By: Ron Wong
Daytime temperatures of mid-90’s greeted 121 teams at Grenada Lake for the final American Crappie Trail tournament for 2018. Tournament talk during registration was all about catching a lot of fish but not being able to catch bigger fish. Most everyone was saying catching crappie was not a problem, but lots of undersize fish were being caught. At Grenada, a crappie must be 12 inches to be a legal-size fish. Actually, this is a great sign that the lake incurred an excellent spawn the past two years.
An all time high of 121 teams participated in the tournament with a record total purse payout of $80,175 in prize and cash. This is the largest total payout of a regular season crappie tournament ever. In just two short years, the American Crappie Trail has grown the competitive crappie fishing scene to unheard of heights. 24th place paid $850, which was won in a tie by the teams of Tony and Mike Sheppard and Kevin Hawkins with Ben McGurt.
Stephen Sullivan and Jamie Roberson took first place winning a Ranger RT188C boat rigged with a 115 Evinrude motor. The team of Stuart Baum and Steve Perotti won the big fish award with a crappie weighing 2.65 pounds This fish was worth $2315.
So, how did some of the top teams catch their fish? Stephen Sullivan and Jamie Roberson, members of the Magnolia Crappie Club, won the tournament with 14 crappies weighing 28.17 pounds. They fished the mid portion of the Skuna river using double minnow rigs and a combo double rig (one hook with just a minnow and the other a Mid-South crappie tube in blue/chartreuse or lime/chartreuse colors rigged on a Roadrunner head also tipped with a minnow). They said 75% of their fish came on the double minnow rig which was fished in 5 to 8 feet of water in an old slough that was laden with stumps and stake beds. Light winds afforded the ability to fish very slowly and they stayed in the same area both days of the tournament. On the second day, the wind picked up but with the use of a Silent Stalker attached to their War Eagle boat, they were able to fish silently through their area. Several tips that helped them in the tournament were: using 16 foot B’n’M BGJP rods and two 18 foot poles in the front, the War Eagle boat had two 60 quart live wells which kept the fish healthy and longer fishing rods to put the offerings farther away from the boat. Stephen and Jamie caught over a hundred fish daily while using around 4 pounds of minnows each day.
Finishing in 3rd place was the team of Kevin Rogers and Matt Beckman winning $6,200. They fished in a creek channel that feeds the Skuna river. Using a double rig with a ¾ ounce egg sinker, each hook was a 1/32-ounce orange jig head rigged with a Bobby Garland Grenada gold colored Stroll’R. Each lure was tipped with a small minnow. They found the fish to bite better power trolling at 0.9 miles per hour. On Friday, first day of the tournament, they caught over 100 fish by power trolling. The double rigs were fished on 16-foot Jenko spider trolling rods. This was the first tournament that Kevin has fished without his Dad, Charlie, in a number of years. He said it was a pleasure to fish with Matt as he is his protégé. Moving forward, they will become tournament partners. To see how Kevin and Matt caught their fish during the ACT tournament at Grenada, go to Bobby Garland TV on the YouTube channel as Kevin & Matt’s performance is there now.
Finishing in 5th place winning $3,700 was the team of Jason and Parker Eichwurtzle, members of the Magnolia Crappie club. This father and son team were happy to finish this high against so many good teams. Parker who just turned 13 years old, has a passion for fishing since he first started at around 4 years old. He fished his first tournament when he was 10 years old. Jason said as he was growing up, he fished with his Dad and now the roles are reversed. Jason told us, “It is an unbelievable feeling and to see how he (Parker) has grown up”. They caught their fish at Grenada in the Skuna river by pushing a homemade 1/8-ounce bladed jig tipped with a big minnow fished on the bottom in 8-11 feet of water on Friday. They used a 1-ounce weight as they moved at .08 to 1 mph both days. On Saturday, because the spillway gates were opened the night before, their fish moved up in the water column in the same area, so they caught as shallow as 2 feet using 16-foot Denali rods.
With the 2018 tournament season now over, the American Crappie Trail is turning its’ attention to the first tournament of 2019 at Guntersville Lake on February 15 – 16, 2019. Soon afterwards, the 2018 Championship tournament will be held on D’Arbonne Lake, March 28-30. This will be a very unique tournament as it is a daily elimination tournament.
Grenada ACT Top Ten
28.17 S. Sullivan-Jamie Roberson
27.94 Matt Saterfiel-P Hemphill
27.50 Kevin Rogers-M Beckman
27.30 Robert Ward-G Crenshaw
27.16 Jason & Parker Eichwurtzle
26.59 Tommy Moss-B Cahoun
26.54 Daniel Porter-J Aldridge
26.40 Tony Hughes-Jeff Riddle
26.38 Ronnie Capps-S. Coleman
26.32 K Watson-Drew Morgan