Indiana team gives back amid tournament success

November 15, 2022

By Greg McCain

Success is measured in many ways relative to tournament competition.

Wins and high finishes are certainly tangible goals for most competitors while other intangibles are less easily measured. The ACC Crappie Stix team of Tim Guard and Robert Williams found success on both sides of the equation, recently finishing up a tournament year with success based on every variable considered.

Robert and Tim enjoyed several strong finishes in tournaments, placing second in the angler of the year (AOY) competition among members of the Indiana Slabmaster circuit, while at the same time, finding ways to encourage the growth of crappie fishing. At one of the final tournaments of the year, Tim and Robert spearheaded a drive to put fishing tackle in the hands of the youths involved in the competition.

That charitable effort culminated a year of high finishes in tournaments for the Indiana team. Robert said the duo “got a fourth and three second places in the Indiana Slabmasters.

“We fished the Indiana Crappie USA tournament on Monroe (IN) and won it. Knothead Jigs put on a tournament down there (on Monroe), and we won it. So we had a pretty good stretch at Monroe Lake.”

This season marked the fourth year together for the team. Tim partnered with Robert after bass fishing competitively for years. The pair complement each other well, tempting crappie with a variety of presentations. They have embraced the new age of electronics but also rely on old-school fishing skills and acumen as well.

“We’re having a good time doing it,” said Robert, who lives in Crawfordsville, IN, west of Indianapolis. “LiveScope has made all the other teams better and made us better. It’s been a great time so far.”

Both Robert and Tim, who lives in Waynetown, IN, praised the Indiana Slabmaster circuit for the opportunities that it presents and also its connections with other trails. The trail regularly draws 35-45 boats per tournament on lakes like Monroe, Geist, Morse, Patoka, Salamonie, and Mississinewa. They also fish part of the Ohio River at Rocky Point and Tanners Creek.

The Indiana Slabmaster AOY receives an invitation to fish the American Crappie Trail championship. In 2020, that invitation went to Robert and Tim, and they made the final day cut on the Alabama River. A newer organization, Cornbelt Crappie, will extend an invitation to its championship to the top five teams in the Indiana Slabmaster AOY standings next year.

“Kudos to them,” Tim said. “They work well with the other organizations.”

Robert and Tim attribute their tournament success to teamwork and adaptability.

“We like going shallow in the backwaters and shallows,” Robert said. “We look in there (with LiveScope) to see them, but when they are that shallow it’s hard for us to focus on them. Sometimes they are right on the bottom or right on the wood real tight. We just can’t always see them on LiveScope. Usually one of us is looking at the LiveScope, and the other one is just fishing.”

Later Tim added, “If I’m running the trolling motor and catch a fish, he takes over and runs it. He catches one and I take back over and run it. It works out well.”

The teamwork actually grew out of their regular day jobs. They both work in the same factory for a printing company where Tim is an ink specialist, mixing the various inks needed for products, and Robert is a knife grinding specialist, sharpening all the tools on site. Crappie fishing became a byproduct of working for the same company.

ACC Crappie Stix products have become their go-to rods over the past three years. They favor the 11-footer for vertical jigging but also use the 6’6” and 8’ models for various applications.

“The new 6’6” one-piece is sweet,” Tim said.

The jigs that Tim makes are another part of their arsenal. Zuma Crappie Jigs owner David Sommer was the team’s first sponsor and also introduced them to ACC Crappie Stix. He eventually became Tim’s mentor in the fly-tying business. Tim bought some of David’s molds when he went out of business, and now the team puts the hand-ties to use on the tournament trail. Tim ties mainly 1/16 for normal conditions and 1/32 for cold-water situations.

Tournament competition aside, Robert and Tim have begun to do their part in helping grow the sport. For one of the Monroe tournaments, Tim initiated a drive to put tackle in the hands of the kids participating. The Indiana Slabmasters circuit allows a child to compete along with the two adults in a boat.

“Tim got it started,” Robert said. “(ACC owner) Andy (Lehman) sent some rods for the youths. Tim’s brother Danny ended up buying tackle bags and some reels for the rods and some tackle. I bought some also, some reels, bobbers and sinkers. We had some other club members who donated plastics and hair jigs.”

The result, Robert noted, was equal to any high finish in a tournament. The kids ranged from six to 14.

Expect more of the same from the Indiana team. They will be back at it next year in tournament competition but will likely find similar ways to give back and grow the sport.

“We’ve had a great time fishing tournaments the last few years, but the idea of promoting the sport and encouraging kids to fish has been great also.”