Wally Marshall, aka Mr. Crappie, puts about 90,000 miles on his truck every year, crisscrossing the country from his home in Anna, Texas, to share the good word about his favorite fish. He also hosts the annual Crappie Expo, which features the $300,000 Mr. Crappie Invitational Tournament, the world’s largest crappie fry, and a three-day consumer show. Field & Stream has called him an “American icon.” And this year, in recognition of all his philanthropic work and for revolutionizing the sport of crappie fishing, Marshall will be inducted into the Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame.
In the March issue, we asked him to reflect on all this.
Jaws or A River Runs Through It? A River Runs Through It. The great outdoors, families fishing, spending quality time together—that’s great. And anyone can do it. That’s what I like about fishing: from the time you’re old enough to hold a fishing pole till they put you in the grave, you can do it.
Why crappie? When I was real young, I spent some summers in Arkansas with my grandparents. My grandmother would take me fishing. We would catch crappie, bluegill, catfish, and we ate what we caught. Crappie intrigued me because you could catch more of them. You might catch one or two bass in a day, but you can get 50 crappie in an evening. You’re bringing something home for the family to eat, and everybody loves crappie because it’s the best table fare in the world when it comes to fish.
How often do you have to punch somebody for making a bad pun like “You sure have a crappie job”? That’s on a daily basis. People in the Carolinas and the East Coast, they say crappy. Below I-10 and Louisiana, it’s French, sac-a-lait. And then in north Louisiana, Mississippi, a little bit of southern Arkansas, it’s called white perch. But in Texas, we call them croppy. People see my truck going down the road sometimes, and they say, “What’s a crap pie?”
“People see my truck going down the road and say, ‘What’s a crap pie?’ ”
You put a lot of miles every year on that fancy truck. Are you a podcast guy? How do you pass the miles? Yes, sir. I’ve got a ’21 Super Duty F-250. Ford sponsors me. I like all kinds of music. I was actually the King of Disco from ’77 to ’81. I spun records. But in the truck, I turn the radio off. I’m just driving down the road, thinking about the next crappie lure that I’m going to design or a rod that I’m working on.
I’m going to read you a list of trademarks. Tell me which one is not yours. Mr. Crappie, Ms. Crappie, Slab Daddy, Spin Daddy, Crappie Thunder, Crappie Hustler. Crappie Hustler is not mine. I’ve got more than 20 trademarks. I’ve got some new ones I just applied for. I’ve got Stiletto Hooks, Slab Stickers. There’s Sausage Head. Crappie Thunder is a lure that I’ve been making for 21 years, and it’s still the top seller. I’m working on a lure I’m going to bring out next year called the Shoo-Shiner, like a minnow. So it’s like “Shoo, shiner, here comes the lure.” So I drive down the road thinking about names. I’m not trying to pat myself on the back, but I’m probably the guy that first started coming up with all of the crazy names for lures. From 1997 to 2010, I designed fishing tackle under the Wally Marshall Signature Series for Bass Pro Shops, right? In 2010 when I quit—you heard that right, quit—I had like eight pages in the Bass Pro Shops catalog. That’s like the fishing Bible.
Before you became Mr. Crappie full time, you were the plumbing superintendent for Garland ISD. Having been a master plumber, do you think it’s unfair to the profession that it’s called a plumber’s crack? Hey, that’s what it is, man. And there ain’t no changing it. A lot of guys, their jeans don’t fit them in the back end, and when they bend over, you’re going to see the plumber’s crack. [laughs] It’s always going to be with us.
Your daughter, Lesli Marshall, is a multimedia artist, and she curated all the art for Dallas’ Virgin Hotel. Has she ever done a fishing piece inspired by Mr. Crappie? She’s never done a fishing piece or a Wally Marshall piece.
Now that you’re being inducted into the Texas Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, she needs to do that and get a portrait of you up in the Virgin Hotel. When I got that call [informing him of his induction] from Texas Parks and Wildlife, I was in the truck with my mother and a lady named Morgan who works for me. Hell, I had to pull over, dude. I couldn’t even drive. Morgan goes, “Your voice is kind of cracking up a little bit,” and I go, “You think?” Texas is a big place, and there’s a lot of people probably deserving of that honor. When I got that phone call, yeah, I mean, it hit me like a ton of bricks. A lot of people have helped me over the years. I called everybody on that list and just thanked them.
This story originally appeared in the March issue of D Magazine with the headline, “A Reel, Live Hall of Famer.” Write to [email protected].