Expect bigger and better for Big Crappie Bash

April 18, 2024

By Greg McCain

Just over four years ago, the Crappie Cove/ACC Crappie Stix Big Crappie Bash was nothing more than a tantalizing dream. Fast forward to the present, and that idea has blossomed into one of the most intriguing and fastest-growing crappie tournaments in the country.

The fourth version of the hourly big-fish event takes place Saturday, April 27, on Watts Bar Lake in east Tennessee. Hosted for the third year by Terrace View Marina, located between Chattanooga and Knoxville, the Bash promises to be bigger and better than ever with increased payouts, potentially a bigger field, and opportunity to grow the sport of crappie fishing.

The top money, the Frogg Toggs Big Fish Grand Prize, increases to a $5,000 payout this year with hourly winners taking home at least $1,500. The first hour starts at 8 a.m. with the final hour starting at 3 p.m. In addition to ACC Crappie Stix, Crappie Cove, and Frogg Toggs, other major sponsors include Skinny Water Marine and Thump Gel.

“It just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” said Matt Xenos, the local guide and Wired for Crappie YouTuber who also serves as emcee for the Friday night meeting and the awards ceremony on Saturday. Almost five years ago, Matt first pitched the idea of a big-fish event to Crappie Cove owner Blake Hauk, who then partnered with ACC Crappie Stix owner Andy Lehman to stage the first Bash in 2021.

“We want to grow crappie fishing, and we expect another great event,” Andy said. “The field keeps getting bigger. The payouts are bigger. Terrace View always serves as a great host. The food is incredible, and the setting is perfect.”

As of Wednesday, the field had reached 64 boats, most of them with two-person teams. With a week remaining to register – registration closes at the end of the business day on Thursday, April 25 – the potential remains to attract 100 boats.

“We’re pushing hard,” Matt said. “The thought is to get to 100 this year.”

“I think we could easily get to 80 or 90 at least,” Andy said.

Crappie Cove employee Misty Martin, who coordinates the registration, said early entries have been strong locally but have also taken on a national tone more so than in the past.

“People are finding us,” Misty said. “I have anglers calling me and coming from Texas, Louisiana, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana. The word is getting out, and we’re getting really excited about the growth of the tournament.”

Added Matt, “I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me about the tournament. They seem to be excited about it, the unique format and the chance to win money.”

Matt said tournament participants should find crappie in all stages of the spawn with more pre-spawn fish available this year than last, when a 2.0 crappie took the top prize. The potential to catch bigger pre-spawn females will likely push the biggest crappie to at least the 2.5-lb range and possibly larger. This year, cold temperatures in March delayed the spawn, and many fish will move to bedding areas on the full moon just before the tournament.

“I think it sets up great this year,” Matt said. “Many fish will be spawning during the tournament.”

Andy reiterated the idea that the event is about much more than just tournament competition. That the Big Crappie Bash has returned to Terrace View (located at river mile marker 545, www.terraceviewmarina.com, 423-365-6060) for the last three years is no coincidence. The Cauley family – Mark, Heather and their seven children – functions as a well-oiled machine in running the venue, catering to the participants of the tournament and to the staff that runs it.

“It’s more than just fishing,” Andy said. “It’s the camaraderie. It’s the food. It’s the venue. It’s another opportunity to get together and grow the sport of crappie fishing in a relaxed setting.”

The event welcomes anglers of all skill levels, and the weekend fun fisherman is just as likely to win an hourly prize as the seasoned tournament veteran. To register, call 865-233-3471 or visit Crappie Cove in Maryville, TN.

“It’s amazing how this tournament has grown,” Matt said. “It’s only going to get bigger and better.”