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How Mr. Crappie Became “Mr. Crappie”

$300,000.00! 300 Grand, that’s what qualifying anglers will be fishing for October 20-22 at the Mr. Crappie Invitational Crappie Classic Tournament in Branson, Missouri. The winning angler will take home $100,000.00 cash. There will be an Expo held in conjunction with the Crappie Classic, and the World’s Largest Crappie Fry will also take place. This event, the biggest crappie event in the world, was created by Wally Marshall, a guy who decided that he would rather make a living going fishing than doing what he was doing. Here’s how he did that.

Wally was introduced to fishing at an early age—he doesn’t know exactly how young—by his grandmother. Later, when Wally was in high school, his mother took him to a body of water where he fished all night. She returned to gather him and his catch the next morning. In those days, fish were an important part of family meals.

As Wally’s interest in fishing grew, his interest in catching crappies grew. He fished from shore, and at some point, he got a pair of waders and entered the water in pursuit of crappies. He learned from personal experience and from fishing friends about the habits of crappies and how he could catch them more effectively. Crappie tournaments were starting to become popular. Tournament rules allowed anglers to fish from a boat or from shore. In 1987 Wally entered his first crappie tournament, the first crappie tournament ever held in Texas. It drew 289 teams. In that contest, Wally Marshall waded his way to a win! The first seven tournaments that Wally won in his career were won while wading.

After making a name for himself as a wading crappie fisherman, Wally decided he needed a boat. That would enable him to expand his crappie fishing knowledge. He found an aluminum boat that fit his budget and was acceptable as a fishing platform. He entered a crappie tournament after becoming familiar with his new-to-him boat. In that boat, in that tournament, Wally caught one crappie all week. All week! During practice and in the competition. Electronics and such were new things to him, and he had to learn how to use them and take advantage of what they were telling him. But he did what he had always done. He adapted, and before long, Wally was catching crappies from his boat. Soon after, companies who made lures and other equipment that crappie anglers would use to catch crappies were coming to Wally for his expertise. In fact, keep an eye out for the new Wally Marshall Classic Series of rods and reels. These have the features that Mr. Crappie wants in his rods and reels.

Mr. Crappie does what it takes to get a crappie to bite, but he says that across much of crappie country, shooting under docks is his favorite and most productive tactic. Shooting involves taking a 1/16th-ounce jig rigged with a ShadPole plastic bait in your hand. Spinning tackle works best. Open the bail on the reel, pull the jig to load the rod, then release the jig so it “shoots” under the dock. A ShadPole is preferred because of its design: it skips across the water into the shaded areas under the dock. There are many videos on the internet that show Wally “shooting docks.”

Which brings us to the first ever Mr. Crappie Expo held in Hot Springs Arkansas in 2019. 26,000 crappie anglers were in attendance. On Saturday of the event, up to that time, the world’s largest fish fry took place. 5,000 people lined up for almost four city blocks to eat crappies. That’s a lot of people and a lot of crappies. And that’s what a guy like Wally Marshall can create with enthusiasm, a strong work ethic, and a clear vision of what he wanted to do. At times Mr. Crappie may have questioned his enthusiasm and his vision, but when it came time to go to work, whether the work was fishing, teaching fishing, or promoting fishing, he answered the bell. That’s how Wally Marshall became the world’s most popular and well-known crappie angler.

– Bob Jensen of

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