by Tim Huffman
Bass Pro Shops Crappie Masters All American Tournament Trail held their National Championship in late September. They had 154 teams fishing for the title and prize money.
Runner-ups Ronnie Capps and Steve Coleman bring in an early morning fish from Lake Whittington.
Alan Carter and Tony Sheppard from Kentucky won $30,000, trophies, and custom made rings by having the best weight of the two-day tournament. They caught 24.56 pounds. The team fished Washington Lake.
Carter says they fished right on bottom. Contours and cover were not important meaning there was no set pattern. Their best water depths were 5 to 8 feet.
The team slow trolled very small jigs using 16-foot BnM poles. The jig was a Crazy Angler Little Rascal. The Crappie Nibble was to get the fish to hold. They did not use minnows because it made the jig too large. They used a 1/16-ounce head but the body was short. They used chartreuse, junebug and similar colors.
Crappie Master National Champions, Alan Carter and Tony Sheppard, with four or their weigh-in fish.
Day two the fish got very spooky because there were around 20 boats around them on day two. The spooky fish required very slow presentations making their slow trolling method ideal.
Sheppard says, “I’ve fished since I was a kid and always wanted to win something big and it finally happened.”
Ronnie Capps and Steve Coleman from Tennessee are no strangers to winning. They were leading after day one. “We found the spot by process of elimination,” says Coleman. “We fished everything and everywhere looking for fish. With water coming up several feet we figured crappie would move up shallow and they did. We were usually in 5 feet of water with our baits 2 or 3 feet deep. We were on a point where the small willows came out. We were moving very slow. Other boats came in a few times but none of them bothered us.”
Day two wasn’t as good as the first day with bigger fish either not in the area or not biting as aggressively. The team fell to second place only 14/100 of a pound behind the winners. They used lime green jigs on pink heads tipped with minnows. They fished Lake Whittington.
Rod Wall and Joey Hilton had good catches to finish with 22.91 pounds. Wall says, “Each day the bite got tougher so we went back to more like summer tactics back home in South Carolina using smaller baits.”
Wall-Hilton used very slow trolling in different locations. Their bait was a 1/64-ounce jighead with a #8 hook made by Wall. They went to different bait shops to find the smallest minnows they could get. Mississippi isn’t known for small minnows.
Side Imaging was critical to the team. Wall says they could do in one hour what it would take days to do with regular sonar. They fished 14 to 16 feet of water with stumps, logs and other cover.
The Male/Female champs were Jay Don and Rhonda Reeve who finished 15th overall with a total of 18.68 pounds.
The Adult/Youth champs were local fishermen Oscar and Anna Riley with 14.12 pounds. Anna received a $3000 college scholarship.
Many fishermen struggled to catch limits of seven fish each day. Fishing was tough. The Mississippi lakes are known for good fish but the fall season proved to be difficult. The river jumped approximately 7 feet and was falling about a foot a day during the tournament. Methods varied widely with fishermen vertical jigging, slow trolling, fast trolling, and trolling crankbaits. Fish were in shallow, deep and in-between depths.
CrappieNow Publisher, Dan Dannenmueller, and his partner Garrett Steele, finished a respectable 51st with 11 fish weighing 16.16 pounds. They lost a very good fish right at the net on day one that would had completed their 7 fish limit. Their second day fish wouldn’t bite so they ended two fish short of a limit on day two. However, the team was on fish that would have given them a top 10 finish had they persuaded them to bite. They had a good tournament. Dannenmueller-Steele also finished sixth in points in the Angler Team of the Year race.
CLASSIC TOP 20
24.56 Alan Carter-T Sheppard
24.42 R Capps-Steve Coleman
22.91 Rod Wall-Joey Hilton
20.78 G Nelon-Paul O’Bier
20.32 D Thorton-S Culpepper
20.14 T Tindle-R Burroughs
20.04 J Aldridge-Jason Daniels
19.93 M Walters-Rick Solomon
19.42 Rick Fajen-Earnie Cox
19.24 C Carpenter-J Pennington
19.13 K Pitts-Travis Mace
19.01 W Belcher-Brian Carter
18.86 Tim Blackley-VanCleave
18.81 S Marquis-Troy Garrett
18.68 JD Reeve-Rhonda Reeve
18.51 C Bunting-T Bunting
18.47 Brian McGhee-A Dehn
18.43 K Sullivan-Monte Blount
18.42 T Skarlis-Kyle Steinfeldt
18.28 M Tosh-Terry Barnes
2.35 Jerry McCready-K Stauffer
2.29 Mike Walters-R Solomon
Other Crappie Master Awards
Angler Team of the Year was won by Whitey Outlaw and Mike Parrott. The team earned 1187 out of a possible 1200 points, won the Alabama State Championship and had an overall dream year of fishing. (2) Kyle Schoenherr and Rodney Neuhaus. (3) Billy and Scott Williams. (4) Kevin and Charlie Rogers. (5) Matt Morgan and Kent Watson. (6) Dan Dannenmueller and Garrett Steele.
Big Fish of the Year went to Jeff Riddle and David Maddux with a 3.87 pound monster. It came during the spring Grenada tournament. It set a new tournament record.
Big Stringer of the Year was taken by Jay Don and Rhonda Reeve who weighed in 20.54 pounds with seven fish at the Grenada spring tournament. It was a new tournament record.
Scholarship fish-off winner was De’ja Provencher in the 10-12 age group. She is from Mississippi and fished with Wade Hendren and Roy Logan. Age 13-15 winner was Gage Kelly from Mississippi fishing with Kyle Schoenherr and Rodney Neuhaus.
The Lifetime Achievement Award went to Phil and Eva Rambo. The couple is respected by everyone who knows them. Mike Vallentine says, “Nobody has dedicated themselves to the sport of crappie fishing over the last three decades like Phil and Eva.”
Sportsman of the Year went to Kyle Schoenherr and Rodney Neuhaus. Not only are they competitive but they are great representatives of crappie fishing. President Mike Vallentine says, “These guys are an example of what the modern day tournament crappie angler represents. They are always working to help improve the entire crappie fishing industry.”
Angler Team of the Year, Whitey Outlaw and Mike Parrott
Sportsmen of the Year Award- Mike Vallentine, Kyle Schoenherr, Rodney Neuhaus, Brian Sowers