The Magnolia Crappie Club fished our 23rd annual state championship the last weekend in May. Thirty-seven teams qualified by fishing in seven out of our nine regular-season tournaments, and competed for bragging rights and over $20,000 in cash prize money in a two-day event held on Sardis and Enid Reservoirs.

Twenty thousand dollars is not bad for a not-for-profit, all volunteer-run, just-for-fun, family oriented fishing club.

Magnolia CC was started over 23 years ago by a handful of Barnett-based fishermen. Five or six of us met one night at Rabbit Rogers house on the Rez and formed the basic outline under which we fish today.

Of the original “plank owners,” only Rabbit and I survive to fish in the club today — and, friend, let me tell you of the changes I’ve seen.

I’d have to estimate the total number of members the Magnolia CC has attracted over the years. We started with around 20 teams or so — that’s 40 people, mostly Barnett Reservoir fishermen. We had over 75 different teams fish with us this past tournament season — from 11 different states.

That’s dadgum impressive growth to me. Especially since every year we lose a few and gain a few teams.

Stuff happens, you know. People die, partners split, folks move, finances change for the better and the worse, interests change, kids grow up. It’s the natural order of things — change.

Totally, since Day 1, I’d guess that the Magnolia Crappie Club has attracted over 1,000 different fishermen.

But what has not changed since Day 1 in our little fishing club is the mind set of “let’s have fun.”

Sure, we fish for cash and other prizes, but for 99 percent of our tournament folks it’s not about the money. It’s about testing your fishing skills against some of the best crappie anglers in the country. It’s about the tailgating and friendships that are developed with like-minded as well as dissimilar folks.

For some, it’s about spending quality family time away from smartphones and televisions.

MCC fills the gaps, fills the need for good, wholesome outdoor activity. We just happen to fill those needs with a jig pole or a minnow in our hands. And, we have a wonderful bunch of people — men and women, grandkids and grandpaws, husbands and wives, and fishing buddies — from many walks of life all looking for a little fun on the water catching white perch “as big as they grow.”

2014 Magnolia Crappie Championship

Let me give you some highlights and details of this year’s state championship crappie tournament.

As I said earlier, the two-day event was staged on May 30-31 on two lakes. Plus, the club met on Thursday night before the Friday/Saturday tournament in downtown Batesville at the Civitans Hall for an awards banquet.

The local Civitan group cooked some wonderful barbecued ribs and chickens with all the fixins’, including some homemade banana pudding.

MCC’s best and brightest received awards, with the overall points winners for the year being John Harrison of Calhoun City and Kent Driscoll of Atlanta.

Rookie Team of the Year was awarded to Jeremy Aldridge and Clint Egbert of Batesville. These two young anglers showed out this year, winning two tournaments — quite an achievement in itself — and finishing in the Top 5 in the points race.

Day 1 of the championship event was fished on Sardis, a humongous reservoir located just north of Batesville. Winning Day 1 with a seven-fish stringer weighing 11.37 pounds was Chaney Starnes and Matt Collier of Harmontown.

Thirty-seven teams dodged rain and thunderstorms all day on what proved to be a really “tuff-bite” day.

Day 2 was fished 20 miles south at Enid, another giant reservoir. The fishing was more active for every team, making up for the slow bite the day before. The weather was wonderful — not too cold, not too hot, not too windy.

Winning Day 2 was the one-man show: John Harrison of Calhoun City. John weighed seven Enid fish at 12.71 pounds. John’s tournament partner, Kent Driscoll of Atlanta had to return home for a family emergency.

Harrison was declared the 2014 Magnolia Crappie State Cham-pene with a total weight of 22.45 pounds, besting second-place finishers David McWilliams and Robbie Nivens  from Yazoo City by 2 pounds.

Youth score

One of the highlights of the tournament and the entire 2013-14 season was the number of youth fishermen and their respective teams that did so well competing against some of the most-veteran tournament fishermen anywhere.

Look, we don’t have a special division or a different set of rules for the youth fishermen. They start and stop when the rest of us do, and their fishing prowess is measured on the scales like every other tournament fisherman at the end of the day.

MCC changed its rules a few years ago to allow two-person teams to include a third fisherman, as long as that third person was high schooler or younger. Understand, the three-person team is limited to a total of six poles per boat on T-Day — just like everyone else.

WOW, and has that third person rule worked great! I’m just so glad to see our club attract this wonderfully wholesome and uplifting ingredient into our whole mix. The kids are great — every one of them. They certainly rejuvenate me.

This year at the awards banquet, 10-year-old Logan Roberson of Merrigold was awarded our highest youth trophy — the Elite Youth Fisherman award.

Logan just finished his fourth season with us, and he and his granddad Earl Oswalt have qualified for the championship every year, if I’m not mistaken.

Joining them this season was Logan’s dad, John Roberson. I’m not sure who had the most influence on one another — the old veteran fishermen like me on folks like Logan or the smiling eager young fishermen like Logan on old farts like me.

MCC’s 2014-15 tournament season will kick off in September with one of our biggest events of the year — the Big Mama Open at Grenada. This open tournament will attract 75 or more teams from all around the country. It has become a great highlight of our year, and you’re invited to join the fun.

Check the club’s schedule and news at Can’t wait to gear up again for the next tournament season, and I plan to catch ‘em as big as they grow.