Wally Marshall: The King of Crappies

How Wally Marshall went from a plumbing career to being known nationwide as Mr. Crappie.

Wally Marshall: The King of Crappies

His sponsors consider Wally Marshall the hardest-working promoter in the crappie fishing industry.

 They call him Mr. Crappie for good reason.

His sponsors believe Wally Marshall deserves the Mr. Crappie title because he works harder than any other pro angler to promote crappie fishing.

“I have always called Wally the hardest working man in show business because he is always out promoting,” said Mark Copley, Strike King/Lew’s marketing relationship manager. “There are times we ask him if he can be at a certain event, which he always does. Honestly I kind of feel he is promoting 365 days out of the year.”

Copley has noticed a definite increase in sales of crappie products since Strike King and Lew’s started sponsoring Marshall. “From when we got into crappies to when Wally came on, sales have been 10 times more than whatever we had done in crappies,” Copley said. “It’s definitely worthwhile and definitely fun and great to be a part of it with Wally.” Copley noted that most of the crappie products offered by Strike King and Lew’s were ideas proposed by Marshall

Strike King offers a multitude of crappie lures created by Wally Marshall.
Strike King offers a multitude of crappie lures created by Wally Marshall.

TTI-Blakemore also sponsors Marshall and has co-brands of Mr. Crappie hooks and Roadrunners featuring Mr. Crappie Crappie Thunders and Slabalicious baits. “It’s been a good relationship,” TTI-Blakemore President Wes Campbell said. “Wally is a heck of a promoter. Wally works his butt off. I have two brands that have never failed any major retailer or independent dealer, and those are Team Catfish and Mr. Crappie.”

Campbell also credits Marshall with increasing sales of his company’s products. “With Tru-Turn Hooks and all of our other hooks, Mr. Crappie is a big part of it and it is growing,” Campbell said. “Ninety percent of all the major retailers carry Mr. Crappie Hooks.”

Marshall is also sponsored by Bullet Weights, which carries an assortment of Mr. Crappie weights and rigs. “He has been good to work with,” Bullet Weights President Joe Crumrine said of Marshall. “Wally is the hardest working guy I know out there. He is 24/7 and always thinking of new things. Every time I talk to him, he is out traveling somewhere. I don’t know if he ever spends any time at home.”

Marshall’s passion for crappie fishing started in high school when the Texas teen caught the panfish on rubber band lines at night. Marshall played baseball in high school and briefly in college until he realized he would never become a major league catcher. He left college, became a plumber’s helper and eventually got a job for the Garland (Texas) School District where he worked as a master plumber and plumbing superintendent for the next 17 years.

Marshall was introduced to competitive fishing in 1997 when he heard about a crappie tournament coming to Cedar Creek Lake in East Texas. He invited a fellow worker from the school district to fish the tournament with him, and they ended up winning the event despite having never fished the lake before. Marshall recalls winning the tournament by wade fishing because he had never fished in a boat.

After winning the tournament, Blakemore Lure Company became Marshall’s first major sponsor in 1997 when Blakemore owner Joe Hall asked Marshall if he could get his company’s products mentioned in newspaper articles.

Marshall then became friends with the outdoor writers at the Dallas and Fort Worth newspapers, which spawned the idea for Mr. Crappie. “When I was doing all the magazine and newspaper articles they called me everything from the Crappie Guru to the King of Crappie to this, that and the other,” Marshall said. He liked the Mr. Crappie title, so he called Joe Hall and told Hall he was thinking about trademarking Mr. Crappie. Hall told Marshall if he didn’t trademark it, Hall would.

The Texas pro intended to use the Mr. Crappie label for future products rather than a title for him. The first product he labeled was Mr. Crappie fishing line in 1998, which was sold exclusively at Bass Pro Shops. Marshall also designed Mr. Crappie rods, reels, lures, hooks, floats and almost everything else needed to catch or clean a crappie.

By 2002, Marshall realized he would be unable to pursue his fishing career as a plumber, so he went to work one day and told the school superintendent and his workers he was quitting that day.

“That big rock fell off of my shoulder,” Marshall said.

Crappie pro Wally Marshall has designed lures for the popular crappie tactic of dock shooting.
Crappie pro Wally Marshall has designed lures for the popular crappie tactic of dock shooting.

Road to Success

Since then, Marshall has won the 2003 Crappie Classic National Championship, 2010 Crappiemasters Truman Lake tournament, and is a 32-time Crappie Classic qualifier. He was inducted into the North American Crappie Anglers Hall of Fame in 2002 and the “Legends of the Outdoors” Hall of Fame in 2008. 

Throughout his professional career, Marshall has done promotional work at trade shows, distributor shows, sports shows and in-store promotional events for Academy Sports & Outdoors, Scheels, Bass Pro Shops and big box stores. He has also held seminars for independent tackle stores such as Grizzly Jigs in Missouri and other independent stores in Texas. His crappie fishing seminars are usually 45-minute PowerPoint presentations.

Marshall estimates he makes about 30 to 35 promotional appearances every year. When he attends a promotional event, Marshall never sits back in a booth and waits for the crowd to come to him. “I like to mingle with the crowd and show them my product,” he said. “You’ve got to understand how to ring the bell. You have to make the needle move. The stores are paying you to be there and of course their deal is they want to sell the products of yours that are in the stores. So I am there to promote Mr. Crappie products and also make that needle move and ring those cash registers.”

The legendary angler believes crappie fishing is so popular because it’s a more affordable pastime for many families. “I have always known crappie fishing as a family sport,” Marshall said. “A lot of families can’t go out and get that $80,000 bass boat, but they can get a $20,000 boat or even cheaper and do some crappie fishing. Crappies are great for table fare, and you can catch more of those fish.”

For the past 10 years, Marshall has hosted the Big Crappie Classic, one of the largest family fishing tournaments in the country. The event brings families together to fish in a tournament atmosphere with kids and parents weighing their catches and spending quality time together in the outdoors.

Knowing that kids are the future of fishing, Marshall has donated his time taking the Buckner’s orphanage kids fishing and fulfilled special requests to take out kids with special needs for a day of fishing. He’s also been involved with numerous tournaments across the country that emphasize taking kids fishing.

Showcasing Crappies

Marshall took promoting crappie fishing to the next level by hosting the 2019 Crappie Expo. The idea for a crappie showcase event came to Marshall about three years ago. Jack Wells, the owner of B’n’M Poles, encouraged Marshall, telling him it was a great idea and a good fit for the industry. “That just gave me some firepower to where I really wanted to do it,” Marshall said.

A year and a half later, Marshall’s idea gained traction when Steve Arrison, CEO of the Advertising and Promotion Commission of the City of Hot Springs, Arkansas, asked Marshall if he might consider holding a crappie event at Lake Hamilton. Working with Arrison and the Hot Springs tourism department, Marshall put together the first Crappie Expo and Mr. Crappie Invitational in 2019 at Lake Hamilton.  

The Mr. Crappie Invitational drew 88 teams and featured a $100,000 cash payout with $40,000 awarded to the winning team. Marshall touted the Crappie Expo as “the largest crappie store under one roof.” He disclosed the Expo drew more than 21 national sponsors and 115 exhibitors, with 113 of the exhibitors displaying or selling crappie products. Other Expo highlights included the “world’s largest crappie fry” that fed approximately 8,000 people and featured performances by a host of country music singers.

“It was a grand slam,” he said. “It wasn’t just a little Punch-and-Judy Texas Leaguer.”

Crappie fans flocked to Wally Marshall’s first Crappie Expo held in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Crappie fans flocked to Wally Marshall’s first Crappie Expo held in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

The Expo was also a success for exhibitors such as Grizzly Jigs Company. “We sold a lot of product,” Grizzly Jigs Owner Louie Mansfield said. He noted his top selling items at the Expo were Millennium Boat Seats, Engel Coolers and lots of soft-plastic baits.

Marshall disclosed the Expo also drew suitors from Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee inquiring about hosting the event in the future. He suggested the Expo could rotate to a new location every year depending on which venue shows the most interest in hosting it.

Whether he’s designing a new product for the Mr. Crappie line or thinking of a new fishing event, Wally Marshall works overtime to promote crappie fishing.


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