When it comes to fish, Missouri angler Jason Pursley knows what he likes. “I’ve caught a few bass here and there, but I just like crappie fishing,” he says. “And honestly, I don’t eat any other fish. Crappie is great because it doesn’t taste ‘fishy.’ You bring it home, filet it, no bones—delicious.” Jason’s family can abide. After all, they get to eat the bounty, too. His wife, Tabitha, and the couple’s two sons, Dayton (9) and Kaden (3), share Dad’s appreciation for the species. “The boys enjoy fishing, especially my oldest son,” Jason says. “He’ll fish all day long.”
In fact, the father-and-son team are regular participants in the local Crappie Slayers tournament held on Pomme de Terre Lake. They compete aboard the family’s new Crestliner VT 17. The boat’s modified-V hull design and full complement of fishing features make it well suited for delivering the Pursleys to the action. And the sleek red paint job always draws admiring looks.
Popular among anglers, Pomme de Terre Lake is perhaps best known for its muskie population, which the Missouri Department of Conservation carefully maintains. (The fish are so well attended to that the local chamber of commerce has declared the lake’s typical muskie to be “very fat and sassy.”) The MDOC also does its part to keep walleye in abundance, releasing some 40,000-plus fingerlings in various spots every year. White bass and catfish are no strangers to the reservoir, either. Still, as far as Jason is concerned, none of those other species hold a candle to crappie.
To date, tournament victory has evaded the Pursleys, but no mind. “We like to donate our money to the folks who run it,” Jason jokes. “We may not be very good, but that’s okay, we do it for fun.” The recurring Crappie Slayers tournament typically draws 15 to 20 boats, many of which are captained by friends of the Pursleys, adding to the jovial atmosphere. “It’s great seeing so many of our friends out there. The area is friendly,” he says. And with multiple events each summer, there are plenty more chances for his and Dayton’s catching skills to prevail.
In between tourneys, the two aim to get out a few times a week, usually in the evenings after Jason, an elementary school principal, gets home. They’ll throw some sodas in the cooler, slide their tackle boxes into the big bow storage compartment, slip on their life jackets and just go. “We really like it,” Jason says. “I’ve fished all my life but this is the first Crestliner I’ve owned. It’s a nice boat. It’s set up well for what I like to do, and it’s a smooth ride.”
Tabitha and little Kaden aren’t quite as gung-ho about fishing, but they’re certainly fans of the VT 17. “They usually don’t go along if we’re going to be out fishing for very long because they have attention spans of about four seconds,” Jason teases. “But there ’s a lot we do besides just fish. We use our Crestliner as an all-around boat. My wife loves to waterski, and the boys will try it, too. Me? I do my best, but usually I end up drinking lake water,” he says with a laugh.
Tabitha grew up boating in the Midwest, as did Jason. (“She’s the watersports champ in the family,” he says.) So with lake water practically running through their veins, a visit to White’s Marine Center in Pittsburg, Missouri—a short 15-minute drive from their home in Hermitage—was all it took to convince them to welcome a Crestliner into their boating lives. “Our salesman, Jimmy Wiggins, was really helpful and it worked out great,” Jason says. “He showed us the features and the options. The VT was a good price and had everything we wanted. My wife would maybe rather have a play boat,” he adds, “but this one does the work, too. This way we get to do both: We get to fish and we get to play.”
Though it’s only been a few months since they purchased the VT 17, the Pursleys are confident about their prospects for filling both the livewell and the photo album. “We’re still breaking things in, but there are definitely memories being made,” he says. “For what our family uses it for, it really is the perfect boat.”