Many of the best anglers from 14 Southeastern and Midwestern states are expected to be on their way to West Volusia for one of the nation’s premier fishing tournaments. The St. Johns River in DeLand will serve as the venue for the Crappie Masters Tournament — the first step in their seasonlong, 16-event quest for $100,000. Tournament dates are Feb. 1 and 2.

This is the fifth consecutive year the Crappie Masters — presented by the Renewable Fuels Association, American Ethanol and Bass Pro Shops — have started their season in West Volusia. The season concludes with the National Championship in Grenada, Mississippi, in September.

The St. Johns River is recognized worldwide as a crappie (also known as speckled perch) fishing mecca — making it an exceptionally popular venue. The world-class fishing event, brought to the area by the West Volusia Tourism Advertising Authority, will air on national television on the series Crappie Masters TV on the Pursuit Channel — a cable network dedicated to fishing, hunting and outdoor recreation.

“The St. Johns River is a fantastic place to begin the season,” said Tournament Coordinator Mike Vallentine. “First, it’s beautiful. Second, the fishing is fantastic. Last but not least, the anglers get to enjoy a beautiful winter day in Florida! There’s nothing else like it on the tour.”

The Crappie Masters is also supported locally by Highland Park Fish Camp, UDH Contractors and Porzig Realty.

Fishing times are set 7 a.m.-3 p.m. each day. The official weigh-ins are scheduled at 4 p.m. at Ed Stone Park, located along the St. Johns River adjacent to State Road 44 before the Whitehair Bridge. The weigh-ins are open to the public.

Professional and amateur anglers alike are encouraged to participate. For more information on how to enter, visit www.crappiemasters.net. Late registration is set for Thursday, Jan. 31, at the Sanborn Activity and Event Center in DeLand. Registration starts at 5 p.m., with the rules meeting set for 6:30 p.m.

A free Kids’ Fishing Rodeo will be held Saturday, Feb. 2, at Highland Park Fish Camp, with registration 8-9 a.m. and fishing 9-10 a.m. Each child goes home a winner, as every participant will receive a prize for fishing. Kids will need to bring their own poles and bait.

“The Crappie Masters Tournament is one of the finest family-friendly events of the year in our area,” said Executive Director Georgia Turner of the West Volusia Tourism Advertising Authority. “The tournament itself is always a big draw, but, beyond that, the Kids’ Fishing Rodeo is wildly popular, too. We also can’t forget what a tremendous economic boost the festivities provide for all of us in West Volusia.”