It was Day One of a two-day fishing contest held on sprawling West Branch Reservoir and a pretty good day indeed for the 26 two-man teams that chased the lake’s most valuable crappies.
At the announced quitting time, most teams had a decent eight fish limit for the evening weigh-in and a close contest at half-time is about all any competitive team could ask for.
Team hopes were high for Day Two when the best combined total weight would send the winners to stage center for a rousing round of applause and a handsome chunk of change.
But fishing is fishing, a catching sport that all too often switches off, or at best more challenging when the weather takes a dive.
And that’s exactly what happened at the recent Northeast Ohio Crappie Club-sponsored event when ended when an evening cold front sent the barometer plunging at the end of Day One.
That’s all it took to send the Portage County’s largest fishery near-shore crappies to deeper water and that alone makes crappie fishing double tough.
But hardcore tournament anglers are a hardy bunch and proved it on Day Two.
According to tournament observer and final weigh-in assistant Russ Bailey, host of the nationally featured TV show Brushpile Fishing, it has been amazing to experience the steady increase in the popularity of crappie fishing in general, the interest in tournament crappie fishing, and overall growth in clubs, seminars, and crappie specific tackle.
Following the awards, he said that, until the last several years, crappie fishing has traditionally been a spring cold water fishery, but has steadily grown into a season-long chase.
The cold snap did indeed put a damper on the final day’s success, but being in the right place and giving reluctant crappies the right offering allowed several teams to net limit catches and two-day totals that differed in some cases by just ounces.
The winning weight was just over 12 pounds. The big fish jackpot was won by a fish weighing just under 1 1/2 pounds.
Anglers interested in attending or competing in a crappie tournament can find dates and locations online by searching Crappie Clubs in Ohio.
Crappies are what I call elite blue-collar sport fish. The sometimes grow to real trophy size, they are plentiful, and they are excellent lightly pan-fried.
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