Capps and Coleman take Crappie Masters

 With tongue firmly planted in cheek, we’ll let you in on the secret of how those two Tennessee fellows won the Crappie Masters tournament on Lake Conway Saturday.


Ronnie Capps and Steve Coleman are from Reelfoot Lake in the northwestern corner of Tennessee. Reelfoot will celebrate its bicentennial later this year, having been born in the 1811-1812 big event, the New Madrid Earthquake.

Yes, it stretched from December 1811 to February 1812, one big quake then numerous smaller ones. The Mississippi River ran backwards for a while. Land simply sank in places. One of these resulted in Reelfoot. Another resulted in today’s Big Lake and St. Francis Sunken Lands in northeast Arkansas.

Reelfoot, filled with cypress trees, is a standout crappie water, along with pretty good bass, bream and catfish action. It is larger than Lake Conway, but Capps and Coleman likely felt right at home working those cypress trees, stumps and stickups.

Our swarm of earthquakes here in Faulkner County can’t hold a candle to that New Madrid thing. But you can wonder if Capps and Coleman felt that tremor at 6:11 the other evening or the several that followed the next day.

You don’t think we have another lake in the making up there between Guy and Greenbrier, do you?

Paul Alpers is the person in charge of Crappie Masters, an operation of Bass Pro Shops at Springfield, Mo.

He was high in praise of Lake Conway, the new Conway Expo Center and the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce. The chamber’s work with the tournament was headed by Kathy Wyrick.

This is what makes things go, what lies behind successful occasions like this crappie competition. People handling the myriad of details are the reason the events click.

The Expo Center and Fairgrounds on the eastern edge of Conway still has finishing touches to be carried out, but it’s obvious the multi-faceted qualities are there and are for real.

Capps and Coleman are old hands at fishing tournaments, but they started out in bass tournaments with they were teenagers. Their dads had to drive them to their first several competitions.

If you had the notion that today’s crappie tournaments are some folks poking around in 14-foot flatbottoms, think again.

There were some flatbottoms used, but they were upper scale types, the War Eagle and SeaArk type vessels. Some competitors worked from Ranger-type fiberglass boats that we customarily call bass boats.

True, they don’t get up on plane on Lake Conway in those things, but what they all have is electronics. This means depthfinders. They give an electronic picture of what’s down there under the water’s surface beneath and to the sides of the boat.

A fellow in the business told us a while back that today’s fishing electronics are more sensitive and accurate than the sonar equipment used by navies in World War II. A small box holds gadgetry surpassing roomfuls of old navy ships. A difference is today’s fishing depthfinders give a view of a short radius around the boat, and the sonar of WWII went out for hundreds of yards, even miles.

Crappie Masters and Bass Pro Shops are in the empire of Johnny Morris, who got his start as a teen selling fishing tackle in a corner of his father’s liquor store.

Morris had fishing skills too. He did well enough on the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (BASS) circuit in the 1970s to make the field of the Bass Masters Classic a couple of times.