As the practice days for the American Crappie Trail’s National Qualifier presented by Protect the Harvest on Ross Barnett Reservoir in Ridgeland, Mississippi approached, there was a palpable buzz in the air. Seasoned anglers knew the quality of the fishery, any crappie fisherman worth their salt was aware of the perfectly timed late spawn due to this year’s extended winter, and the tournament competitors knew that between the growing amount of traveling teams and the strong local presence, predominantly from Mississippi’s Magnolia Crappie Club, this tournament would be one for the record books, and it did not disappoint. With 80 boats turning out for the 100% payback event, a record-setting $62,400 was up for grabs in the crappie circuit, including a Ranger RT188C with a 115 Evinrude.
The Super Clean team of Ronnie Capps and Steve Coleman are no strangers to tough conditions, and generally when the fishing is at its most difficult, the best in the business shine. By locating key cypress stumps, Capps and Coleman were able to put together a winning pattern during the windy conditions. “We looked for what we call spider legs, anything that has structure touching the ground that will spread out – they have the vertical cover and the baseline horizontal cover, it’s a double whammy for a crappie nest,” said Capps. They unconventionally spent two hours the second morning using waxworms rather than minnows. “During the bite, those males would not take the minnow, they would just knock it out of the way, but if you put that waxworm on, they would suck it in and not let go of it,” said Coleman. The B’n’M and ProBuilt team’s two-day total weight of 28.16 pounds netted $28,100, including the new Ranger boat and Evinrude outboard, as well as an ACT check for $1,700 which included the $500 Sprint Mart bonus for their 3.01-pound Big Fish.
The General Tire and Rockport Rattler team of Whitey and Matthew Outlaw pushed half-ounce double minnow rigs with Rockport Rattlers and ProBuilt Jigs on heavily wooded ledges from 8-18 feet down. “Sitting on it in that wind was tough, man,” said Whitey. “On day two, it was on fire. We had all our big fish by 8:30am. From then on, we were throwing back 1.5 to 1.6 [pound] fish all day.” The B’n’M pros finished second with 27.40 pounds, winning $7,800. The father and son team also won second at the first ACT event on Neely Henry. “We’ve had a good year, and we’re just getting started!” said Whitey.
The Mr. Crappie team of George Parker and Tim Eberly also spider-rigged a heavily wooded ledge with Midsouth tubes on half-ounce double minnow rigs, tipped with a minnow. The Okachobee, Florida team fished upriver the morning of the first day, but moved out to a secondary area with the same structure and depth on the main lake for the rest of the tournament. “The boat was rocking up and down with that wind,” said Parker. “The poles would move one to two feet, but it didn’t matter, they ate it.” The team’s 27.08-pound bag was enough for third place, and a check for $5,200.
Special thanks to our National Sponsors: Lucas Oil, B’n’M Poles, Lucas Oil Outdoor Line, Ranger Boats, Evinrude, General Tire, Engel Coolers, SuperClean, Protect the Harvest, Mid-State Seed, Frontier Metal, Power-Pole, Road Runner, Abernathy’s MidSouth Tackle, Rockport Rattler, Rod Sox, Driftmaster, American Angler, ProBuilt Jigs, Grizzly Jig, Crappie NOW, Skippers Jigs, Bobby Garland Crappie Baits, and Charlie Brewer’s Slider Company.