Crappie Masters Championship…How They Fished

By Tim Huffman

            The biggest crappie circuit for the past decade has been the Crappie Master’s tournament trail. Their fishermen are at the highest level making winning very difficult. There were 186 teams from 21 states fought against North wind, a front and falling water temperatures.

Historical Win

            Matt Morgan and Kent Watson made Crappie Masters history by being the only team to win two classic national championships. The Morgan-Watson duo won $33,000 cash and claimed their second set of championship trophies.

Watson and Matt Morgan holding the National Championship trophies earned in the 2016 Crappie Masters Championship at Grenada Lake, MS.

Watson and Matt Morgan holding the National Championship trophies earned in the 2016 Crappie Masters Championship at Grenada Lake, MS.

            To add to the drama, Morgan said this would probably be his last national tournament to fish due to other pursuits.

How First Place Rigged

            Team Morgan/Watson used 16-foot BnM BGJP jigging poles. “The poles were very important to our fishing,” says Morgan. “The sensitivity allowed us to see light bites. Some of the fish smoked the baits but many of them had to be tricked into biting. Their bite was light. We used straight double-hook minnow rigs with ½-ounce weights and Tru-Turn hooks.

            “Our Lowrance electronicunits were critical. We have overlay Bing and Google maps that show the ditches and creeks. That makes a big difference showing stuff not seen on just a general mapping program.”

How First Place Fished

            Slow trolling has been the team’s bread-and-butter technique. They used it again to fish Grenada.

Watson-Morgan in action during day two of the championship tournament.

Watson-Morgan in action during day two of the championship tournament.

            “I was confused after prefishing,” says Morgan. “We came down Labor Day weekend and caught many fish down in deeper water at 14 feet. Monday practice I caught fish in 4 to 5 feet of water. I prefer fishing deep because I believe those fish are more stable.

            “Our speed was super-slow,” says Morgan. “I was more into following the creek channel that ran into another channel. The creek was curvy so I’m setting on electronics controlling the boat. Kent caught the majority of the fish by working the entire water column, totally different than what I did. I went down and fished right off bottom. He was changing depths constantly and it paid off. The fish were about 8 feet, came up but then went down deep due to all the boat pressure.”

            “Day one we only had one boat around us but during day two I counted as many as 35 boats. We had to cut crankbaits out of our lines and we were setting still slow trolling. There were boats everywhere, many were aluminum boats that were noisy, locators pinging everywhere, boats were pulling crankbaits, there was a lot of fishing pressure. Word gets around where you’re fishing and that’s just a part of it although it’s not good.”

            An unusual thing at Grenada was the fish changing depths with clouds, sun and going shallow with the cold front. Fishermen who made the right choice, like Morgan and Watson, were able to catch seven fish with some good ones included.

Second Place

            Paul and Elizabeth Turner made a big splash in their first full year of national tournament fishing. They were the top male/female team in the points division then followed as the best male/female in the championship along with second place overall. Their success in the classic won them $10,000, a new I-Pilot trolling motor, $350 bonus money and more items.

Elizabeth and Paul Turner were Crappie Masters Classic Runners-up, top male-female team of the classic, and top male-female team in the national points race.

Elizabeth and Paul Turner were Crappie Masters Classic Runners-up, top male-female team of the classic, and top male-female team in the national points race.

            “We came here with no expectations,” says Elizabeth. “I figured a lot more teams would be ahead of us even after the good finish on day one.

‘Today we stayed in one area in Turkey Creek, 9-10 feet of water. We were using minnows along with some blue, white and chartreuse jigs. We use Ozark rods and slow trolled.”

“Were we a top team? “I wish we could have caught bigger fish today on day two. But the big fish might have been more the luck of the draw verses being better than another team.”

Maybe there was some luck, but Paul had spent one month pre-fishing for the tournament.

The team used 2-ounce weights and move 0.5 to 0.7 mph. When they were running out of minnows they used Johnson Shad Scale scent on the dead minnows and still caught fish.

Final Comments

            The Grenada Crappie Masters Championship was a tough event. Approximately 40 percent of the field weighed in seven fish on day one. Day two was better but there were still many teams with fewer than the seven fish limit. A number of teams did not weigh in at all.

Kent Watson and Matt Morgan

            Tough fishing isn’t a bad thing during a big tournament. Everyone would like to catch fish but a tough bite takes much of the luck out of the final standings. It takes good fishermen to put together two days of limits. Having a technique that works and being in an area that produces quality fish is critical for a win. Luck is always a factor but is more likely to happen to a team with a great presentation in the right area.

            Congratulations to the top finishers including the first two-time Crappie Masters Champs, the Lucas Oil/ BnM Pole team of Matt Morgan and Kent Watson.

            Congratulations also go to the Crappie Masters organization for a well-run championship tournament and for a full decade of the best tournament trail for crappie fishermen.

Championship Top 10
26.23M Morgan-K Watson
25.78 Paul & Elizabeth Turner
25.52 Jason & Sam Sandage
25.42 M Blount-K Sullivan
25.35 B Chappell-B Fulgham
24.95 Tony & J Sheridan
24.85 Rick Fajen- Earnie Cox
24.56 M Hanfelder-K Hamilton
24.46 David Cox-S Hockett
24.27 D Porter-D Thompson