Lynn and Nathan Cochran take Amateur Division.
Crappie anglers from fifteen states traveled to Green River Lake at Columbia, KY to participate in the October 23-24, 2020 Crappie USA (CUSA) Classic. Anglers had fished throughout the year to qualify for the event. Presented by Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s, the Classic featured a guaranteed payout of $125,000 in cash and prizes.
Given the 2020 Pandemic, all parts of the 24th annual event were conducted following social distancing and mask wearing requirements. Following registration, the traditional pre-tournament meal was served in to-go containers so everyone could choose where they wanted to eat. The Jim Blair Community Center was set up with socially distanced tables and chairs for those that wanted to use it, but everyone was required to wear a mask while in the building.
A total of 122 teams fished the event—43 in the Pro Division and 79 in the Amateur Division. A total of $126,000 was distributed to the winners.
Because parts of Green River Lake are in the Eastern Time Zone, anglers were responsible to know that the tournament was based on Central Standard Time (CST). Anglers could start fishing at 7 o’clock am CST, fishing ended at 3:00 pm CST and they had to be in the weigh-in line by 4:00 pm CST.
Day one fishing was mostly dry, but mask wearing anglers were greeted with heavy rains during the weigh-in. When the weights were recorded it was Harold Maddux and Brian Oldham leading the pack on the Pro side with a 7 fish limit weighing 7.65 pounds.
In the Amateur Division Lynn and Nathan Cochran took the day one lead with 7.97 pounds. Big Fish of the day was a 2.02-pound slab from George and Rosemary Parker. The stage was set for day two.
Pro Division Results
Following two days of competitive crappie fishing, the team of Harold “Dude” Maddux and Brian Oldham had held their day one lead to become the 2020 CUSA Champs. They weighed a two-day total of 14.94 pounds to claim the top spot.
The team from Mr. Juliet, TN earned a $49,000 Ranger/Mercury Package completely rigged with Minn Kota Trolling Motor, Talon, Humminbird Helix 7, Minn Kota Battery Charger, and a Driftmaster Rod Holder Package.
Maddux and Oldham fished the main channel in 26 to 40 feet of water. Occasionally they caught fish in water as deep as 52 feet. Sometimes those fish coming from deep water are hard to care for and they weighed some of their fish early so they could be returned to the water sooner.
“The weather this weekend was right in our wheelhouse,” reported Oldham. “There was a 23-degree temperature drop, but that doesn’t usually bother our deep fish. I said to my partner, ‘Dude, very few times do things line up for us like it did this weekend.’”
“We did have to run in a few times keep them alive,” continued Oldham. “We had one deep fish die within 7 minutes, even after fizzing it. There was nothing we could do.”
Tournament Director Darrell Van Vactor praised the team for taking care of the fish, saying “That is exactly the way to do it. I would rather weigh 7 fish one at a time than lose one.”
Crappie Magnet jigs tipped with Slab Bites were their bait of choice. They were targeting fish in heavy cover as they caught about 25 for the two days of competition.
“We were vertical fishing with LiveScope,” added Oldham. “It helped us out 100 percent. We use Crappie Magnet jigs exclusively and we were tipping with Slab Bites. This weekend white/chartreuse was good and midnight blue slab curly worked well. We also caught some on the Dude Special (watermelon/red).
“We found our fish moving in and out of structure,” concluded Oldham. “Once we found them, we tried to pluck off two or three before they left. The standing trees were stacked full of crappie with the bigger fish were at the bottom.”
The Indiana team of Patrick Stone and Steve Jeffers claimed the runner-up spot. Stone, from Anderson, IN, and Jeffers from Wabash, IN brought a two-day weight of 13.98 pounds to the scales to earn $7000 for second place, $250 for the Ranger Bonus, and $250 for the Talon Bonus.
Stone and Jeffers fished the Elkhorn area of Green River Lake. They were spider rigging in 6 to 12 feet of water. Their bait of choice was Big Daddy Long Legs in black/chartreuse. They caught about 30 fish in the two days of the tournament.
“Steve and I were fishing 6 to 12 feet deep,” reported Stone. “We were using a technique called ‘spiderscoping.’ It’s a very precise presentation that combines spider rigging, vertical jigging, and LiveScope. Instead of the normal 8 16-foot Ozark Rods we use only 3 or 4. The idea is to concentrate on putting the baits at the right depth and location and holding it there as still as possible.”
“Spiderscoping is truly a team effort,” continued Stone. “As one partner is running the trolling motor the other is watching rods and catching fish. It’s is a game of inches to hold a double minnow rig in front of the fish until he bites. Sometimes it takes 15 minutes or more.”
“Another thing that helped was tipping our Big Diddy Baits with 3-inch shiners,” Stone said. “Most bait shops in the area only carry small tuffy minnows, but the great folks at the Tackle Box in Campbellsville got us the bait we wanted.”
Stone and Jeffers wanted to thank Ozark Rods, Hitek Rod Holders, Big Diddy Baits, Yogimotion Entertainment, Mares Family Farms, Dorais Chevrolet, Spotless, Bozarth’s, and Dynamic Design for all their support.
“We would also like to recognize Sherm’s Marine, Wabash, Indiana,” added Jeffers. “They gave us great service and helped keep us going through a few small problems!”
“I also want to thank my better half Deanna,” concluded Stone. “And the rest of my family for always supporting and encouraging me. There is one word of encouragement that has stuck with me most of my life. When I was about 13 years old, I would eat, sleep, and breathe fishing. My brother-in-law Gary Clark told me that I should try to be a professional fisherman. His words have stuck in my mind—’Somebody has to do it, it may as well be you!’ From that, I learned to truly believe that you can achieve anything if you work hard enough.”
Shawn Salyers and Josh Lovett from Murray, KY teamed up to bring 13.85 pounds to the scales and earn a check for $3,000.
Salyers and Lovett also fished the Elkhorn area of the lake. They caught their fish in 10 feet of water. They used assorted jigs tipped with minnows. They said they agreed with the second-place team that the black/chartreuse worked the best. The team caught a total of 60 fish.
Another Kentucky team, Tim Gill from Bowling Green and Michael Tinsley, from Scottsville, took home the fourth-place plaques. They weighed a Green River Lake bag of 13.76 pounds to earn a check for $1,500.
Gill and Tinsley targeted 6 to 10 feet of water in the Elkhorn area. The team used blue/chartreuse jig heads tipped with minnows. They caught around 30 fish on each day of the tournament.
Rounding out the top five was Wayne Adams from Berea, KY, and Richard Wright from Irvine, KY. They teamed up to bring 13.48 pounds to the scales and earn a check for $1,000.
Adams and Berea were fishing over heavy brush. They were one-pole jigging in 6 to 10 feet of water. The team used popsicle jigs tipped with shiners to do their damage.
Big Fish/Top Male-Female Angler
The Big Fish award went to George and Rosemary Parker with a 2.02-pound slab. The Florida team caught the big crappie on day one and it held up to earn the $2000.00 prize. Rosemary and George also earned the Top Male-Female Angler Award.
Amateur Division Results
First Place Amateur Division/ Second Big Fish
Lynn and Nathan Cochran from Springville, KY claimed the top honors in the Amateur Division on Green River Lake. The team of brothers brought 15.17 pounds to the scales to earn the top spot.
First place earned them a Ranger 188 Boat equipped with a 115 hp Mercury, Minn Kota trolling motor, Humminbird Helix7 SI, and a Driftmaster Rod Holder Package. Hey also earned $250 for the Ranger Cup Bonus, $200 Crappie Magnet Slab Bites Bonus, $100 Jenko Bonus, $300 for the Driftmaster Rod Holder Bonus, and $1,000 for 2nd place big fish at 1.59 pounds.
“We used Jenko Hypersence Rods to single poled over brush in 5 to 15 feet of water,” reported Lynn. “We were fishing on the north end of the lake. We used Big Bite Baits Crappie Minnr, Original Crappie Magnets, and Muddy Water Baits.”
The team tipped jigs with minnows and some with slab bites. They reported the crappies being very tight to the brush. They caught more than 100 fish for the weekend.
“I would like to thank Big Bite Baits for sponsoring us,” concluded Lynn. “In particular, Les Bratcher with Big Bite for taking care of us. I would also like to thank the Crappie USA staff for all they do to give us the opportunity to fish.”
Second Place Amateur Division
The runner-up spot went to Will Rogers from Harrodsburg, KY and Eric Kersey from Perryville, KY. They brought a two-day total weight of 13.52 pounds to the scales to earn a check for $4,000.00.
Rogers and Kersey fished the north end of Green River Lake. They were targeting 14 feet of water using Crappie Magnet Originals in white/chartreuse. They tipped with Slab Bites to catch around 60 keepers for the weekend.
Third Place Amateur Division
Third place went to Craig Delk from Stanford, KY and Chris Morgan from Yosemite, KY. They teamed up to bring 13.17 pounds to the scales and earn a check for $1,500.
Delk and Morgan fished the north end of the lake in 10 to 14 feet of water. They fished one pole in hand, rigged with assorted jig colors. They tipped with minnows to catch a total of nearly 100 fish for the weekend.
Fourth Place Amateur Division
Lee Anderson and Rick Johnston from Benton, KY, teamed up to take the fourth spot. They brought a two-day weight of 13.02 pounds to the scales to earn a check for $1,000.
Anderson and Johnston fished the main lake above Holmes Bend. They used hair jigs in natural colors to catch a total of 40 to 50 crappies over the weekend.
Fifth Place Amateur Division
The top five was rounded out by Jeff Outland from Gilbertsville, KY, and Michael McGregor from Benton KY. They had a two-day bag that weighed 12.17 pounds and good enough to earn a check for $700.
Outland and McGregor fished the north end on the main lake. They were one pole jigging using black/chartreuse hair jigs. The team caught more than 60 fish during the two-day tournament.
National Points Champions – Scott Bunch and Neal Alvis
Sportsman of the Year – Bob Denen
Jr. Angler of the Year – Travis Gore
Top Adult/Youth Team, Amateur Division – Eric and Jordyn FenstemakerTop Male/Female Team, Amateur Division – Jeff Sharp and Cindi Sharp
Darrell Van Vactor, CUSA Operations Manager, sent special thanks to Judge Gale Cowan and the crew at Holmes Bend Marina for helping make the event a huge success and to the folks at Sleep Inn, Columbia for furnishing host lodging.
“We had a fantastic field of anglers this week at the Classic,” added Van Vactor. “It is such a pleasure to work with America’s Best Crappie Anglers!”
National Sponsors of Crappie USA are: Bass Pro Shops Cabela’s, Ranger Boats, Mercury Marine, Mustad Hooks, Minn Kota, Humminbird, Talon, Lake Master Maps, Gamma, B’n’M Poles, Driftmaster Rod Holders, Ego Nets, Cumberland Crappie Double Seats, Brushpile Crappie, Charlie Brewer Slider, Crappie Now Magazine, Jenko Fishing, Big Bite Baits, Lake Cumberland CVB, Crappie Magnet, EFX Graphics, Fin n’ Frames, Crown Trophy, JR Madd Breading, WavePro, Freaky Franks Tackle, EZ Drift, Allegro Marinades, and Aftco Clothing.
For more information on CUSA events and the changes coming in 2021, visit the website at www.crappieusa.com and Crappie USA Tournament Trail Facebook Page. The CUSA office is available by phone at 502-384-5924.