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By all appearances, the first Crappie Expo held Friday through Sunday at the Hot Springs Convention Center was successful.

Vendors from around the country packed the convention center selling all manner of crappie fishing equipment, tackle and accessories. We were exceedingly pleased to reconnect with Tracey Rosenau of Springdale, formerly of North Little Rock, and her husband Tim.

Mossback Fish Habitat is a brand of artificial crappie structure made of repurposed artificial materials that you can sink in a body of water to create fish habitat. Fish often concentrate on a structure within one hour, Rosenau said, but the structure becomes more productive over time. That's because algae attaches to the branches, which attracts insects and baitfish, which attract game fish.

The V-shaped branches of a Mossback structure create a stable, wedged surface for algae to attach. It also allows crappie jigs to come through the branches without snagging.

There are many variations of the concept. If you've wondered if they work, I took a photo several years ago of such a structure in a traveling aquarium. Bream and crappie were stacked in it like sardines.

In a booth nearby was Caroline Brewer of Charlie Brewer's Slider Fishing, one of the best known names in crappie fishing.

"We've been around for 50 years," Brewer said. "My grandad started this business in 1970, and he designed the 11/2-inch crappie paddletail grub and the crappie jighead. They're designed to go together perfectly. If you don't have any other baits, you need that 11/2-inch grub and a crappie jig. My personal favorite is white and chartreuse with a red head."

The small soft plastic grub and light jighead is the staple for crappie fishing and are available in many configurations in a world of different colors from many different manufacturers. Regardless of the color, hard-core crappie anglers are compelled to give them custom accents because they are convinced crappie won't bite without a dab of pink on the head and a chartreuse streak down the side.

The highlight of the Expo was the three-day Mr. Crappie Invitational crappie tournament held Oct. 4-6 on Lake Hamilton.

Tony Sheppard and Mike Sheppard of Kentucky weighed in 21.06 pounds over three days to win $40,000 and a giant trophy.

Lake Hamilton was extremely stingy with its fish. Many teams came to the stage with two or three 10-inch fish, and several teams failed to weigh any fish on the final day.

Mike Sheppard said that Lake Hamilton is similar to Kentucky Lake, which is overrun with silver carp that he said make the lake's crappie very skittish. From that experience, Sheppard said he knew he had to make very long casts with light line.

"We stand 30 or 40 feet off the brush and cast to it with a 1/16-ounce jig with a Jenko Baby Fry," Mike Sheppard said. "We let it sink back slowly into the brush and slowly reel it through."

The technique is like pitching for bass.

"We do things differently," Sheppard said. "I designed the Trick Stick. It's a lot like a bass rod. It's real sensitive. We use 10-pound braided line and 4-pound flouro leader like the bass guys do. We try to keep it simple."

Their advantage was being able to catch white crappie, which are heavier than the black crappie that are more common in clear water like at Lake Hamilton.

"This lake is not known for white fish, but we found some good white fish and caught them out," Sheppard said. "We went back Saturday. There were still a few there, but we beat them up. Today we were lucky to get a big white kicker fish that really helped us out."

Like all first-time productions, the tournament left room for improvement. Chris Jones, emcee for the FLW Tour, capably emceed this event. However, the weigh-in started very late, and about 10 teams were waiting to weigh-in at 5:30 p.m. when Jones announced that the building would close at 6 p.m.

Big-time bass fishing has largely eliminated anglers from prattling on about their sponsors. It's boring, and it doesn't help a sponsor to be touted by anglers that didn't catch any fish.

The Mr. Crappie Invitational might consider following their example.

Sports on 10/10/2019

Print Headline: Crappie Expo a complete success

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