Chotard/Eagle was the site of the 2012 Magnolia Crappie State Championship on June 22-23. A total of 36 teams competed for top honors over the course of two days of challenging fishing.

Oh, there were plenty of fish caught, including a boatload or three of garfish!

The challenge we all had was trying to figure out how to manage the gar problem, and finding and catching the bigger crappie. Our new state champs, Hugh Krutz and Steve Stevenson of Brandon, took a shot at something most teams didn't try and went to the Albemarle mats and caught some of their heaviest Day 2 fish - just enough to win Day 2 and the overall tournament with 20.63 pounds.

Kent Driscoll of Cumming, Ga., and Reed Busch of Memphis, Tenn., finished second with a two-day total of 20.01 pounds, and Day 1 winners Richard Lack and Sammy "Swamp Man" Hughes of Vicksburg finished third overall with 19.61 pounds.

Tommy Moss and I finished dead-damn-last on Day 1. That's right, we were in 35th place, and team 36 was back at the camp with a bad case of dehydration. We righted our embarrassed selves by breaking out the crankbaits on Day 2 and came in fourth place and in the money - thank goodness for those crankbaits.

Tommy took them out of the boat before we left Brandon saying, "There'll be way too many gar to use these things."

I snuck them back in the boat after he'd left the boat shed, and I didn't get much of an argument on Day 2 when I announced that we had to try something different, including cranking.

This was the culmination of our 20th season. Imagine that - 20 years!

Seems like just a very short time ago that a handful of us, disgruntled with the one and only choice we had for fishing tournaments at the time, met and quickly chartered a new club, based first and foremost on the idea that we'd all volunteer to do our parts to make this new club successful. That we'd have no paid employees, and that every nickel we raised from entry fees, sponsorships and club fundraisers would go into the fishing pot for our members.

Amazingly, we still hold these ideals today. And MCC has grown from a handful of charter members to one of the biggest crappie clubs in the entire country.

Oh sure, there are plenty of independent, local crappie clubs in almost every state across the South and Midwest, and there are even a couple of larger for-profit national organizations on the scene, but no one, year after year after year, holds as many regular season events (nine last season, 10 next season) and then finishes the season off with a two-day state championship that has as big of a prize package.

Get this: MCC paid out over $25,000 at our Chotard/Eagle event in June!

For a local crappie club, that's huge, baby. Huge!

But, to me, that's not the real measure of our success. It's an indicator that we, as a club, worked really hard to get the prize money to that kind of level, but it's not the one picture that I'd like to use to illustrate MCC.

What is the glue that holds this magical thing together? For lots of us, the off-the-lake tailgating and get-togethers are our special ingredient.

Chotard owners Mark and Jerry Johnson accommodated every request for our off-the-lake gatherings, and both commented how different MCC is and how much more fun our group is compared to other fishing clubs who just show up to fish, and then just leave.

"Those other fishing clubs are missing most of the fun," Mark Johnson exclaimed, as he was cooking fish with all the trimmings - including dessert - for us on Thursday night before the big two-day event started.

Thank you, Chotard staff and crew; you really went whole-hog to make us feel like Chotard Landing Resort was our "home away from home."

 

Big Mama III

Up next is our 3rd Annual Big Mama, and the last two have been our biggest events of the year.

Scheduled for Sept. 14-15 at Grenada, we'll draw 65 or more teams from 11 different states, if previous events are any kind of predictors for Big Mama III.

This is an open event. That means you don't have to be an MCC member to enter. Online registration is available at www.magnoliacrappieclub.com.

The entry fee will be $100 per boat, and the top prize can be as much as $2,500 (depending on the number of entries).

On Friday, Sept. 14, War Eagle Boats will host a free BBQ for everyone, and we hand out a bunch of door prizes. Additionally, this year we'll use the Friday-night gathering as a place to recognize our best of the best MCC teams from the 2012-13 season.

Then Saturday we all hit the water looking for one giant white perch. Again, we've been told by those participants traveling from places like Lake Fork, Texas, to Harrisburg, Ill., to Powhaten, Ohio, to Dixon, S.C., that the "magic" surrounding our event compared to so many others they've fished is that we don't take ourselves too seriously, and we have fun.

That's it in a nutshell. This is fun, and when it becomes anything more serious than that, I'll get off this bus and ride another one.

 

Hot summer

Boy, it's been hot this summer, hasn't it? Record heat - literally thousands of record highs around the state and country - has limited a lot of my summertime fishing.

Okay, I admit it: Summer is my least-favorite time to fish anyway. I don't feel the daily call from the lake like I do at other times of the year, but I've used this time productively, anyway.

I've spent literally hundreds of hours organizing and repairing and replacing my fishing tackle. When you own as many crankbaits as I own and when you catch as many fish as I do (forgive me, just can't help myself), some things get lost or used up. Replacing used-up red treble hooks by the hundreds takes time, friend.

Normal boat maintenance - locating and replacing that dead battery (that one bad one out of a total of five batteries on my boat), replacing broken trailer lights, finally hooking up my Ranger's reverse braking system - have all been good by-the-lake shade-tree activities.

Ah, that cool morning breeze coming off the Rez, with my boat parked under that big pecan tree, after fishing for an hour or two before it gets hot, dreaming of coming cooler days when I can go catch a mess as big as they grow.

Man, it just doesn't get much better.