B’n’M Pro Staffer Matt Morgan not only loves to fish for crappie, he’s also fearful of the image the sport has come to provide to other anglers. Morgan has been a competitive tournament angler for several years and said that designing a better, more efficient way for anglers to compete while also changing the image of the sport has been on his mind for some time.
He said the idea really struck home as he and his tournament fishing partner were standing in a weigh-in line and everyone was holding a bag full of big crappie. It had been a good day and some of the best crappie anglers were in the line and had some really nice fish. Unfortunately, with the time involved to weigh the fish, Morgan realized that while most of the weighed fish would qualify as “live fish”, he had seen enough to know very few would survive the ordeal.
“I believe it is our obligation to hold ourselves accountable,” said Morgan. “We need to turn our industry around from the kill’em and fillet’em mentality that has always been part of this sport. There’s a need for a better way.”
Morgan began designing the American Crappie Trail.
The new trail, which recently wrapped it’s second tournament of it’s inaugural season at Lake D’Arbonne in Louisiana, hosts a more efficient method for hosting large scale tournament trail for crappie fishing.
“These other national trails operate on the same mentality as a club tournament,” said Morgan. “One guy hauls a folding table and a scale out of a trailer while another screams on a microphone. Meanwhile a long line forms. This is neither fun nor exciting for the anglers or the fans who came to see the weigh-in.”
The ACT, as the trail is also known, offers a more entertaining setting for both anglers and fans as well as offering bump-style weigh-ins which allow the fish to be staged in aeriated live wells prior to weigh-in and a quicker release to insure the survival of the fish weighed.
While he was designing the American Crappie Trail, Morgan also received a lot of feedback from other tournament anglers. He discovered there were some additional attractions he could bring to the table.
“With only a few exceptions, most of these anglers work regular jobs through the year,” he said. “Most don’t have the time or the resources to fish 15 or 20 tournaments a year and remain with a trail. The ACT offers five National Qualifying events and one Championship.”
Another big facet for the competitors was the payout. The ACT offers a fully rigged Ranger RT 188c fishing boat as the first place prize for each event. In addition, 100% of the tournament entry fees are paid back to the competitors from second place down.
“All the anglers want higher paybacks,” said Morgan. “I’ve had teams tell me that even if they won two or three events in another trail and even won the Championship, they went in the hole for the year due to the amount of time spend traveling and pre-fishing.”
Morgan said that both the host tourism divisions and the manufacturers involved with the ACT have been very pleased with the tournament trail.
“One of the tourism directors told me he thought we had set the bar for every other tournament who wanted to come to the area,” he said. “From our participation, to our promotion of the area on social media and other media outlets, and in the way we conducted our tournaments, and respected the resource. I really think we are giving all those involved what they want in a professional crappie tournament fishing trail.”
B’n’M Poles has been a flagship supporter of the ACT, offering contingency money for those top finishers who used B’n’M products during the tournament. B’n’M offers $1,000 every tournament with the top product users earning three places of $500, $300, and $200 when fishing with B’n’M products. Other manufacturers also have similar incentives.
Morgan said the ACT has established several other rules that were suggested by anglers to level the playing field for anglers coming in from out of town. The first is a 10 day off-limits period prior to the tournament followed by 4 days of official practice. Each tournament offers two days of competition and the anglers are bound by a “no info” rule once the off-limits period starts.
“We pride ourselves on transparency and accountability,” said Morgan. “The anglers like it, the sponsors like it, and we are expecting to see this trail bring a whole lot of anglers into the sport.”
B’n’M Poles supports the American Crappie Trail and wishes all our customers and pro-staffers well in the new season. Visit the American Crappie Trail on Facebook at facebook/americancrappietrail