This month’s crappie column will report the results of two recent big crappie tournaments, both held on Grenada Reservoir — and I’ll try to get back to Cranking Basics 101 that I started last month for next month’s column.

In late September, the Magnolia Crappie Club held our first tournament of our 2013-14 season. We kicked off the season in grand style, hosting our fourth Big Mama Open, as well as our first-of-nine regular tournament on Sept. 21.

The season basically calls for one tournament a month from now through next May, with our Magnolia State Championship being held in June.

MCC set a club record for the number of boats entered in our “regular” club tournaments with 53 club boats entered at Grenada. Overall, for the two events held at the same time — with most boats being entered in both events — our total number of teams came to 62 boats representing nine states.

Hey, that’s not bad for a local crappie club, is it? Especially, here in Mississippi where “killing and grilling” — that’s hunting and football — are the frontrunners for capturing outdoor participants, and we’re right smack-dab in the middle of our “killing and grilling” seasons.

Let me tell you about the super-tough conditions the fishing teams faced. It hadn’t rained in over a month at the time my “guest” tournament partner Herman Duckworth of Magee got in my pickup early that Thursday morning to head to Grenada. Herman and I had fished together on the Rez, pulling crankbaits, and I talked him into going with me to Grenada — his first crappie tournament experience.

“Got your rainsuit, Herman?” I asked. 

“Yes, I do,” he said. “Do you think we’re going to need one?” 

“There’s one saying regarding tournament fishing, Herman: If it’s raining or if the wind is blowing or if the temperature just fell off the gauge, then it must be tournament day!” I told him. “Yeah, bud, we’re going to need a rain suit, I’m afraid.”

Although we only got wet twice while fishing — late Friday on practice day and then right at the kickoff on T-day — it came a sho’nuff gully washer on Friday night. Thankfully, the rain passed through the Grenada area overnight, leaving us with a drop in temperature, a rapidly rising barometer, some 15 to 20 mph winds and eventually a pleasant bluebird day.

All that is to say the fishing conditions on T-Day was terrible.

Herman and I caught four nice ’uns. I was well pleased. Herman was terribly disappointed.

“Don’t worry, Herman,” I consoled him. “There are some boats out here today that haven’t had a bite. These four big fish won’t embarrass us at the weigh-in, I promise you that.”

Turned out that Herman and I placed 11th out of 62 boats — told you so — and we were “in the money” when the payouts started being passed around.

Hey, I was tickled pink. Here’s why: I committed to doing nothing but pulling crankbaits before we went to Grenada.

I didn’t carry a jig pole or a minnow pole. During Thursday pre-fishing we caught zero keeper crappie. On Friday pre-fishing we caught two keeper crappie. On T-day we caught four good ones and ended up beating some of the toughest, most-serious tournament fishermen from nine states.

Yeah, baby, we dun good.

Specifically, here is what we did on T-Day. On the practice days, we paid attention to where we located shad on the fishfinders and where we didn’t. We also paid attention to what another team told us they did on Thursday to catch “a few” on cranks.

“If we can fish that main-lake point in 10 to 12 feet of water instead of 15 to 20 like we did the other day — out there where we located all those shad — we’ll catch some fish, Herman,” I said. “And we’re taking all these deep-running baits off and replacing them with medium-running baits that I painted black.”

“Why medium instead of deep? And, why black?” my new tournament partner asked.

“Medium because we’re going to fish in water no deeper than 12 feet, based on what we learned from Dee and Cory,” I explained. “And black because it’s going to be really dark, raining and cloudy on Saturday morning. Got it?”

Our crankbait strategy worked — at least to the point that it put us “in the money.” I must admit, we probably would have abandoned pulling cranks had we had other choices in the boat or truck with us.

Wouldn’t you know it? A brand-new tournament team — first tournament for these two young fellers to ever fish — won the club event with a limit of seven fish weighing 12.34 pounds. Congratulations to Jeremy Aldridge and Clint Egbert of Batesville. Y’all come on back, now, ya hear? We want to get another crack at you.

The Big Mama Open was won by the veteran MCC team of Shelton Culpepper and David Thornton. They only caught one fish on T-Day, but it was the right one and won them $2,000. The fish only weighed in at 2.53 pounds, and David and Shelton were as surprised as any other tournament participants that it held up for the win.

Did I mention the conditions were tough?



National Crappie Championship

The very next weekend, the big boys came from near and far to fish Grenada for the Crappiemasters National Championship. Grenada is known all over the country for being a big-fish lake.

I did not fish the National Championship event — didn’t qualify for it. But I did research their results. I found that Grenada continued to be a tough bite, even for the pros. The CM event was a two-day tournament with seven fish weigh-in limits each day.

Out of 193 teams entered, only six teams limited out, weighing a total of 14 fish.

I’m told that the top two teams were walleye fishermen from Iowa, and that they pulled crankbaits — Berkley Flicker Shads, to be exact.

Hey, dammit, I had a box full of Flicker Shad in the backseat of the truck when Herman and I came in 11th the weekend before. They never got wet — never even got out of the truck and into the boat. Dammit, dammit, dammit!

I am glad to hear that my crankbait strategy wasn’t so weird, so different or such a bad idea after all. You see, Herman and I (make that mostly me) took some guff on Thursday and Friday nights from some of our friendly MCC competitors for bringing only crankbaits. Shoot, we had “friends” offering to loan us a couple of jig poles, buy us some minnows or just turn in our entry money for us so we wouldn’t have to show up and be so embarrassed on T-Day.

Did I tell you I was tickled pink with the four big ’uns we brought to the scales?

Fall is the prime time to be pulling cranks, folks. I’m going to get those Flicker Shad out of the back of the truck, take them to Barnett, and catch me some as big as they grow — guaranteed.

See our club Web site www.magnoliacrappieclub.com for details and contact phone numbers.