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Crappie USA Tournament Trail event in Columbus this weekend

 

Scott Walters

 

 

One duo will be reunited, while another won't be together this weekend when the Crappie USA Tournament Trail continues in North Mississippi. 

 

More than 30 entrants were expected at 6:30 a.m. today when fishing began on the Columbus, Aberdeen, and Aliceville Lakes. Despite a forecast of heavy rain showers, the two-day event is expected to go on as planned. 

 

"It is going to be a really bad weekend weather wise," said Bill Gant, of Corinth. "Everybody will be working at the same disadvantage. Last weekend, (Bill and brother Roger) we fished at Lake Washington in Greenville. We got up Saturday morning and there was frost on the ground. 

 

"We got to the lake and it was 38 degrees, so if you look at the positives, it should be much warmer this weekend. At least we won't freeze to death." 

 

Bill and Roger Gant have fished together in tournament settings for 25 years. When the sun peaks through in the early morning hours, the adrenaline rush is still there. 

 

"Fishing is a lot of excitement," Roger Gant said. "Competition fishing is even better. We have done this long enough now that we have so many friends from across the United States. It's a hobby. It's a passion. It is still as exciting now as it was when we first started." 

 

Caledonia businessman Tracy Humber also will fish in the event. His routine will be slightly different, as 14-year old son Parker, an eighth-grader at Caledonia Middle School, won't fish with his dad. Instead, Parker will be paired with a friend in another bass fishing event. 

 

"It's going to be different because we fish together a lot," Tracy Humber said. "We belong to a club on the edge of Alabama. We fish together a bunch of the club tournaments." 

 

Tracy Humber said he fishes about 10 to 12 events per year, including all of his club's tournaments. In addition to those events, he will fish a number of Crappie USA tournament trail events in the area. 

 

"We don't do a lot of traveling," Tracy Humber said. "We will go as far as Greenville for a tournament. These tournaments draw from all over the Southeast. The fishing is very good in this area, and I just really get my excitements from fishing as many as these local events as possible." 

 

The Gants also keep a busy schedule. After fishing last weekend in Greenville, they will fish again next weekend before taking time off until the fall. They also fish about 10 to 12 events a year. 

 

"Our main purpose for this weekend is qualifying," Bill Gant said. "The bigger Crappie events are in the fall, and you have qualify to be eligible for those events. They are qualifying the top 25 from this tournament. The good news is the weather will cut down on the participants, so it will be easier to qualify." 

 

Easy may not be the proper word for any event this weekend. The local lakes already have above-average water levels due to the recent rains. The weekend forecast only will add to that misery. In addition, the fish are coming off a pre-spawning time period. 

 

"A lot of the local fishermen would not go out on a weekend like this," Roger Gant said. "We have to because this is when the tournament is scheduled." 

 

Tracy Humber has fished competitively for eight years. He said his knowledge of the sport has increased tremendously. The lessons learned are the ones he is sharing with his son. 

 

"When we first started, we didn't know anything," Tracy Humber said. "We thought we could catch fish. However, in these tournaments you are fishing against some of the best fishermen in the world. You have to learn and you have to get better or you go home empty handed. I don't like to go home empty handed." 

 

The Gants do not like to be empty handed, either. Two years ago at the Crappie Masters Championship in Alabama, the duo won first place and two Nitro C-7 boats. Each had a retail value of $2,995. 

 

"That is probably the highlight of our fishing careers," Bill Gant said. "Each tournament you are going against some of the best minds in the game. There is so much skill that goes into it, before you factor in the luck. If you are able to finish in the top 10, you feel blessed. 

 

"Ironically, we were in sixth place after the first day of the tournament we won (in 2011 in Alabama). We weighed the same amount the next day, but four of the groups ahead of us didn't weigh anything. Last year, we were in the Crappie event held here and we were on Aliceville Lake. We were in first place after the first day. The second day, we thought would be real good but didn't produce anything. 

 

"You can't ever relax and let up because you never know what is next." 

 

The layout of the Columbus, Aliceville and Aberdeen Lakes provide one of the biggest challenges on the Crappie tour. The currents are expected to make for even more difficult fishing. Tracy Humber said the weather will eliminate river fishing and that back-water fishing will be the way to go. 

 

"The good news is there are a ton of fish here, not great big fish, but a lot of fish," Tracy Humber said. "Each of the lakes is dangerous, too, so you got to know what you are doing. A wrong move can tear your equipment up. However, with some patience and knowledge of the area, you can have a good day." 

 

Roger Gant said diversity is the biggest advantage of the area lakes. 

 

"There is something for everybody," Roger Gant said. "You really can't say that about a lot of other places. Whatever you want to use (lures) and whichever way you want to fish, you can do that here. There is the best thing about fishing here in this area." 

 

The Gants look forward to qualifying and making another run at another championship. Tracy Humber looks to have a great weekend without his right-hand man. The elder Humber stopped short of calling his son "a good luck charm." 

 

"I will miss him, but I will rub his head before I set out," Tracy Humber said. 

 

 

Scott is sports copy editor and reporter

 

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