sterlington, La., finished second with 29.64 and a big fish of 2.81.
The biggest slab of the event was a 3.25 pounder caught by Dan Langston and James Pegram of Blue Ridge, Tex. Thirty three teams weighed big fish over two pounds including a 2.99, 2.98, 2.87 and 2.86 rounding out the top five slabs. These catches were made in tough conditions as well. A cold front blew through the day before the tournament and the first day winds gusted over 15 miles an hour, limiting how and where the anglers could fish.
How they caught these big fish was perhaps the biggest story and can give other crappie anglers a good lesson. With the crappie on the lake in a pre-spawn mode, they were hanging out in deeper water near stump lines and trees. But boat pressure during practice and tournament days made the fish extremely spooky.
“We found the fish on timber in anywhere from 12 to 20 foot of water, but then they moved away from the timber and just suspended a good way out from the timber because of the boat pressure,” say Matthew Rogers. “If you tried to use your electronics and drop a bait right in front of the fish, they’d take off the minute the jig hit the water. I’ve never seen fish that spooky. We compensated by moving slowly, finding the fish 30-40 feet away and then casting jigs with shiners or small hair jigs and slowly reeling the bait back past the fish. That’s the only way they would hit it.”
A change to come
Rogers said that pattern would probably hold for another week or so, then with four or five warm days, the fish should start moving in closer to spawn on the lake.
“The males should start moving up some any day, but it will have to warm up several days in a row for big females to follow,” he said. “But all these big fish won’t go shallow. For the same reason they get so spooky out deep, these three pounders won’t go up and spawn around the banks and all those boats and bobbers. They’ll spawn deeper. In fact, I think a lot of these really big ones here spawn on top of tree stumps or just absorb their eggs. They don’t all go in shallow where it’s easy to catch them. That’s how they got so big, being wary.”
The Louisiana team placing the highest in the tournament were Tim Hebert and Andre Smith of Thibodaux, finishing sixth with 14 fish weighing 28.44. Their big fish was a 2.71 pounder. D’Arbonne locals Jared Riser and Chris Fields finished 16th with 14 fish weighing 25.98.
The average weight of all the fish brought in by the 100 teams was 1.73 pounds and it took 24 pounds plus to make the top 25.