Buntings Leverage Weather, Water, and Tackle To Take Crappie Masters National Championship
Phillip Gentry
– After devising a strategy that made use of changing weather, rising water, and B’n’M Poles, the Jefferson City, MO team of Charlie and Travis Bunting captured the 2012 Crappie Masters National Championship held on The Tenn-Tom Waterway in Columbus, MS.
Rising water sent most of the field to the backwaters of the Tenn-Tom during the tournament.
Using side imaging sonar, the Buntings found large crappie holding tight to structure, despite the rushing water, in the main river areas.
– By swapping to shorter rods, and spider rigging B’n’M’s Ultra Light poles, the Buntings were able to fish tighter to structure and manage to finish the tournament in the top spot.
During the week of October 3 – 6, the Crappie Masters All American Tournament Trail set their sights on the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway in Columbus, Mississippi to determine who would be the trail’s national champion. Contestants, who had to qualify for the event by winning a number of select tournaments prior to the National Championship, fished the area from Armory Lock and Dam at the northern reaches to Tom Bevill Lock and Dam to the south, over 58 miles of the Tenn-Tom Waterway including Aberdeen, Columbus,  and Aliceville lakes.

Typical of many river system tournaments, the weather and water levels played an important role in the success of the contestants. According to Travis Bunting, he and father Charlie Bunting put together a plan that leveraged the wind, the water, and their B’n’M Poles to help the team step up to the winner’s platform where they were awarded two fully rigged Nitro Z-7 boats powered by Mercury 150 HP outboard motors as the grand prize.

“We started pre-fishing the Saturday before the tournament,” said the younger Bunting. “We’ve never been on this water before and were trying to get our bearings when it rained over 6 inches on Sunday. All that freshwater coming in provided a lot of current and the majority of the field retreated to the backwaters to fish. I told Dad, if we’re going to make anything happen here, we need to figure out how to catch fish in the main river despite all that current.”

Concentrating on the Aliceville Lake portion of the Tenn-Tom, Team Bunting discovered that many of the quality fish were still in the river, but were glued tight to structure and hugging the bottom of the waterway. Using their Humminbird Side Imaging sonar, the Buntings played a game of run-and-gun on Friday, the first of the two day tournament, visiting over 30 spots to catch fish holding tight to cover.

“We were spider rigging double minnow rigs, and we were catching plenty of fish by working the eddy lines right off the bottom,” said Bunting. “Normally, we use B’n’M’s 14 foot jig poles to fish away from the boat, but we down-sized to 12 foot B’n’M Ultra Lights, that way we could put all of our baits on the lee side of the structure. Anything that got outside the current break would be swept off in the current, plus we could see our bites much better as the bigger fish were just sucking in the bait and easing off to the side.”

At the end of Day One, the Buntings were in 5th place with a solid 7 fish weight of  9.10 pounds, putting the team .82 pounds behind Day One leaders, the B’n’M team of Roger and Bill Gant, who were vying for a repeat of their 2011 championship. The field was further plagued when a sudden cold spell landed across the area on Friday night.

“We stuck with our strategy of spider rigging the main river in Aliceville,” said Bunting, “but the run-and-gun was over. On Saturday the bite was extremely slow and we were not getting the number of bites we had on Friday. To make matters worse, the fish we did catch got pretty weak in the live well by lunchtime and we decided we’d better go ahead and weigh what we had and hope for the best.”

Cutting their fishing time by nearly two hours, the team brought in a day two total of 9.90 pounds and later watched with anticipation as the rest of the field came to weigh-in. Hoping they had enough to win, it was a nerve-racking event as tough competitors like Kyle Schoenherr, Roger Gant, Mike Walters, and Kent Driscoll came to the podium with big sacks of fish.

Apparently, Charlie and Travis Bunting, of Jefferson City , Missouri, never having wet a line in the Tenn-Tom before, would walk away Champions.

The top ten finishers of the 2012 Crappie Masters National Championship:
  1. CHARLES BUNTING-TRAVIS BUNTING 19.00*
  2. PAUL ELDRIDGE-TJ HARPER 17.61
  3. KYLE SCHOENHERR-RODNEY NEUHAUS 17.42*
  4. GEORGE PARKER-DARRYL COLE  17.39
  5. ROGER GANT-BILL GANT  17.37*
  6. JOHN HARRISON-KENT DRISCOLL 17.36*
  7. MICHAEL WALTERS-DERAK WALTERS  17.21*
  8. JEFF HONNELL-JIMMY BERRY  17.19
  9. ROY LOGAN-WADE HENDREN  16.89*
  10. TIM BLACKLEY-JACKIE VANCLEAVE 16.82*
(* denotes B’n’M Pro-Staff Anglers)

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