May 17, 2013 12:32:44 PM
Paul Alpers had a lot of praise last year for the city of Columbus and the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway.
Alpers, who is the president of the Bass Pro Shops Crappie Masters AllAmerican Tournament Trail, was in Lowndes County last August to award a Crappie Masters National Championship to Charlie and Travis Bunting, of Jefferson City, Mo. Alpers was on hand to watch the Buntings land a two-day haul of 19 pounds that helped them win two Tracker Marine Nitro Z7 boats with 150 horsepower Mercury Motors. In all, 141 teams averaged catching crappie that weighed just less than a pound.
Alpers said the average weights anglers landed last year might be more in line with what participants could land today and Saturday in Crappie Masters' one-pole tournament on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway. Anglers will be limited to artificial bait and won't be allowed to troll, which puts a premium on being able to vertical jog, cast, or bump the bottom of the waterway with another pole.
That's why Alpers calls it "the ultimate challenge." Factor in
shifting weather patterns and temperatures and a recent spawning of the crappie and Alpers isn't sure how many big fish will be landed.
"These fish are really lethargic right now," Alpers said. "It is tough. You catch a lot of little fish. To catch the big fish, it seems like it takes four or five days for the fish to get over the stress of spawning and laying and fertilizing eggs."
Alpers has heard rumors that some anglers are catching 1- to 1 1/2-pound crappie. He said he also has heard some anglers having success with purple jig heads, which is unusual. He said a lot of fishermen usually go with orange or chartreuse lures. He said the clarity of the water (darker colors for muddy and lighter colors in clear water) dictates which lures are best to use. He also said it also helps to put a little rattle on a jig to help attract the fish.
Participants this weekend were allowed to pre-fish the area's waterways until 4 p.m. Thursday. They were allowed to stake out a position at midnight Thursday, but they couldn't wet a hook until 6 a.m. today. They will be able to fish until 2:30 today and Saturday and will have to be in the weigh-in line by 3:30 p.m. at the Columbus Marina.
Alpers said anglers typically need to spend three or four days on a new waterway to determine the best spots to find fish. He said a two-person team can use different colors while fishing from the same boat to improve their chances of success.
Warming temperatures also will play a role in the funkiness of the crappie, Alpers said. Once the fish snap out of their funk, anglers could have a ton of success. In fact, Alpers heard rumors Thursday that anglers were having better luck catching bigger fish, so he is anxious to see how the next two days pan out.
"Hopefully, the big fish are biting for this tournament," Alpers said. "I look for smaller weights. They normally use a big jig, but these guys are downsizing and not using big jigs because they don't want something big and bulky. ... They're going to have to slow down. Smaller jigs fall slower, so maybe they'll have to use a lighter, smaller jig head."
The Bass Pro Shops Crappie Master All-American Tournament Trail One Pole tournament will hold a dinner and a seminar tonight at Lion Hills Country Club in Columbus in advance of their event this weekend.
There will be 100 percent payback for all entries in the one-poll, artificial bait event. Participants can fish between the Amory Lock and Dam to the north and the Tom Bevill Lock and Dam to the south.
There also will be a Kids Fishing Rodeo from 9-11 a.m. Saturday at the Columbus Marina. Signups will be from 8-9 a.m.
For more information about the circuit, go to www.crappiemasters.net. or call Paul Alpers at 573-280-8020.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.