By Josh Gowan
I’d like to state for the record, that my entry fee for the Ben Kruse Charity Crappie Tournament was meant as a donation, and I was in no way trying to compete or actually place in the tournament… and if you believe that I also have some magic beans for sale!
The tournament was a big success once again thanks to all the sponsors, contestants, and most of all the folks that did all the leg work pulling it off. Another record turnout, with 77 boats, and a big crowd of spectators helped raise over $20,000 for the charity! I just can’t emphasize enough the impact the foundation has on people from right here in our area that are faced with a crisis. So before you peel off a check and send it to some far off organization with a lot of overhead, consider sending it to these folks first, where every single penny goes into the fund to help our local residents.
Now on to the fishing. Wappapello Lake was tough as was expected, but as usual there were still plenty of local teams that managed to put fish in the boat. The winning team was Frank Sifford and Scott Northern with 6.52-pounds, 2nd place was David and Wes Howard with 6.22-pounds, 3rd was Allen Chappell and Jason Sandage with 5.6-pounds, and 4th was Jeff Riddle and Slabber Dabe Maddux with 5.22-pounds. 1st Place Big Fish was David and Wes Howard with a 1.56-pound slab, and 2nd Place Big Fish was Sam and Cheryl Sandage with a 1.33-pound crappie.
Since I destroyed my trolling motor last weekend and Chippy’s boat was in disrepair, I called in one of my old fishing buddies with a working vessel, Perry Jackson, and we met up at Slabber Dave’s and picked up 1-pound of minnows and headed out to a big brush pile he had marked.
While the temperature was perfect, the north wind was kicking, and we marked and attempted to cast over the top of the brush pile.
With our bobbers bouncing like a kangaroo on a trampoline, getting a solid hook-set was difficult, so we eased, so to speak, up to the massive underwater cover and began vertical jigging. We didn’t miss many fish with this tactic, but the small fish were still picking our minnows off.
I did an article a few weeks ago for a magazine and used Kevin Rogers as my source. Kevin is probably the most famous vertical jig fisherman in the country, and is well known for using huge baits, regardless of the size of the fish. With the dingy water and the incessant tiny crappie sucking our minnows off, I decided to give Kevin’s method a try.
I put a No. 1 blade (spinner blade like the ones that come on a roadrunner or beetlespin) above a red bead, and tied on a 3/16-ounce glow pink head with a 3-inch black and chartreuse tube, tipped with a minnow hooked through the lips. The entire bait was around 4-inches long, and with the blade and bead on the line, I could shake my rod violently and produce sound and flash, and the crappie smashed it! Unfortunately only five of them were over the 9-inch length limit, but hey, two keepers last year, five keepers this year, next year I’m going to be a threat!
The weigh-in was as big as any I’ve ever been to on the professional circuit. Tons of spectators came out and everyone seemed to have a great time.
Tyson donated the chicken that a group of volunteers cooked to perfection, Kohfield provided cold Coors Light, and every grocery store in the area kicked in to provide soda’s, water, etc… Marty Poetz, once again, was phenomenal as the MC, and I believe he truly missed his calling, and should be hosting a game show of some sort!
The bottom line is that a group of people who are absolutely determined to raise money to help other people, worked their tails off and put on a great event, and I was thrilled to be involved, and I suggest you pitch in if you can, it feels great!
Josh M. Gowan, Outdoors Writer, Crappie Angler Magazine, www.joshgowanoutdoors.com