by Ron Presley
Koesters and Hengstler Claim Pro Division Victory at CUSA Classic while Shawn Salyers and Josh Lovett take the amateur side.
Forget the competing anglers – Mother Nature was the worst adversary at the 2019 Crappie USA Classic on Old Hickory Lake. The Gallatin, Tenn. event challenged crappie anglers who found perfect prefishing conditions change to inclement weather for both tournament days.
A total of 129 boats fished the Old Hickory event – 52 in the Pro Division and 77 in the Amateur Division. A total of $127,000 was distributed to the winners.
Nice weather prevailed up to tournament day when anglers faced drizzling rain right through the weigh-in. Day two was similar but added high winds to challenge the anglers even more.
The crappie population on Old Hickory includes blacks, whites, and even a few black-nose crappie. Those anglers that found the new pattern following the onset of bad weather turned what could have been a disaster into a time for celebration.
Pro Division – First Place
Jason Koesters and Jake Hengstler traveled from Ohio to claim victory in the Pro Division. They brought a 19.75-pound bag to the scales over the 2-day event. Their 1st place finish earned them a fully-rigged Ranger 518 boat valued at more than $49,000. They added second Big Fish of the tournament for $1,000, the B’n’M Poles Bonus of $500, the Driftmaster Bonus of $300, and the Jenko Bonus of $100.
Koesters and Hengstler found five weigh-in fish under one dock on the first day but had to fish multiple docks to find the ones holding big fish to finish their limit.
“On day one we started off shooting docks,” said Koesters. “We caught a few good fish over 1.2 pounds. Jake switched to a cork and jig around the docks and landed a 1.88-pound kicker early on day one. After that, we moved to our brush spot in shallow water and caught a 1.98-kicker fish swimming a 1/32-ounce jig in three feet of water. The big black crappies were very shallow. On day two we caught a few fish shooting [docks] but our main crappie came shallow on a cork and jig or shiner.”
“We shot a lot of docks,” confirmed Hengstler. “We were using Southern Pro Hot Grubs in yellow/white and Southern Pro Stinger Shads. We found some of our biggest fish very shallow swimming jigs over submerged brush in three feet of water. We were very lucky that we didn’t have to share water with other teams.”
“…black crappies were very shallow.”
Amateur Division—First Place
The competition was very close in the Amateur Division. The first-place team of Shawn Salyers and Josh Lovett finished less than a pound in front of a three-way tie for second place.
Salyers and Lovett brought a two-day total weight of 18.29 pounds to the scales to claim the first-place spot. They were awarded a Ranger 188 boat package for their two-days of soaking minnows in 14-17 feet of water.
The Murray, Kentucky team fished Spencer Creek on both tournament days using Jenko double Minnow rigs over brush piles. They reported that the Blue Monkey color worked best for them.
“Friday morning, we started spider rigging in the back of Spencer Creek,” said Salyars. “We were using the Garmin Live Scope and pushing minnows on Jenko 14 foot-Slab City rods rigged with Jenko 3/8-ounce double minnow rigs. We would push up in the brush piles and let them sit. That method got us into second place on day one with more than 10 pounds.”
Saturday morning found the Kentucky duo doing the same thing. It soon became obvious to them that the weather change had affected the bite. They were not doing nearly as well as they had on day one. They decided to change tactics.
“We put up the spider rig,” Salyars said. “And got out the Jenko 11-foot HyperSense single rods and started single poling the brush piles with Jenko 1/16-ounce pink Slasher jigheads. We used the new blue monkey and juice colored Jenko Paddle Fry baits. That combination produced our day-two weight of 8.27.”
Their change of strategy on day two was sufficient to give them the win.
Big Fish honors went to the team of Neal Alvis and Scott Bunch. They finished the Amateur Division in fifth place with a bag of 16.70 pounds that included a 2.05-pound fish. They caught the big slab on day one and it held up as Big Fish of the tournament.
“We single-poled brush on Friday, reported Bunch. “We covered a lot of water fishing from the dam all the way to Camp Station Creek. Neal caught the big fish in 18 foot of water on a Slab Magnet by Crappie Magnet in blue/chartreuse color— the mermaid color. On Saturday we single-poled brush for our bigger fish using B’n’M rods with the original Crappie Magnet. Black/chartreuse/white and chartreuse/pumpkin pie were our favorite colors for this tournament.”
Highlighting the Thursday night captains meeting/awards dinner was the presentation of the points race winners. Kris and Terry Mann, from Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, completed a three-peat the previous week at the CUSA makeup tournament on Weiss Lake. The father/son team won the Weiss event to secure their third straight Angler Team of the Year award.
The Sportsman of the Year Award went to Tim Harris and John Hicks. They also amassed the most points on the year to earn the Overall High Point Team of the year recognition.
Youth angler Zach Moore from Somerset, Kentucky received the Crappie USA Tournament Trail Junior Angler of the Year Award.
Pro Division anglers Tony and Ling Grooms earned the Top Male/Female Team honors.
With less than a pound separating them, the first four places in the Amateur Division demonstrated just how close the competition was with the change of weather. Mary anglers expected spider rigging to be the strategy of choice but the weather changed and the crappies headed for cover. Anglers who picked up on the change in crappie behavior and made adjustments to their fishing strategy were rewarded. Those that continued their multiple rod strategy did not do as well. The winning combination was one pole in hand near structure.
Crappie USA National Championship – Top 10 Pro Division
1st Place – Jason Koesters and Jake Hengstler
2nd Place – Randy Pope and Steven Deitz
3rd Place – Harold Maddux and Brian Oldham
4th Place – Steve Deason and Rick Howard
5th Place – Alvis Neal and Scott Bunch
6th Place – Steve Hess & Dan Lutchka
7th Place – Johnny Walker
8th Place - John Hendrix & Kevin Randall
9th Place – Billy Grisard & Matt Grisham
10th Place – Michael Tinsley & Tim Gill
Crappie USA National Championship – Top 10 Amateur Division
1st Place – Shawn Salyers and Josh Lovett
2nd Place – Dewayne McCord and Eddie Feagin
2rd Place – Glenn Ward and Donnie Miller
2th Place – Dominic Dugic and Jeffery Lee
5th Place – Stephen Crepps and Chad Crepps
6th Place – Forrest & Jacob Walker
7th Place – Ryan Kennedy & Scott Sipe
8th Place – Lance & Jeff Harrington
9th Place – Eric Korsey & Will Rogers
10th Place – Ricky Baker & David Gibson