The Magnolia Crappie Club held a tournament at Washington on Feb. 11. In case you missed it or didn't go outside that day, the temperature dropped drastically the night before the tournament, and the wind blew at gale-force speeds gusting over 35 m.p.h. all day.
Sensibly, as president of MCC, I tried to call the event off twice early Saturday morning. Two hours before "start fishing time," the wind chill was in the single digits, and the wind was predicted to worsen after sunup.
I rode up to Roy's Store, where we were holding registration, and was immediately surprised to see a parking lot and a road full of tournament fishermen's boats and trucks. There were MCCers everywhere I looked.
As my path into the store crossed some of our members, I hurriedly said, "Looks like we're going to have to call this thing off."
"No - oh no!" was what I heard as I gathered three or four board members to get their input. Without exception, each said, "We're here - let's fish."
I asked board member Eli Rowell whose tournament partner is his 10-year-old son, Cole, "You sure you want to put Cole out there on that lake in these conditions?"
"Yes, sir, Cole's tough," was the immediate reply from Eli.
So being assured that I was making the wrong move - to call the tournament off - I went back to my cabin to get ready to hit the lake. Ten minutes later, I got a phone call from one of the board members who had, just minutes earlier, assured me that everything would be OK and that we should fish the tournament come "hell or high wind." In the background I could here Eli talking to someone and now he was saying that we didn't have any choice but to call the thing off because of the terrible, dangerous conditions.
In fact, I heard several voices in the background saying "call this thing off." I said to the board member on the phone, "I'll be back up there in 10 minutes. Gather all the board members you can find. We'll meet in the store."
I headed back to Roy's Store, stopping long enough to holler at a couple of board members who I saw outside, leaning into the cold wind, to come on in and get this thing over with. We met. Thirteen of the 15 board members were present, including Eli and our one lady board member, Tonya "Little Bit" Robertson. I explained why I had called the meeting. I explained the procedure - that we'd take one vote only and the majority ruled. I expected every hand in the room to go up when I said "Okay, all those in favor of canceling this tournament, raise your hand!"
Not a twitch - no one, including "Little Bit" or Eli, moved. Everyone looked at each other and just stared - waiting, hoping someone would be the first to raise his or her hand. Nothing - nada - not a single word was spoken. Not a single hand was raised.
I surveyed the faces in the room quickly, and pronounced, "The tournament is on. See you at the weigh-in. Everyone have a nice and safe day."
What was I thinking? MCC has canceled only three tournaments in 20 seasons, and, as I recall, the last one was two years ago when that tornado hit Eagle Lake and jumped across the entire state of Mississippi.
And we damn near had a fight on our hands that morning, because the board, rightfully so, canceled that tournament. I should have known better. This MCC bunch is about half crazy, and, as a group, we sure love to fish.
Hey, it was one of our biggest turnouts of the season with 37 boats in attendance. Only one team of the original 37 went to the house instead of to the lake that windy, cold morning. Shoot - we outdrew a national tournament organization that held a tournament the following weekend on Washington. They had 27 boats and much nicer weather, I was told, and half a dozen of the teams were MCCers.
Look, our 36 fishing teams that day included three kids and six women - and we men like to think we're tough. Eight-year-old Logan Grice of Merigold fishes with his granddad Earl Oswalt. At the weigh-in, they parked right behind me. Logan jumped out of Earl's pickup and asked, "Mr. Paul, how'd y'all do?"
"Well, Logan, we had a tough day - only caught two keepers - you?"
"Papaw, we beat Mr. Paul! We've got three to weigh," the snaggled-tooth youngster said grinning from ear to ear. And, they did, coming in 7th place with those three fish. Tommy Moss and I were in 11th place with our two fish. We never would have guessed that we'd be getting a check before the weigh-in started. MCC pays the top 15 places. Only 17 teams out of 36 caught fish that terrible, windy, cold day - a day when all of us should have had our heads examined. Thankfully no one fell in. All hugged the north bank to get some break from the cold north wind and held on under the most miserable conditions I can recall.
But, believe it or not, the winning team, Warren Cotton and Kirk Lewis of Memphis, Tenn., weighed the tournament limit of seven fish at over 14 pounds, and two 3-pounders were caught that windy day. "Little Bit" Robertson caught the heaviest fish at 3.35 pounds!
All that is to say this. Lake Washington is having a banner year, y'all. I know my good friend and fellow MCCer, pro-fessional crappie guide from Grenada John Harrison, said in last month's issue that your best chance to catch a 3-pounder in Mississippi was in March at Grenada. John, from what I've seen and heard since mid-February, Lake Washington may be winning the 3-pound race.
Two weeks after our tournament, a fruit jar event with 21 boats was held on Washington under much better conditions, and the winning weight was caught by Vic Finkley from Grenada at over 18 pounds. That's seven fish, y'all - 18+ pounds. And, get this, they weighed four 3-pounders that day on their tournament scales including a 3.23-pounder caught by 11-year-old Sandy Tackett from Greenwood.
So, what I'm trying to say to you and the reason I wrote about the same lake two months in a row is that, right now, Lake Washington is growing 'em as big as they grow. Come get you one or two - a 3-pounder that is.