By Tim Huffman
The 2015 Bass Pro Shops Crappie Masters National Championship took place the last week of September at Kentucky Lake, Paris Landing, Tennessee. There were 172 teams who battled for a $100,000 purse and title of National Champion. The 10-inch plus fish were extremely difficult for most teams to find and catch. The majority of the teams did not weigh-in fourteen fish during the two-day tournament. But some fishermen found the key tactic and areas to produce good fish.
Kyle Schoenherr and Rodney Neuhaus had two consistent days for a total of 23.68 pounds to win the title and $30,000 cash, plus a $2000 bonus for running E10 gas in their boat. The team was in third place after day one trialing by about a pound and a half. On day two, wind bothered the day one leaders and second place had a lot of boat traffic. This opened the door for Schoenherr and Neuhaus who took advantage with a better basket of fish on day two than on day one.
The champs slow trolled double-hook minnow rigs. They wouldn’t reveal their spot except to say they fished 2 miles of river somewhere south of the Big Sandy. The team had worked hard placing their own structures in the lake for the past four years.
“We had a game plan and stuck with it,” says Schoenherr. “We fished 6 to 12 feet of water because catching fish deeper is a problem this time of year. The deeper fish die easily. Shallower fish were smaller, so we keyed in on the 6 to 12 range. One trick was that most of our stakes were 30 inches tall so I tied the double-hook rigs at exactly 30 inches. That put the top hook at the top of the stakes. Also, Tru-Turn hooks definitely gave us better hook-ups than regular hooks and that gave us an edge. Everything has to go perfect and have a lot of luck. We set ourselves up to have a good tournament but everything else had to go just right.” Other equipment included 16-foot BGJP BnM Poles, Gamma braided line and Lowrance Electronics.
Second Place went to Harold Maddux and Brian Oldham who found the right spot late in the afternoon on Thursday, the last day of practice. It was a 300-yard stretch with three trees in the water. Maddux says it was luck that they found the spot. They had eliminated most of their other fishing spots.
The team used Slab Magnets and Crappie Magnets, fished 18-20 feet deep on a drop-off with the good cover. The team dropped to the bottom and reeled up very slowly. They used 6.5-foot Leland Sore-Lip Rods.
The third place team made a move from sixth place up to the number three spot. Both the second and third place teams were single pole jigging. Clary says they used Crappie Magnets and Slab Magnets tipped with Berkley Crappie Nibbles. The team mainly fished their own mats they had dropped into the lake. The key depth was 13 to 15 foot. Their presentation was to pitch out and let the jig pendulum down to the bottom before twitching it back. The team caught about 30 keepers on day one and 12 on day two. The team thanked Crappie Masters for the great job they do with the tournament.
Day one leader, Kevin Jones and Billy Don Surface, had a good lead going in to day one. However, their fish required baits to stay still and in place in the cover before they would bite. A choppy wind in their area made it too difficult for them to keep baits still and in the same spot long enough to get the right bites. Plus, they lost four fish they needed. They fell from first to eleventh place.
Big fish went to John Eubanks and Shane Moore with a 2.78 slab. The male/female winners were Glen & Jill Woodard with 16.95 pounds. Adult/youth champs were Mark and Olivia Arnold with 12.88.
Brian Sowers, Crappie Master Partner and the Voice of Crappie Masters, says, “We choose Kentucky Lake because of it’s great history. It’s has long been on the bucket list of serious fishermen and it lived up to it’s reputation. Lake turnover and conditions made keeper fish hard to find for many of the contestants, but those who hit the right spots with the right presentation caught good fish. First place had 14 fish that weighed over 23 pounds. We had 2.76 and 2.78 pound crappies weighed in within minutes of each other. So it proves Kentucky Lake can still produce excellent crappie. We congratulate all our top finishers for a job well done. Our tournament went great and we look forward to returning here in the future.”