Local Anglers Win Crappie Classic

Local anglers Jason Koesters and Jake Hengstler hold up some of the fish they won as part of the Crappie Classic over the weekend at Old Hickory Lake in Gallatin Tennessee.
Managing Editor

Two local anglers returned home with a new sweet ride after being named national champions in their respective division.

Jason Koesters of New Bremen and Jake Hengstler of Botkins won the Crappie USA Classic over the weekend with the top weight of 19.75 pounds at Old Hickory Lake in Gallatin, Tennessee.

“It was kind unbelievable that we won it,” Koesters said. “Him (Hengstler) and I have been finishing the last six of them in a row, but we never finished in the top five so to win it was a great feeling. My No. 1 goal in fishing tournaments was to win this tournament. It has been pretty awesome to win it and winning a new Ranger boat is really nice as well.”

Fishermen qualify for the Crappie Classic through local events by finishing in the top 10 in each tournament and winning the Grand Lake St. Marys and the Lake Cumberland tournaments helped the duo reach Tennessee.

Determining the winner of the two-day event is weighing each team’s best seven fish, each day, for a combined total of a team’s 14 fish. The heaviest weight wins. The tournament is divided into two divisions, amateur and pro. 

Hengstler said the expectation is to win, but the two came into the weekend never competing at the lake before.

“We got there Tuesday afternoon and begun pre-fishing and it actually turned out pretty good, we had some really good fish in the first hour on Tuesday and after what we found on Wednesday and Thursday, we had a pretty good feeling that we could get good enough fish to compete,” he added. “But we were leading after day 1 and we were not expecting to be leading after day 1.”

The duo competed against 51 teams in the Pro Division and 127 teams in the Pro Big Fish Division, which they finished second place, in a 22,500-acre lake that has a maximum depth of 65 feet at the normal pool elevation of 445 feet above mean sea level. The lake extends more than 97 miles from the Old Hickory Dam at Hendersonville to the Cordell Hull Dam at Carthage and the total shoreline length is 440 miles.

The team won a Ranger Z518 Bass Boat and an estimated cash value of $46,000 and won $1,000 for finishing second in the Big Fish category and $600 worth in cash value with the bonuses the team had. 

Hengstler and Koesters have a combined 35 years of crappie fishing experienced. 

Koesters said he has been fishing in crappie tournaments for the past 20 years and
Hengstler said he has been tournament crappie finishing for 15 years after his cousins and uncle introduced bass fishing to him at a young age. 

The two have been fishing together for at least six years.

Koesters said preparation is key to being successful in crappie fishing, such as studying maps, knowing where good fish are caught on the lake in previous tournaments that have been held and fishing during open practice. Koesters added that the two did not make it to open practice until Tuesday, with open practicing beginning as early as Sunday.

“It’s about coming up with a gameplan that you think you can find the right fish that you need and hopefully not running on the lake and wasting time,” he said. “We found two areas that were pretty close to each other and both spots held pretty good fish that we thought could be tournament-winning fish.

“So we stuck with our pattern both days and thankfully enough it produced enough weight to win it.”