Watch now: Boats gather on Lake Decatur for Crappie USA tourney – Herald & Review


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DECATUR — Although Shane Mansell was in Decatur this weekend to work, he had the opportunity to get to know Lake Decatur.“I love it,” the Alabama resident said. “I’m sure when it gets warmer weather for you all, this lake is wide open.”Mansell, the Crappie USA Tournament director, organized the Region Three competition on Saturday with local and national fishermen on the lake.Saturday’s event was the first Crappie USA tournament in Decatur since June 2020. This year’s event had approximately 35 boats on the lake.“We were expecting about 50,” Mansell said.The tournament is popular among amateur and professional casters with a total payout equaling $10,000.“They will get a pretty good little purse,” Mansell said.

Local fishermen on Saturday on Lake Decatur.


Along with a sizable prize, Lake Decatur is a draw for similar tournaments.“A lot of people love to come up here and fish,” Mansell said.Decatur is the third leg in Region Three tournaments, which consists of six other Midwestern lakes.Saturday’s weather was typical for spring fishing, according to the tournament director.“It’s a little windy,” he said. “But any day out on the lake is better than a day in the office.”Robert Denen traveled from Youngstown, Ohio, to compete as an amateur. He came back to the tournament after last year’s contest.“I love the community,” he said about Lake Decatur. “The lake’s a good lake.”

Denen fishes in many of the Crappie USA tournaments around the country, but lives in the Region Three area. On Saturday, he was fishing along with professionals, including Tony Grooms from Murray, Kentucky, who had placed second in last year’s competition in Decatur. “I had good luck in it,” he said.His luck continued this weekend. Grooms placed first in the professional division on Saturday.According to the rules, the fishermen are allowed to weigh in at least seven crappie. The heaviest weight takes home the first-place prize of $2,000.“It’s not hard to get seven on this lake. There’s a lot of fish here,” Grooms said. “We were throwing back ones that were a pound and quarter.”Along with the fishermen and women on Lake Decatur, children were invited to their own competition.

Shane Mansell, Crappie USA Tournament director, left, listens as Luke Swartz, 7, describes a fish he and his dad Mike recently caught.

Donnette Beckett

Seven-year-old Luke Swartz competed in the Crappie Kids Rodeo Saturday morning while his dad, Mike Swartz, was on the lake fishing in the tournament.Luke’s mom, Trisha Swartz, watched her son fish and win the grand prize of a new fishing reel and rod and a pint-size tackle box filled with lures and other needed items.“He has always fished,” she said about her son.The Decatur family is often found on the lake. After years of fishing with family members, they bought a boat last year during the pandemic. Now that her husband has his own vessel, Trisha Swartz expects he will be fishing in more tournaments.“We like to crappie fish for fun,” she said. “He’s never fished for crappie tournaments, but here he is.”Crappie USA headquarters is in Louisville, Kentucky. Other regional tournaments began at the first of the year and will finish with the Classic Tournament scheduled for Oct. 15 and 16 on Lake Hartwell, South Carolina. The top two winners, amateur and professional, in each tournament throughout the year will compete in the Classic.Along with opportunities to fish and organize similar tournaments, another highlight for Mansell during the Crappie USA tours is visiting a local bait shop.“I could stay in a bait shop all day,” he said. “There’s always something new to have.”History photos: Fun on Lake Decatur

History photos: Fun on Lake Decatur

No sweat?

1984: Searching for ways to cool off is one of the "hottest" activities these days in Central Illinois as summer wears on. Shelly Riggs (left), Gary Edwards and Richard Edwards, all of Decatur, find a boat dock on Lake Decatur the perfect place to soak up some sunshine and cool off in the water at the same time.

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Catchings some Zs

1989: If nothing else, Rick Comer caught some Zs. The Terre Haute, Ind., man was fishing off a dock on Lake Decatur Thursday when the warm sun lulled him into a nap. Comer was visiting the Michelle Stark family of Decatur. The strong sun - a welcome sight- made the 68-degree high temperature seem warmer.

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To each his own

1988: Taking full advantage of Tuesday's record-breaking July-in-April temperatures on lake Decatur were sailboater Dave Lee and fisherman Dan Taylor, who is from Fairview Heights. Tuesday's high temperature reached 85 degrees, breaking the old mark of 84, which was set in 1929.

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Temporary dam

1989: These fishermen try their luck Thursday near the opening cut in the temporary dam at Rea's Bridge

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Floating water bed

1989: It was a relaxing way to start the Fourth of July weekend for Randy Allen, who gave the appearance of having a floating water bed Friday near the boat docks on Lake Decatur. Allen was enjoying the day's near-perfect 88-degree high temperature.

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Taking it easy

1970: A bright, sunny day is for taking it easy, and that's what this couple is doing, unmindful of the boats sailing on Lake Decatur.

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Sailors' delight

1981: "Red sky at night, sailors delight; red sky in the morning, sailors take warning." The sky over Decatur was unusually red during Wednesday's sunset, which augured well for these sailors on Lake Decatur.

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Sh-h-h-h, quiet please

1990: Ron White relaxes on an air mattress near a buoy on Lake Decatur Sunday after playing a round of golf with two of his friends. White, who has a boat docked at the marina, was waiting to go out water skiing with his buddies.

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Beautiful balmy evening

1992: Sam Blair, 16, enjoyed a beautiful balmy evening and sunset in Decatur Friday as he fished off a bridge on Lost Bridge Road. Decatur recorded a high of 85 Friday, while Hillsboro recorded 88 - the high for Central Illinois. More of the same is expected throughout Labor Day weekend with showers possible Sunday and Monday.

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Warm stroll on cold water

1981: Teen-agers (from left) Loronzo Davis, Mike Landers and Bill Bryles walked on the ice on Lake Decatur Saturday, drawing the notice of the ducks, who wasted no time heading skyward. The three also drew the attention of the photographer because of their spring attire.

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Wind surfing

1987: Tom sly, 67, found a way to beat the heat Wednesday as he pulls up his wind surfing board and sails.

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The water's fine

1988: The sun's warm and the water's sparkling. Join a group of Central Illinoisans as they enjoy one of the city's finest resources - Lake Decatur.

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Tourist attraction

1985: Central Illinois lakes such as Lake Decatur are attractions for tourists.

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Crappie report

1990: Brothers Mike and Jim Kresse of Decatur cast their lines Wednesday along the Lake Decatur docks, in search of crappie. The warmer weather will bring more company for fishermen such as the Kresses.

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Hanging in there

1991: While the wind filling their sails wasn't as brisk as they had hoped, Decatur residents Patty Cutright and Dave Berndt spent part of Monday afternoon wind surfing on Lake Decatur. Cutright, a physical education instructor, just recently took up the sport, but Berndt has been pursuing windsurfing for more than five years.

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Holiday sailing

The Yankee Lady, a 19-foot sailboat belonging to former Decatur resident Jack Bankson, took a turn about Lake Decatur Sunday afternoon. Bankson, in front above, now lives in Mebane N.C.., but returned to visit relatives on a Christmas cruise. Behind Bankson is his son-in-law, Mike Jackson; also on board were Charles Hughes, another son-in-law, and Rick Taylor. the Yankee Lady is to sail today, also.

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Mapping bottoms


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Lost Bridge

1992: Nice weather Sunday stimulated plenty of lake activity as people boated, water skied, picnicked and fished. Nick Imel, 8, tried his luck by dropping his line under Lost Bridge with his father Steve.

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"Decatur Belle"

1966: The "Decatur Belle" an excursion boat now making runs on Lake Decatur, took its first passengers aboard Friday. The passengers were a group of 80 Latham grade school pupils. The boat will make hourly cruises beginning at noon each day except Sunday, when rides will begin at 10 a.m. The trips will cover the two basins of the lake on each side of Lost Bridge.

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"Sport Speedster"

1948: D. R. Hill of Decatur demonstrates a  new Higgins "Sport Speedster" of which he is the Decatur distributor. With a top cruising speed of 44 miles an hour, Mr. Hill believes his speedster is the fastest boat on Lake Decatur

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Sand Creek Bridge

1950: When it gets too hot for comfort, according to these boys, the best relief is to dive off Sand Creek bridge, across Lake Decatur, near Danceland. These youths would be hotter, however, if they were caught in this escapade. Swimming in Lake Decatur is permitted only where lifeguards are on duty.

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1948: This seaplane has been put on Lake Decatur by Clarence Bowman, Spangler Heights. A Cub, with floats attached, has been based at a dock on the lake near the home of Mr. Bowman. The plane will be flown under a charter as a non-profit flying club. The plane was based previously at St. Louis.

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Shimmering waters

1989: What a difference a year makes! Dale Zimmer of Decatur plies through the simmering waters of Lake Decatur.

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Evening canoe ride

1963: Jim Downey and Bob Musson, staff members at Camp Robert Faries, enjoy an evening canoe ride on Lake Decatur. The Boy Scouts are offered swimming, canoeing, rowing, lifesaving, archery, mo-skeet and have a handicrafts program at the camp. Mo-skeet is a form of trap shooting with b-b's or small shot. The boys cook one meal outdoors each day with the other two served in the dining hall. The camp also has complete badge programs and instruction in caring for axes and knives.

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The Scratcher

1963: W.G. Traver and grandson Andy Zeaman ride in the "Scratcher"

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Skipping stones

1993: Chris Carnahan, Richard Myers and Joshua Butts stopped their bike ride long enough to skip a few rocks on Lake Decatur in Nelson Park Friday afternoon. In addition to Easter, the boys are looking forward to a four-day weekend that's predicted to be in the upper 60s, but with a chance of showers each day. Many Central Illinois residents took advantage of the day off from work or school Friday to go to the parks or to attend special Good Friday services where they worship.

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Contact Donnette Beckett at (217) 421-6983. Follow her on Twitter: @donnettebHR

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