The Magnolia Crappie Club has been around for almost 20 years. Entering our 19th season, MCC held its largest event ever this fall. This was a big deal in the world of crappie tournament fishing, and I'd like to tell you about it.

MCC had been through two previous seasons where our participation level and the number of active members fell. We believe the slower economy was the culprit. People, including MCC members, just didn't have the discretionary income they had before the current slower economy kicked in.

In fact, MCC survived through these tough times when other fishing clubs and similar organizations folded. Being a non-profit, all-volunteer organization had a lot to do with our survival. MCC has no employee payroll to meet, and operating expenses are covered by club dues ($50 a year), tournament entry fees and sponsorships.

All our numbers were down for two years, which meant that we simply had to play within our means. The club's leadership board, headed by President Brad Taylor, did an excellent job of managing the country's largest local crappie club with less operating funds compared to previous years.

Which brings me to the current year and our biggest event ever. You see, our new year begins in August each year. Having been elected president for the 10th time earlier in the summer, I felt it necessary to call together what we call our Executive Council - a group made up of the club's previous presidents and invited guests.

I pulled together some of the brightest and most energetic minds of the club in July for a "brainstorming" session. We met in the Catfish Cabin at Eagle Lake Lodge practically all day. I had assigned each invited guest a topic or two to prepare his thoughts and suggestions, and, man, did they ever come prepared.

There were a dozen of us there, and there were at least two dozen good ideas generated right there in the middle of the Catfish Cabin. I'm here to tell you that MCC is loaded with talent, with bright insightful people from many diverse backgrounds, and as official note taker that day, it was hard for me to keep up.

You know how when you hear a good idea and the light bulb goes on? Well, when ol' slow-talking, slow-walking Roger Womack's turn came, he simply asked, "Why don't we hold a tournament for anyone and everyone and see who shows up? Make it open to everyone."

Blink, blink, blink … I could literally see the light bulb come on in the faces of practically everyone in the room. Shoot, man, we'd been doing this for 19 years, and this was the first time anyone had actually voiced such a suggestion.

Sure, we'd held "fruit jar" events, which required no club membership to participate, but we'd never actually invited "anyone and everyone."

The idea grabbed hold of us, and we couldn't talk about anything else. Suggestions on when, where, how and who just flowed from everyone. My toughest job was to maintain some sort of order from the overly, all-of-a-sudden excited group of club leaders.

And you talk about growing legs! This idea got out and spread like wildfire. Calls from members and non-members were coming in right and left, and we hadn't even announced the event yet. Calls offering suggestions and calls offering resources and calls offering to help were being handled by club leaders. This had to work. There were too many enthusiastic vibes and not a single negative one, as I recall.

The result was realized Sept. 25 at Grenada in our first-ever Big Mama Open tournament. It turned out to be our biggest event ever.

We contacted the Grenada Corps of Engineers staff and got a permit and more support than we could have ever imagined. As our attendance estimates grew and grew, we'd simply call the corps, and they'd make it happen with more and better facilities.

Our initial idea grew to making the most of the event by holding a free barbecue on Friday night before the tournament and making a subtle play or solicitation, if you will, for new MCC members. That seemed to work because we signed up 18 brand-new members.

The draw for the fishing tournament, I think, was that we were weighing only one fish per team, and, shoot, every team has a chance to win the top prizes when all you have to do is catch one.

War Eagle Boats heard about our Big Mama Open, and volunteered to travel from Arkansas with their smoker on wheels and handled the cooking for us for free. They even donated the food and supplies they brought with them.

B'n'M Poles heard of our event, and, although they are one of our oldest and strongest sponsors every year, they came up with the idea of sweetening the pot by giving the first-place team $500 worth of B'n'M Bucks.

Door prizes, some solicited and some just showing up, covered the entire front of our Friday-night meeting. Shoot, it took me almost an hour just to give away everything - and I was hustlin'. The list of companies providing fishing-related equipment and other useful items is way too long to list, but I can tell you that practically everyone in the room received some sort of door prize that evening.

The youngest fisherperson was a pretty little 5-year-old girl fishing with her mom. The oldest fisherman was tournament veteran A.E. Smith of Wesson. There was a tie for the oldest, so I told the two 80+-year-olds to arm wrestle for the prize. The other elder politely yielded to Mr. A.E.

Now, here's the real payoff for me and remains today as the primary reason I am still involved with these tournaments: I didn't see an unhappy soul the entire time I was in Grenada dealing with the first-ever MCC Big Mama Open.

We had more than 150 people involved from six different states. We signed up 18 brand-new MCC members, with more promising to join us for our regular-season events.

Winners? Yeah, we had some - that'd be everyone who participated, the crappie club, the sponsors, the city of Grenada, etc. But, if you're asking who caught the biggest Big Mama, that'd be MCC members Eli Rowell and his daddy-in-law Perry Herring of Sandy Hook catching one as big as they grow at 2.79 pounds.

Check out the Grenada open on