Ronnie Capps and Steve Coleman, competitive crappie fishing’s top guns, won the Bass Pro Shops Crappie Masters Arkansas Championship Saturday on Lake Conway by a comfortable 3-pound margin over their nearest challengers.

Capps and Coleman are from Tiptonville, Tenn., and in the two-day tournament they weighed in 28.41 pounds of crappie, including one whopper fish that weighed 2.42 pounds. That crappie earned them an extra $259 on top of their first prize of $5,000.

Capps and Coleman executed an unusual strategy. They changed horses in midstream.

Friday, they fished with jigs, mostly lime and chartreuse in color, and brought in a seven-fish tournament limit that put them in first place. Saturday’s conditions were different, with wind a factor, and they switched to using live minnows from the start.

The change worked quickly, and they had two good crappie in the first five minutes of fishing.

Capps said, "We concentrated on female crappie. We didn’t catch a single male in the whole tournament. We found the crappie near the boat runs that were 9 or 10 feet deep. The fish  were about 4 feet deep. They were right up against timber, and the best ones were close to leaning timber, trees in the water at an angle."

He said, "We were fishing on the northeast part of the lake, out in the middle. We were using medium to large minnows – about 3 ½ inches long – and we used very thin hooks through the minnows’ lips. You had to be careful when you got a crappie on or the hook would straighten out."

Capps and Coleman fished with 14-foot crappie poles. They had five spots where they made their catches.

The Tennessee anglers have made the field of Crappie Masters’ national championship seven times.

The tournament structure is for teams of two anglers to bring in up to seven crappie, and the fish have to be alive. A fish truck of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission was on hand at the weigh-ins at Conway Expo Center to take the fish back to the lake.

Finishing second in the tournament were brothers Marvin Deckard of Missouri and Roy Deckard of Arkansas. They won $2,000 with 25.20 pounds of crappie.

Third were Don Blakley and Dennis Bayles Jr., both of Arkansas, with $1,000 on 22.33 pounds. Fourth were Alvin Burt and Doug Battles, both of Arkansas, with $700 on 21.67 pounds. Fifth were Charles Bunting and Travis Bunting, brothers from Missouri, with $600 on 20.71 pounds.

The second largest crappie was 2.32 pounds, brought in by Barry Morrow and Lee Looper of Arkansas. It won them $111.