Tennessee team captures national crappie title

ACT tournament champions Tony Hughes and Jeff Riddle.
ACT tournament champions Tony Hughes and Jeff Riddle.

All during the Lucas Oil American Crappie Trail National Championship week on Lake D’Arbonne in Farmerville, even in practice, fishermen were all murmuring the same thing: “It’s gonna be close. It’s gonna be real close.”

Nobody could have imagined how right they would be. Second day leaders Tony Hughes and Jeff Riddle of Hornbeak, Tennessee, brought in their third straight seven fish limit Saturday, with the final stringer weighing 11.27 for a total of 35.94 pounds.

Daniel Porter and Jeremy Aldridge weighed in the same number of fish and when the scales had cleared Saturday at the end of day three, their total weight was 35.93.

The title came down to one one-hundredth of an ounce of crappie.

The reason was that anglers kept catching fish between 1.50 and 1.75 pounds everywhere they went. The big two-plus pound females that had been biting the past couple of weeks were spawning out and losing egg weights just prior to the event.

“It was epic, just epic,” said an elated, but exhausted Matt Morgan, the man behind the ACT. “I mean, really, you know. You have a three-day crappie tournament with the best crappie fishermen around and at the end of the day, it’s one one-hundredth of an ounce. Oh my. What else could you want? What can I say? It was epic.”

Tony Hughes, left, and Jeff Riddle with two D’Arbonne slabs that propelled them to the ACT National Championship.
Tony Hughes, left, and Jeff Riddle with two D’Arbonne slabs that propelled them to the ACT National Championship.

It was epic for Hughes and Riddle for sure. They won cash and prizes — including a new fully rigged Ranger Z518 boat and Evinrude G2 150 motor worth $50,750. Porter and Aldridge didn’t do badly, gaining $8,300 in cash for their runner-up spot. Porter is from Missouri and Aldridge is from Mississippi.

Riddle summed up how he felt about Lake D’Arbonne pretty simply in front of the final day’s weigh-in crowd.

“This is simply the best crappie fishing lake I’ve ever been on in my life,” he said.

“It was so exciting and these are just such great guys,” Morgan continued. “At the end, the guys that lost by such a slim margin were so gracious and so sportsmanship like. It is truly a professional group and I’m thankful for them. I also thank all the people of the region for the hospitality and the effort they put into making this a great event. It’s a fantastic fishery. Thank you.”

It was ironic that both teams didn’t do well in their first spots of the day on Saturday and went to their secondary area. It just happened to be the same spot, so as, Hughes said, “We just decided we’d shoot it out right there.”

There was another big title handed out Saturday. Ronnie Capps and Steve Coleman of Tiptonville, Tennessee, finished 13th in the tournament, but it certainly wasn’t lucky. They had a great final day and netted their second consecutive B’n’M Angler of the Year award. That, too was worth a fully rigged Ranger Boat valued at $25,975. They edged the father-son team of Terry and Cole Stewart of Clinton, Mississippi for the AOY award.

Ronnie Capps, left, and Steve Coleman of Tiptonville, Tenn., show two whopper D’Arbonne crappie that helped them gain their second consecutive Angler of the Year team title.
Terry and Cole Stewart of Clinton, Miss., finished second in the Angler of the Year race with fish like these from D’Arbonne.
Terry and Cole Stewart of Clinton, Miss., finished second in the Angler of the Year race with fish like these from D’Arbonne.

The top Louisiana team was Steve Periotti and Stuart Baum from Calhoun. They finished with 35.52 for fifth place. Other Louisiana teams in the top 25 were Matt Saterfiel and Peyton Hemphill in tenth with 34.90; Heath Rogers and Lance Bilberry in 19th and Jason Thomas and Scotty Johnson in 23rd.

Stuart Baum and Steve Perotti of Calhoun were Louisiana’s top finishing team in fifth place.
Stuart Baum and Steve Perotti of Calhoun were Louisiana’s top finishing team in fifth place.

A total of $136,950.00 was handed out Saturday at the championship, making it the largest payout in the history of professional crappie fishing.

Kinny Haddox
About Kinny Haddox 267 Articles
Kinny Haddox has been writing magazine and newspaper articles about the outdoors in Louisiana for 40 years. He also publishes a daily website, lakedarbonnelife.com. He and his wife, DiAnne, live on Lake D’Arbonne in Farmerville.