Crappie anglers were greeted with bluebird skies, 65-degree temperatures, light winds and a small 15 percent chance of rain. The November 28, 2015 event was put on by Crappie USA (CUSA). Anglers were both confident and cautious about how this first tournament of the 2016 season would play out.
The confidence came from the fact that Crescent and Dead Lake are known for a good population of big crappie and anglers like to compete there. Tournament Director Jeremy Coe identified the lakes as one of the most popular lakes in the area. “We would definitely rank it as the best crappie lake in Florida,” reported Coe. “The anglers really like it here and there is a lot of quality fish!”
The caution came from anglers who pre-fished the lakes and reported tough fishing. Some of those reports came with a sheepish grin that made one wonder about the sincerity, but others delivered a very believable report that it had indeed been tough fishing on those days before the tournament and that was the sentiment of most anglers.
Legal waters for the tournament were Crescent Lake, Dead Lake and any waters up to but not including the St. Johns River. Anglers began coming into the weigh-in around 3:00 p.m. and the earlier reports of slow fishing were being validated. However as the weigh-in continued more and bigger fish began to come in and the popular lakes did not disappoint.
First place in the Semi-Pro Division went to perennial winners George Parker and Tim Eberly. The Florida partners pulled the scales to 11.04 pounds win. “Parker predicted last night that it would take 11 pounds to win,” revealed CUSA Operations Manager Darrell Van Vactor. “So I guess the fishing was better than you thought,” joked Van Vactor. “About .04 pounds better.”
“Actually it was pretty tough,” said Eberly. “We long lined in the middle of the lake and we shot docks. Darker colors seemed to be the best today.”
“We ran a full thank a gas today,” said Parker. “We fished everything we could. In the end it was about a 50-50 deal, with half of our good fish coming off docks the other half coming off long lining.” The fish out in the lake were in about 16 feet of water and suspended within 2 or 3 feet of the bottom according to Parker and Eberly.
Second Place in the Semi-Pro Division went to Danny Sisson and his partner Fred Walker. Sisson from Rural Hall, NC and Walker from Lizella, GA weighed in seven fish at 7.94 pounds. “We long line trolled,” said Simpson “We fishing in about 12 feet of water using a AWD jigs in red, black and chartreuse.” Walker liked the AWD Jigs also, but in red, black and opaque. “The fishing was slow,” said Walker. “It was a nice day to fish. We had some wind but it wasn’t unbearable. It’s just that when you don’t have seven fish at 1:30 you start worrying about it. It was a late bite. The biggest fish we caught came late.”
Ricky Willis and his partner Troy Theil finished third and also had big fish of the tournament. “It was tough fishing,” said Willis. “We went three hours this morning without catching a fish. I got that big fish with about one hour to go in the tournament. We lost a couple big fish too. It was a short bite and it was just like they were not getting hooked good. Chartreuse heads with the red, black and chartreuse tails were working best for us.” The team from Georgia weighed in 7.35 pounds to claim the third place finish. That weight included the big fish at 2.99 pounds.
First Place in the Amateur Division went to Gilford Sipes and Ronnie Biegs. They weighed in 7.53 pounds to win. When asked where they got their fish Sipes replied, “This is our first time on the lake and they came from somewhere over there,” pointing back out in the lake. The Alabama partners were long line trolling. “ We don’t usually long line,” said Sipes, “but you have to do what you have to do. The pair reported they change their luck when they re-spooled with 4-pound test line. “We fished the 6-pound for two days and caught one fish each day,” said Sipes. “We changed to 4-pound test line and won the Amateur Division.”
Tim Fowler and his partner Roger Milby finished second in the Amateur Division with 5.56 pounds. “Took a lot of luck today,” said Fowler. “Everything we caught was small. We had two good ones come at the end of the day. The fish should have been up north this time of year and they just weren’t there. There was nothing in the middle. Everything we found was down south.” The Georgia team caught about 12 fish on the day and weighed in seven at 5.56 pounds for the second place finish.
Third Place in the Amateur Division went to David and Jason Biddle. The team from Enterprise, AL weighed in 5.40 pounds to claim the prize. The Kayak Division went to Jon Walcott from Crab Orchard, KY.
The Early Bird Qualifier in Florida began the 2016 season that will end in Tennessee on Kentucky and Barkley Lakes for the CUSA Classic in October 2016.
Where to stay: For anglers looking for lodging on a trip to this popular destination you might try the Hilton Garden Inn Palm Coast Town Center. It is just off 95 on Hwy 100. It is clean, roomy and has a great restaurant. We happened to be there on Thanksgiving Day and they were having their annual Thanksgiving Day Dinner. It was standing room only because the locals have discovered it is the place to be if you want to eat out on Thanksgiving. You can deicide for yourself what that means on any other day of the year!
It is a great location for family and friends to investigate the Palm Coast area. While the anglers are fishing the rest of the party can use the Garden Inn as home base to do a little shopping, take in the local sights or take a trip to the beach. It would be pretty hard to beat for anyone wanting to fish Crescent and Dead Lake or simply go on a family trip.
For more area information visit Palm Coast and the Flagler Beaches or the Flagler Chamber of Commerce.
For tournament information on the rest of the year, visit the CUSA website at crappieusa.com or stay in touch by liking them on Facebook.