The first day went better than most people expected. That was a statement from Crappie USA spokesman, Jeremy Coe. “We were a little fearful that the wind would blow them off the water, but most of the fishing took place around Bear Island were the crappie normally hold this time of year. The wind blew over Dead Lake and the trees before reaching the Bear Island area of Crescent and gave enough of a wind break to allow the teams to fish.”
The low expectations were greatly exceeded at weigh-in. The Amateur Division top weight on day one was 13.48-pound stringer of 7 fish. The leaders in the Semi-Pro Division weighed in 13.68 pounds. Each division leading team averaged almost two pounds per fish. The question then became whether or not those kind of weights hold up on day two?
Given the weather forecast, organizers were pleasantly surprised with 56 boats from 15 states registering for the tournament. The Semi-Pro Division had 26 boats and Amateur Division added 30 more to the Crescent Lake waters.
Day two started out great for the anglers. “They had a really good morning and early afternoon,” reported Coe. “They fished in sunshine and no wind up until about 2:00 p.m. before the rain started. I think you will see similar weights to yesterday.” Coe was pretty much spot on once the results were in for the two-day Crappie USA Super Event.
At the end of the day, cash and prizes, including sponsors bonuses exceeded $14,000. Every sponsor bonus offered was won. Those bonuses include the Driftmaster Owners Bonus, Cumberland Crappie Double Seat Bonus, Talon Shallow Water Anchor Bonus, the Ranger Cup Bonus and the Flagler County Housing Bonus.
The Mr. Crappie Team of Eric and Leann Howard held on to their day one lead to secure the tournament win with a total weight of 24.99 pounds. They added 11.31 pounds to their day-one catch of 13.68 to claim the title. Their day one total included a 2.49 caught by Leann that ended up 5th Big Fish. They led the field on day one by almost a pound, but when the final weights were tallied the Callahan, Florida partners won by 0.13 pounds.
“We had to change strategies today,” revealed Eric following the tournament. “Yesterday we were moving about 1 MPH in 10 foot water with the fish sucking the bottom. Today the fish came up in the water column to the 4 to 7 foot range.”
“We brought our presentation up after I noticed the baitfish holding in mid-range,” continued Eric. “We switched to 1/32 and 1/48 ounce jigheads, a little lighter than yesterday. We also sped up to 1.1 or 1.2 MPH. This helped us get our baits above the fish.”
“We had a bunch of followers first thing this morning,” reported Eric. “We were pretty surrounded. Nevertheless we fished the same area south of Bear Island that we fished on day one. We just kept pounding the pavement. We used Wally Marshall Pro Series Rods and Lew’s Reels. The majority of our fish came on a Tuxedo Black Joker tipped with a minnow. The Monkey Shine caught fish too; it is always a good color on Crescent Lake.
Another husband/wife team followed Team Howard in the standings. The Ranger Boats Team of Joe and Janette Carter claimed the second place prize just 0.13 pounds out of the lead in the Semi-Pro Division.
The Gilbert SC anglers fished the west side of Bear Island. “We did the same thing both days,” said Joe. “We were fishing on the bottom. If we wasn’t draggin’ bottom we wasn’t catching fish. Our fish came from 15-foot water on Charlie Brewer Slider Jigs. The best colors were red, black, chartreuse and June bug.”
Following Team Carter in third place was the Georgia team of Steve Deason and Rick Howard. They finished with a total weight of 21.91 pounds. Fourth place went to the Florida team of Darryl Cole and Bill Badley with 21.78 pounds. Fifth place went to another Georgia team. Danny and Beth Williamson from Pelham, GA weighed in 20.54 pounds to claim their spot.
On the Amateur Division side the honors went to Gilford “Sonny” Sipes and Ronnie Bleas. The team from Alabama weighed in 23.23 pounds to claim the amateur title. They fished Dead Lake instead of Crescent, targeting fish in 5 to 7 feet of water.
“The fish were suspended near the bottom,” said Bleas. “We used black/chartreuse Triple Wiggles, Willow Grub and Whiptails, all made by Sonny and Shannon Sipes. (WWW.crappieslastbite.com) We were using double 1/32 chartreuse minnow heads.”
“We caught over 60 fish on day one,” added Sipes. “Day two was tougher, only 15 fish came to the boat.” The win was a repeat for the team as they also won the fall event on Crescent and Dead Lake in 2015.
Local angler Randy Homer fished by himself to claim the second place spot in the Amateur Division. The Bunnell resident weighed in a two-day total of 14 fish weighing 21.89 pounds.
The GA team of Tommy and Robert Sellers followed Homer with 21.30 pounds in third place. Another Bunnell angler captured fourth place. Gary Dodgen fished alone to catch 20.70 pounds and claim fourth place. Fifth place went to another Florida team. Mark Gore of Bunnell and Warren Gore of San Mateo brought a two-day total of 18.73 pounds to the scales.
Big Fish went to Jessie Hovell and Christopher Wells. Their Crescent Lake slab weighed in at 2.73 pounds. They caught the fish on day one and it held up through the second day of fishing as Big Fish of the tournament. Hovell and Wells fished the Amateur Division.
The Crappie USA event was a great success. Even with the wind and rain Crescent and Dead Lake proved again to be one of the premier crappie fishing destinations in the country.
Complete results can be found on the Crappie USA Facebook Page.
For more area information visit Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches or the Flagler Chamber of Commerce.
For CUSA tournament information visit the CUSA website at crappieusa.com or stay in touch by liking them on Facebook.
Epilogue: For anglers looking for lodging on a trip to this popular crappie destination there are plenty of hotels to choose from in Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches. Likewise with restaurants. All the popular chains and many local restaurants exist to chose from.
The Palm Coast area is a great location for family and friends to investigate the many attractions the region has to offer. While the anglers are fishing the rest of the party can investigate the area, do a little shopping, or take a trip to the beach. It would be pretty hard to beat for anyone wanting to fish Crescent and Dead Lake or simply to go on a family get-a-way.