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)
Whether you’re fishing for fun or all the marbles, B’n’M Poles has been there and our pros help design, test, and teach other anglers how to use these weapons of mass seduction to load their live wells with slab crappie, panfish, and coming soon, monster catfish. Come see us at your next local tournament or online at www.bnmpoles.com