One hundred and sixty eight anglers from at least 16 states have descended on Faulkner County for this year’s Bass Pro Shop Crappie Masters tournament.

"After years of trying to have a crappie tournament in Arkansas it is Conway, Arkansas that gets it done," reads the opening sentence of a story posted on the Crappie Masters Web site, and Crappie Masters President Paul Alpers said on Wednesday that he was happy to be in Conway.

"Everybody likes the hospitality in Conway," Alpers said. "A lot of great places to eat and good lodging."

On Wednesday "VIPs" were on the lake fishing. These included city officials and members of the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce and Conway Advertising and Promotions Commission — two organizations that worked with Crappie Masters to make the tournament possible.

The tournament is being held on Lake Conway, the largest lake in America created by and operated under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a lake that specializes in crappie.

The tournament is called the "Ultimate Challenge" by organizers because of the restrictions placed on anglers. Only one pole per angler is allowed and only artificial lures may be used, Alpers said, so "everybody’s on the same playing field."

But this doesn’t mean that anglers haven’t been seeking every possible advantage. Alpers said that one out-of-state angler has travelled to reconnoiter Lake Conway for eight weekends.

This kind of dedication and the fact that the entry list quickly filled up means a very tangible benefit for the city and county, Kathy Wyrick of the chamber of commerce said. The A&P Commission did spend more than $20,000 to advertise and promote the event, but the number of anglers doing business in Conway will go far beyond repaying this, according to commission member Andy Hawkins.

"For us, it’s just a great match," chamber of commerce president Brad Lacy said. "We’re sitting here with a lake that’s kind of tailor-made for a tournament like this, and the guys that put the tournament on have always thought about doing one here. I’m thrilled that we could make this happen. It’s a great event for this area."

Anglers will be vying for the $26,000 in cash and prizes starting at 7 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, with public weigh-ins both days at 3:30 p.m. at the Camp Robinson Special Use Area Pavilion.

The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has also stocked the pond at The Meadows Office and Technology Park off Sturgis Road with about 600 pounds of fish for the Bass Pro Shops Crappie Masters Kid’s Fishing Rodeo, which will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturday. The fishing rodeo is free for children 15 and under, and registration is at 8 a.m. Young anglers should bring their bait and pole, and all entrants will be eligible for a drawing to go to the Crappie Masters Youths National Championship and win scholarship money.

(Staff writer Joe Lamb can be reached at 505-1238 or by e-mail at joe.lamb@thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit.)