Adjustments, weather, patience, consistency, and a bit of redemption were all in play at the Crappie Masters Alabama State Championship, sponsored by The Renewable Fuels Association “Ethanol Fueled With Pride”, American Ethanol, Bass Pro Shops, Elmore County Commission, and the City of Prattville, on the Alabama River and Lake Jordan, May 5th & 6th.
The local husband and wife team of Jonathan and Alicia Phillips made a key strategic decision on Championship Saturday that would ultimately lead them to their first Crappie Masters title and first Alabama State Championship in front of family and friends.
Team Phillips topped the scales with 14 fish weighing 23.89 pounds to leap frog over day one leaders Collier Hunt and Ken Fisher who went into Championship Saturday with a nearly two pound lead, but faltered on Saturday to collect $5000.00 for the win plus taking home the additional Missouri Corn Growers Association and American Ethanol $500.00 bonus for using E10 fuel in their boat, along with another $100.00 Jenko Fishing Bonus for using their products. Their Championship winnings totaled $5600.00.
Jonathan and Alicia also won a $100.00 Grizzly Jig Company certificate for being the top Male/Female team of the Championship. The Phillips’ have been in the top 10 in prior Crappie Masters events, falling just short before. This tournament was not to be another as the Phillips checked weather forecasts, lake knowledge, and went into the Crappie Masters Alabama State Championship with a solid plan.
On day two, Jonathan and Alicia made a brave, but winning decision to abandon the teams plans to spider rig and/or long line Lake Jordan due to heavy boat traffic. They chose instead to one pole structure. Jonathan had seen the method produce before, but due to weather fluctuations hadn’t been, until Championship Saturday when it all came together.
Jonathan, who guides on Lake Jordan, used his Mercury Motor, Humminbird electronics and Minn Kota trolling motor to identify structures that held quality fish. He spider rigged on day one, but single poled the same structure on day two. Team Phillips used minnows and jigs in 12 to 15 feet of water with the better bite in the 12 foot area.
The Phillips’ stated the keys to victory were patience, being consistent, and Alicia’s insistence on fishing Lake Jordan on Championship Saturday as opposed to the river. Jonathan and Alicia Phillips are sponsored by Road Runner, ACC Crappie Stix, Ziptailz, Slab Slobber, Dub-L-Seat, Tru-Turn Hooks, Driftmaster, Corn Field Crappie Gear, Airport Marine, and Silent Stalker.
Moving up one position on Crappie Masters Championship Saturday into the runner up slot were the reigning Alabama State Championship father/son team of Billy and Scott Williams. They weighed 23.03 pounds over two days to take home the second place prize of $2500.00.
The Williams’ who have experience and extensive knowledge of the Alabama River with around 300 way points on their Humminbird depth finder used the teams Minn Kota Trolling Motor to spider rig. They used minnows exclusively on B’n’M Poles in 12 to 20 feet deep water. The bite was in the 10 to 14 foot range.
The Williams’ also faced a critical decision on Crappie Masters Championship Saturday hooking a couple of their better fish deep and were concerned regarding the health of the fish until weigh in. They chose to come in a couple of hours before fishing hours were officially over, not feeling they could replace those fish in the event they perished prior to having them checked at the weigh in site. Both Billy and Scott felt they made the correct decision and ended up in the runner up spot. Billy and Scott Williams are sponsored by B’n’M Poles, Driftmaster Rod Holders, Humminbird, and Minn Kota.
Day one leaders Collier Hunt and Ken Fisher, whose bite faded on Championship Saturday, settled for the third place position. Hunt and Fisher, who have been friends and hunting and fishing partners for 50 years, jumped to a big day one lead with 13.35 pounds, easily out distancing the field. They could not sustain that lead as rising overnight water levels moved their quality fish bite. They finished with a two-day weight of 22.66 pounds, good for the third place check of $1400.00.
Hunt and Fisher also brought in the big fish of the tournament, a 2.34 pound slab on day one, which held up and garnered them an additional $574.00 for the fish.
Hunt and Fisher use a technique not utilized much any longer by tournament Anglers, but works for them. The team used their Mercury Motor and Humminbird electronics to scan structures holding fish, mark them, and then simply cast jigs, count them down to the proper depth, and retrieve using one pole, something they said they’ve always done since fishing farm ponds as kids. Hunt and Fisher generally stayed just above brush tops in 10 to 14 feet of water catching fish at all depths.
Fourth place, with 21.85 pounds went to Kent Williams, fishing alone, and was good for a $1100.00 check.
Eric Cagle and Jared Gilbert finished out the top five with 21.51 pounds. They took home a check for $800.00.
Second place big fish of the tournament was weighed in on Championship Saturday by the team of Jimmy Ayers and Michael Clinard who brought in a 2.31 pound Alabama dandy and took home a $246.00 check for their effort.
The top finishing Adult/Youth team award of a $100.00 Everharts Outdoor Store Gift Card along with a new Minn Kota Trolling Motor went to the team of Gerald and Beth Ann Overstreet who actually finished in 11th place in the tournament with a two-day weight of 18.64 pounds.
Crappie Masters would like to thank the Elmore County Commission and the City of Prattville for their support serving as hosts for the Crappie Masters 2017 Alabama State Championship.
Next up on the Crappie Masters tournament trail is a one day National Qualifier on Rend Lake in Whittington, Illinois on Saturday, May 13. Go to www.crappiemasters.net for tournament details.