CUSA Holds Early Bird Qualifier at Kuttawa, KY

Lutchka and Hess Claim CUSA Pro Division Victory at Kentucky and Barkley Lakes. Martin and Rigdon take Amateur Division Crappie anglers from several states traveled … Continue reading CUSA Holds Early Bird Qualifier at Kuttawa, KY

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Crappie, Tournament, Kentucky Lake, Barkley Lake

Lutchka and Hess Claim CUSA Pro Division Victory at Kentucky and Barkley Lakes. Martin and Rigdon take Amateur Division

Crappie anglers from several states traveled to Kentucky and Barkley Lakes at Kuttawa, KY to participate in a Crappie USA (CUSA) Super Event. Local and traveling anglers fished for cash, prizes, and an opportunity to compete at the 2019 CUSA Classic which will feature a guaranteed payout of $125,000 in cash and prizes.

Anglers battled an added challenge of inclement weather. Mother Nature served up heavy rains that caused muddy water conditions throughout both reservoirs. It was cold and windy on Friday with a slight warming trend on Saturday that lifted air temperatures into the 60’s.

“For the first time in more than 20 years, ALL the best catches for the weekend came from Lake Barkley,” said CUSA Operations Manager, Darrell Van Vactor. “There were very few fish weighed in that were caught on the KY Lake side.”

A total of 46 boats fished the Early Bird Qualifier event. Twenty teams competed in the Pro Division and 26 in the Amateur Division. A total of $12,100 was distributed to the winners.

Pro Division Results

Crappie, Tournament, Kentucky Lake, Barkley Lake

The top spot in the Kuttawa event went to Dan Lutchka from Cartersville, IL and Steve Hess from Cambria, IL. Patience was key. They teamed up to bring 21.01 pounds to the scales in two days of fishing. They fished on Barkley lake to earn $3,000 for the win and added the Ranger Cup Bonus of $500, the Gamma Line Bonus of $250, and the Jenko Bonus of $100.

“We were vertical jigging stake beds,” reported Lutchka. “We fished Eddy Creek on Barkley Lake in about 20 feet of water. We used a double jig head rig, sometimes tipped with minnows. The only stakes holding big fish was the beds near the creek channel edge.”

The preferred color changed on day two. Lutchka and Hess found that purple mist and bluegrass colors performed best on day one. On day two the crappie preferred 2-inch Slab Slayer plastics in the gold member color.

“The key to our win was patience,” concluded Lutchka. “It was a tough bite. We had to put a pattern together and have the patience to stick with it. Fishing ended each day at 3:00 pm. On the first day we caught our last fish at 2:45.”

Crappie, Tournament, Kentucky Lake, Barkley Lake

Tony Sheppard and Mike Sheppard finished in the runner-up spot. Tony, from Dexter, KY, and Mike from Kirksey, KY weighed 20.79 pounds. Their bag included the Big Fish of the weekend which weighed an even 2.00 pounds. The team earned $2,000 for second place and $630 for Big Fish.

“We fished on Lake Barkley,” reported Tony. “We concentrated on structure in 8 to14 feet of water on creek ledges. The Humminbird 360 played a huge part in our success because the fish were not found on every piece of structure.”

Team Sheppard caught a lot of their fish off of single small stumps and bare logs that were laying on the bottom. They slow trolled 1/2 oz Jenko Big T 360 double minnow rigs on 14-foot Jenko Slab City rods. Their setup included Daiwa reels spooled with Gamma line.

When Tony credits his Humminbird 360 it is for good reason. He tells the story of how he came to catch the fish that ended up earning Big Fish honors. The Big Fish was one of about 40 crappies the team caught for the weekend.

“We were fishing a particular tree,” recalled Tony. “We passed over the brush three times and had caught a couple of fish. But I told Mike that it looked like one big crappie on the bottom at the trunk of the tree. I took one of my 14-foot Jenko Slab City rods out of the rod holder and let it down to the bottom on the root of the tree. Then I reeled the double minnow rigs up about six inches off the bottom and caught the big fish. It weighed in at 2 pounds and was the Big Fish of the tournament. We pulled back up on the trunk with the depth finder and the fish was no longer showing up.”

Crappie, Tournament, Kentucky Lake, Barkley Lake

Third place went to Paul and Liz Turner from Covington TN. The husband/wife team weighed a bag of 20.24 pounds to earn a check for $1,000.00.

Team Turner fished south Barkley Lake. They used double minnow rigs to fish man made cover in various depths of water.

“The fish seemed to want the big bait today,” said Paul. “They liked the big minnows better than the normal sized crappie minnows.”

Crappie, Tournament, Kentucky Lake, Barkley Lake

Austin Brown from Calvert City, KY and Charles Coy from Grand Rivers, KY claimed the fourth-place spot. Their bag weighed 19.97 pounds to earn a check for $200.00.

Brown and Coy fished North Barkley Lake in the Eddy Creek area. They were each using a single B’n’M Pole in 10 to 13 feet of water. They zeroed in on chartreuse/orange colored jigs to catch about 25 crappies for the weekend.

Crappie, Tournament, Kentucky Lake, Barkley Lake

Kris and Terry Mann from Mt. Sterling, KY rounded out the top five on the leaderboard. The 2018 Angler Team of the Year weighed in19.58 pounds to earn the 5th place spot and begin the journey in the points competition for 2019. They finished one place out of the money but fished from their Ranger 188 Aluminum boat to claim the $250 Ranger Cup Bonus. They also had Second Big Fish at 1.84 pounds to earn an additional $270. They had led Big Fish after day one.

The Crappie Magnet/B’n’M Team targeted fish in 10 to 13 feet of water on North Barkley Lake. They used B’n’M poles to single pole jig with Crappie Magnet baits to catch about 40 crappies during the tournament.

“We used a new Crappie Magnet color,” said Kris. “The new color worked the best. And the chartreuse/orange worked well too. The new color is Olive/Pearl Flash available through the new Crappie Magnet Research and Development Kit.”

Amateur Division Results

Crappie, Tournament, Kentucky Lake, Barkley Lake

First place in the Amateur Division went to Heath Martin from Shepherdsville, KY and Jason Rigdon from Louisville, KY. Their 19.64 pounds earned them a check for $1,500. They fished from their Ranger 198 Aluminum to add $250 for the Ranger Cup Bonus.

Martin and Rigdon fished south of Little River on Barkley Lake. They were spider rigging in 11 to 14 feet of water. The team used a lot of different colors and live bait to catch 75 fish for the weekend. Both days they were culling fish over one pound five ounces.

“The crappie were holding tight to cover, reported Martin. “You had to hang up a lot to get a bite.”

“We were spider rigging south of Little River,” added Rigdon. “We both used a double minnow rig at all times and different colored jigs tipped with minnows. At one point on Sunday, we had all different colored jigs. Not one was the same. I refer to it as a smorgasbord.”

“When the sun came out on Saturday the red and chartreuse worked way better,” continued Rigdon. “Knowing that it was gonna’ be sunny on Sunday I put three of them on my poles which didn’t work at all. I think I only caught one or two on it so we switched to all different colored jigs again.”

“They were extremely tight to cover,” verified Rigdon. “We hung up a lot. At one point I hooked an Asian carp in the eyeball. I hooked him on my fourth pole and got lucky because he completely jumped over my poles 1, 2, and 3. I had to go to the back of the boat where I fought it for 10 minutes. That could have really been a mess.

“I’m prouder of this win than any bass tournament I’ve won,” said Rigdon in a Facebook post. “These are extremely hard to win. It was a fun weekend.”

Crappie, Tournament, Kentucky Lake, Barkley Lake

Jay Harris from Clarksville, TN and Robert Teeter from Adams, TN won second place with 15.91 pounds. They earned a check for $900.00.

Harris and Teeter fished the Bumpus Mills area on Barkley Lake. They used jigs and minnows on natural stumps in 12 feet of water to catch about 60 fish for the two-day event. 

“You really had to get the bait right into the thick areas of the cover,” said Jay. “They were holding tight.”

Crappie, Tournament, Kentucky Lake, Barkley Lake

The third-place spot went to Devin and Cory Williamson. The Princeton, KY team weighed 12.41 pounds and earned a check for $500.00.

Team Williamson one poled with purple passion jigs and minnows. They fished south of Eddy Creek on Barkley Lake where they caught more than 20 fish for the weekend.

Ricky Baker and David Gibson came to the scales with 10.67 pounds to claim the fourth-place spot. The Lancaster, KY team earned a check for $200.00.

The team spider rigged in 11 to 14 feet of water in heavy cover in Kuttawa Harbor Marina using live bait to catch 20 crappies.

Darren Isbell from Clarksville, TN and TJ Grooms from Benton, KY teamed up to claim the fifth-place spot with 10.3 pounds. They earned a check for $150.00 after catching about 20 crappies for the two-day tournament.

Isbell and Grooms fished south Barkley Lake. They spider rigged over structure in various depths of water. Their fish came on electric chicken and chartreuse/orange colored jigs. 


Darrell Van Vactor, CUSA Operations Manager, sent special thanks to Judge Wade White for all the hard work he is doing to help bring positive change in the “War on Asian Carp.” His efforts will pay dividends for KY and Barkley Lakes and their ability to support sportfish. For more information on the Asian carp issue go to

Van Vactor also sent a special thank you to Lyon County Tourism for hosting the event. For more information on the Lyon County area visit their website at

The CUSA Classic Championship will be held October 23 – 26, 2019 on Old Hickory Lake, Gallatin, TN. It features a guaranteed payout of $125,000 in cash and prizes.

National Sponsors

National Sponsors of Crappie USA are: Cabela’s, Ranger Boats, Mercury, Mustad, B’n’M Poles, Humminbird Electronics, Gamma, Adventure Products EGO Nets, Minn Kota, J.R. Mad’s Madgic Fish Breading, Big Bite Baits, TTI-Blakemore Road Runner, Driftmaster Rod Holders, World Fishing Network-WFN, Cumberland Crappie Double Seat Mounts, Church Tackle Company, Charlie Brewer’s Slider Co., Crappie Now On-line Magazine, Talon Shallow Water Anchors, Humminbird/Lakemaster Maps, Sunsect Sunscreen & Insect Repellent, Digital EFX Wraps, Gill Rainwear, AWD Baits, Tentnology, Crappie Magnet, Jenko Fishing, Lake Cumberland Tourism, Extreme Bait Systems, Rigrap, Bait 2 Go, and Brush Pile Fishing.

For more information on the Classic and other CUSA events visit the website at and Crappie USA Tournament Trail Facebook Page. The CUSA office is available by phone at 502-384-5924.

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