River gaining attention of pro crappie anglers

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  • Crappie Masters teammates Shannon Porter, left center, and Jason Thomas show off some Ouachita River crappie while talking to fellow competitors Brian Young, right, and Diesel Byrd, left. Submitted photo
    Crappie Masters teammates Shannon Porter, left center, and Jason Thomas show off some Ouachita River crappie while talking to fellow competitors Brian Young, right, and Diesel Byrd, left. Submitted photo
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What do you do when you have 100 miles of the Ouachita River to fish to try and win $10,000 in a pro crappie tournament? Well, Jason Thomas and Shannon Porter won the Crappie Masters National Qualifier on the Ouachita River recently with a two day total of 14 crappie weighing 26.96 pounds to claim the $10,600 first prize check. Their secret? They just found some good fish and stayed with them until they could get enough bites to win.

“We were just grinding and praying. Grinding and praying,” said Jason. “One of the things that makes us a strong team is that we trust each other and we trust the decisions we make. Today some things weren’t going right and the bite wasn’t what we wanted, but we stuck it out and got the seven we needed to win it. We just worked as hard as we could. We were in a good spot. The fish were holding out off the timber. We knew we could catch them. One of our key baits was our Jimmy Watt jigs. We just had to grind and pray. Oh man, this feels good. This really feels good.”

The tournament was held on the River out of Monroe/West Monroe. Crappie Masters will be back on the River for their National Championship on Sept. 23-26, again out of Monroe.

The American Crappie Trail, which didn’t have an event on D’Arbonne this year, will also be holding a Ouachita River tournament out of Monroe in a few weeks, August 28-29. It’s the first year in a while that a deal wasn’t completed to host ACT on Lake D’Arbonne. Economic experts estimate that each one of these events brings at least $100,000 - $150,000 in direct economic benefits into the communities which host them. And that doesn’t even include the positive publicity that draws even more fishermen to the tournament waters throughout the year.

But back to Thomas and Porter. They fished several baits and moved around a little bit, but basically they stuck with the plan they developed before the tournament began, even though the river has been on a steady fall and the fishing pressure really moved some of the crappie around.

“We were getting a reaction bite today,” Shannon said. “We switched to a bladed jig early to get a few bites, then the hotter it got the better the bite was.”

The local duo also tipped their jigs with shiners, which helped with the bite.

Defending national champion Robert Carlisle ended up in second. If you think fishing an event like this is easy, just check out what he did. He came to the river from Oklahoma over a week ago and ran the entire 100-mile stretch looking for good spots. He narrowed them down, checked them with his electronics and spend hours from daylight till dark making a plan. His two seven-fish limits weighed 26-14.

Brian Young and Diesel Byrd finished third with 25.96; Trey and Tucker Underwood were fourth with 25.41 and locals Heath Rogers and Lance Bilberry tied with Oklahoma fishing guide Josh Jones for fifth with 23.35. The ninth place team of Dusty McGehee and John Harrison landed big fish of the event with a 2.28 pounder.

The catches were pretty amazing considering the river has gone up and down and the temperatures were near 100 degrees for the two days. It’s a testament to the quality of crappie in the Ouachita River system. Most of the anglers that were in the top finishers fished off the river and out of the current.