The American Crappie Trail’s national qualifier on the Ouachita River, presented by Rockport Rattler and Lucas Oil Outdoor Line, concluded Saturday afternoon with a nail-biter showdown between some of the top crappie teams in the country as they competed for a bid at next spring’s ACT championship and over $56,000 in cash and prizes, including a Ranger RT188C with a 115 Evinrude.
The father and son team of Terry and Cole Stewart are no strangers to the winner’s circle, having multiple top ten tournament finishes, including a win at the ACT’s Sardis tournament exactly one year ago. After locating some big fish on the final day of tournament practice, the Magnolia Crappie Club team was able to develop a pattern spider-rigging D’arbonne Bayou, which led to a colossal day-one weight of 12.01 pounds, giving them a solid lead going into day two. Storms to the north brought a drastic change in the river system on day two, and with waters rapidly rising, the bite became extremely tough on all anglers, and the Stewart’s struggled to match their day-one weight. However, their 8.34 pounds was enough to put the Mississippi anglers on top of the field of traveling professionals and local fishermen, earning them their second Ranger RT188C and 115 Evinrude outboard, along with contingency cash. The Stewarts also won the Big Fish pot with their 2.09-pound day-one slab.
The B’n’M Pro Staff team of Tim Blackley and Paul Turner spent their four prefishing days looking for areas that wouldn’t be pressured by other anglers. Driving north paid off for the Strike King team, who, like first and third place, spider-rigged various depths with B’n’M Double Minnow rigs to catch their stringers. With a two-day total weight of 19.53 pounds, including the second biggest one-day weight of the tournament at 11.15 pounds, the Abernathy-sponsored anglers brought home $6,850 for their second place finish.
Rounding out the top three was another veteran B’n’M Pro Staff team, Kent Driscoll and John Harrison. Driscoll and Harrison also spent their time on the northern stretch of the Ouachita River tournament boundary, catching their day-one stringer of 7.92 pounds in a shallow slough. On day two, as with many teams, their fish moved, but the War Eagle team pushed out into the main river channel and were able to locate the largest weight on day two, an impressive 10.98 pounds. Their 18.90-pound total brought home the third-place hardware, as well as $4,700 in prize money.