Unique format brings diversity to tournaments

July 27, 2023

By Greg McCain

Competitive crappie fishing continues to evolve.

While traditional cumulative weight events continue to dominate, other formats have surfaced on local, regional, and national levels in recent years. One such non-traditional tournament, actually the second of its kind in the Crappie Masters schedule, took place on Lake Erling in Arkansas recently.

The tournament was the Crappie Masters Bracket Showdown. The initial bracket-style tournament took place last year on Lake Ouachita. Hayden Jeffries and his father, Dan, the hottest team in crappie fishing, took top honors at Lake Erling.

Among ACC Crappie Stix pro staff members, veterans Wesley Miller and Craig “The Crappie Cowboy” Nichols and newcomer Bryce Acreman competed in the event. Wesley, who had a good finish last year in the bracket showdown, advanced through the first two days of competition and eventually finished 21st this year.

“On Lake Erling, it was fantastic,” Wesley said. “When you get to Day 3, it’s not like a cumulative weight tournament when you get to Day 3 and you’re five pounds down and fighting for fourth. In this format, you make it to Day 3, weights are zeroed, and everyone has a chance.

“I like that idea and format even better than a two-day cumulative weight tournament because if someone gets two pounds ahead of you on Day 1, you’re not coming back. You have no chance.”

The bracket format followed these guidelines for advancement:

Day 1: Teams competed head-to-head with the top team in each pairing advancing to the winner’s bracket on Day 2. Day 1 losers fell into a matchup with another Day 1 losing team. All weights were zeroed headed to Day 2.

Day 2: Each top team in the winner’s bracket advanced to the championship on Day 3. Day 2 losers in the winner’s bracket still had a chance to advance if their weights were in the top 50 percent among winner’s bracket teams. On the loser’s bracket side, the top 10 winners moved on to the championship round.

Day 3: All teams surviving competed in a traditional one-day tournament with the winner taking home the $10,000 top prize.

“It was a really fun format for a change,” said Bryce, who competed in his first bracket-style tournament along with his father, Jeff. They advanced through the opening round but did not qualify for the championship round. “The playing field goes back to zero (after each day). In other tournaments, you can’t make a mistake. There’s no room for error. This format really evens the playing field, even if you don’t do well in the opening round.”

Wesley said he expects crappie tournament organizations to continue to be creative with their formats. While traditional set-ups will likely never disappear, bracket-style, big-fish, and most-fish tournaments likely have a future.

“Maybe not all tournaments will go to this particular type of format, but I think it should be more widely used,” he said. “It evens the playing field.”