As they came to the weigh-in for the 14th and final Shack Crappie Jam in the pavilion area of the Paris Fairgrounds, with sweat pouring in on face, Donald Zufall looked at the total weight for the crappie that he and partner Jim Dent caught on a 100-plus degree day, and wondered how close they were to defending their 2016 championship.
As they came to the weigh-in for the 14th and final Shack Crappie Jam in the pavilion area of the Paris Fairgrounds, with sweat pouring in on face, Donald Zufall looked at the total weight for the crappie that he and partner Jim Dent caught on a 100-plus degree day and wondered how close they were to defending their 2016 championship.
“What are some of the other weights…how are we looking?” asked Zufall. When told his team’s 8.13 pounds was in the early lead, he just smiled and said, “Great.”
This year is the final Shack Crappie Jam, said co-organizer Michael Molitor, who is co-owner of the Crappie Shack on Main Street in Paris. The tournament is now too much for he and other organizers now that family commitments are beginning to take priority over fishing.
“When we started this 14 years ago, I was single; now I am married with three kids – and too many commitments,” said Molitor.
The goal of Molitor and his other organizers was to go out with bang. They succeeded beyond. Some 86 boats signed up for this year’s tournament, compared to just over 50 in 2016. Two hundred people took to Mark Twain Lake early Saturday morning chasing crappie and the final tournament title.
Fishermen launched their boats in the lake at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, and they had to be finished by 2:30 p.m. and in the weigh-in line no later than 3:30 p.m. Several fishermen stopped well before the 2:30 quitting time. Boats had to register no later than Friday night before the tournament.
Shortly after Zufall and Dent had their catch weighed in, Van Pierceall and Pam Davidson of Stoutsville turned in their relatively small catch for weighing. But they were all smiles because one of the fish was a dandy – 1.68 pounds and in the early lead for biggest fish of the day.
Keith Mueller, a co-organizer who conducted the official weigh-in, said that the final edition of the tournament was exceeding expectations.
“This is just great support,” he said, pointing to the scoreboard that listed the more than 80 boats entered in the competition.
Although the weather was a hot and sticky as in 2016, fishermen were bringing in better hauls of crappie this year. Many boats came in with four and five pounds, and several in the six- and seven-pound range.
By the end of the weigh-in, the pavilion was packed with upward of 500 people, who were celebrating the day, purchasing raffle tickets and enjoying the late afternoon buffet of fried chicken and crappie, and evening music.
Last year’s tournament netted about $7,000 for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life. As of Monday morning, organizers were still calculating the proceeds for 2017 of approximately $10,000.
Meanwhile, Zufall and Dent’s 8.13 pounds won the day and a $1,000 check for first place, and Pierecall and Davidson’s 1.68-pounder won the prize for largest fish.