A warmer-than-normal late winter/early spring this year sped everything up, didn’t it? I mean the azaleas and the roses bloomed really early. The dogwoods were almost a month early displaying their beautiful color. And, the crappie turned on real early, too. Have you ever seen so much early activity on your favorite lake? Hey, on the fourth Saturday in March, Ross Barnett Reservoir was jammed packed. Memorial Day, Labor Day, the Fourth of July weekend don’t bring bigger crowds to the Rez than what I saw that particular Saturday.

I had to go to three different public landing areas just to find a place to park after I launched the boat around 9 a.m. And, it was worse when I tried to leave around 2 p.m. The ski boats, the sail boats, the jet skiers, the kayakers and every fisherman in the Metro area all came to the Rez on the same day.

Of course, the absolutely beautiful 80-degree-plus weather didn’t hurt the turnout, either.

And, man, did the crappie bite early. We guessed right last August when we made our 2011-12 schedule and put Grenada on March 17.

In 20 seasons, I can’t remember a better T-Day where we had such a great turnout of fishermen and spectators.

And everyone caught fish — big fish.

I’ve kept track over the years, and the average size crappie that we weigh on T-Day is 1.10 to 1.25 pounds for the season.

Grenada was exceptional this year: We weighed almost 300 slabs, and the average weight was 1.99 pounds.

That’s huge, folks, in the crappie tournament world. I don’t believe we’ve ever had that kind of average-size fish before, and, I’d dare say, since we caught the best crappie lake in the country on one of its best days that no other crappie club or tournament organization could make such a claim on the average-size fish to hit the scales.

Yes, we’ve had bigger stringers weighed by individual teams at Grenada and other Mississippi lakes, and the MCC record for the heaviest Big Mama just happens to belong to me at 3.41 pounds caught March 20, 2004, at Grenada.

But, on that magical day in mid-March this year, it was on, brother.

Let me tell you, Tommy Moss and I used up 200 minnows before 11 o’clock. We bummed a couple of scoops of minnows from Joe Lowrey and Randy Bouchillion, and those 50 or so were gone in 30 minutes.

Then we started putting crappie nibbles on Road Runner jigs, and just kept on snatching them.

The winning stringer was registered by John Harrison of Calhoun City and Brad Taylor of Greenville. They weighed seven fish that bounced the scales just over 18 pounds.

Tommy and I were fourth with almost 16 1/2 pounds. And, the fishing was easy and fun and challenging all at the same time.

Sixty-nine-year-old MCC rookie, Johnny Walker of Schlater, brought a guest fisherman with him: Morris Brewer of Phillip.

Using our new "kids rule," they also had 13-year-old Hayden Breland, Brewer’s grandson, in the boat with them. Johnny told me that the kid (who wears a man-sized No. 12 shoe, by the way) caught a 2 1/2-pounder and was as excited as any kid on Christmas morning.

"Seeing that boy catch that monster, then weigh him in front of that big crowd at the weigh-in, and then beat his big brother on the same day was worth the trip," Johnny said. "He can’t wait to get to the next tournament at Sardis!"

World record news

The world record for a white crappie is 5 pounds, 3 ounces, and was caught July 31, 1957, by Fred Bright. The fish was caught in the Enid Reservoir in Water Valley.

For the first time ever, the Magnolia Crappie Club in association with the Water Valley Main Street Association is going after a new world-record crappie at our Enid Tournament on May 5.

And, we’re putting our money where our mouths are. With sponsorships from Doc’s Table Restaurant, Water Valley, Bandit Lures and Sardis, we’re offering a Top Prize of $100,000 to the tournament participant who catches a world-record white crappie during that event.

This is an open tournament. That means that no club dues are required. Everyone’s invited to enter the tournament, which cost $90 per boat.

We’ll fish per MCC rules, and we pay back every nickel we take in to the Top 15 teams plus $100,000 to any world record caught that day during the tournament.

Yes, there are rules. See http://www.magnoliacrappieclub.com/ for more details and tournament rules, or you can call me at (601) 624-0359. Don’t call me after dark: I’ll be in the bed, and you don’t want to wake my sorry you-know-what up. I can get downright ill-tempered after dark.

This tournament is a part of the Second Annual World’s Largest Crappie Festival staged in downtown Water Valley. I understand there’ll be lots of music, crafts, food and a great big weigh-in held on the Railroad Depot Pavilion in downtown Water Valley. The festival runs all day, with the weigh-in beginning at 3 p.m.

We expect a huge turnout of fishing teams. Come join the fun. Where else can you shoot for $100,000 and the other top 15 cash prizes for just $90, and have fun at the World’s Largest Crappie Festival at the same time?

Best season ever

Folks, I’m an old hand at doing things related to crappie fishing tournaments. I am one of a very short and disappearing number who started MCC back in 1992. I’ve been the president, off and on — a year or three at a time — for at least half the club’s life.

And I believe this 2011-12 tournament season is shaping up to be our best ever.

Good Golly, Miss Molly at the number of new faces fishing with us this season. At every event so far this season (and Enid will be our eighth out of nine regular tournaments this season), I meet new MCC participants.

We have the highest number of teams we’ve ever had.

As president, I’m so proud of our leadership team. All of us elected to serve in a leadership role with the club do so strictly as unpaid volunteers, and much of the success this year goes to our leadership team. It’s great to have competent, respectable, honest pros in charge of things like registrations, weigh-ins, tournament directing, even selling our club shirts and caps, doing our banking — none of which I do.

So thanks to all who make the Magnolia Crappie Club the largest and oldest crappie club in the entire country.

Y’all come join us at Enid on May 5, and catch you one "as big as they grow," and we’ll pay you $100,000 if that fish is a world record.