Kerr is king of Virginia's crappie fishing -- but it's no pu Oct 13, 2017 18:58:12 GMT
Post by ghostcomanche on Oct 13, 2017 18:58:12 GMT
Kerr is king of Virginia's crappie fishing -- but it's no pushover
by Bill Cochran @ www.Roanoke.com on August 15, 2017
Stacked on the deck of David Tatum’s boat are eight fishing rods, each measuring 16 feet in length. Tatum is a Kerr Reservoir crappie fisherman. A serious one. Good, too.
But forget about the big rods for a moment. One day last week, when I caught up with Tatum, the rod he used to land his biggest crappie of the day -- a 2.5 pound giant -- was a mere 2 feet long. An ice-fishing rod, if you will.
With the short rod and a skillful underhand pitch, Tatum can send a jig beneath a boat dock where slab-size crappie assume a “home sweet home” status. It is a method called “shooting the docks.”
Tatum, who lives near the 50,000 acre lake, was practicing for a crappie fishing tournament when he caught the 2.5 pounder and several 1- to 2 pounders. The fact that the big crappie was under a dock and full of eggs created as many questions as it did answers.
“What is a 2 ½- pound crappie that ain’t never spawned doing under a doc?” he asked. “That thing should have been in the brush.”
Kerr Lake, which sprawls along the Virginia-North Carolina border, is Virginia’s best producer of citation-size crappie. Last year it accounted for 66 citations, twice its nearest rival. But it isn’t a pushover, even during the spring when crappie are supposed to move shallow and provide quick success for mom, pop and the kids.
On a recent two-day outing, Bill Pyles and I found tough fishing. The first day, we caught more largemouths, white bass and catfish than crappie. Just hours before it was time for us to leave we got onto some crappie.
The proprietor at the Buggs Island Bait and Tackle in Clarksville dipped minnows and dispersed information in unison, telling us, and others, that the fishing at the moment was challenging.
At elevation 304 feet, Kerr has pushed back into the shoreline willows and sweet gum trees, scattering the crappie amid an abundance of cover. In spots, the lake is discolored; there has been lots of wind, cold nights, too.
While all this provides plenty of fodder for excuses, the truth is this has been a very good season overall.
“It has been a great year. More big fish than there ever was,” said Tatum.
Keith Wray agrees. He caught more than 1,800 crappie in January, and that was just the start. Affectionately known as FishDoc, Wray’s name frequently turns up on the leader board of crappie tournaments and on Web sites, including kerrlake.com and crappie.com. He has fished Kerr for 38 years, averaging 100 days a year for crappie. His favorite time to crappie fish is the fall when he finds the “most consistent catches of bigger fish.”
Crappie aren’t hard to catch, but first you have to find them. The key to success is putting your lure or bait right on top of them. They are homebodies and don’t do a lot of chasing. But they exist in dense schools, which means when you catch one there are others nearby.
Those 16-foot rods Tatum carries can be used as dabbling poles to put a lure or bait into a hole in the brush no larger than a 5-gallon bucket, or they can be placed in rod holders for slow trolling. When Tatum has a partner, he will put out 16 of them, giving his boat the appearance of a giant centipede. He frequently uses small jigs tipped with a live minnow.
Tatum and Wray represent a new breed of serious and accomplished crappie anglers who are tournament participants. A first-place prize can be worth $5,000, said Tatum. While mom, pop and the kids are content with average-size crappie, the pros target big fish which often live something of a lone-wolf existence. The pioneer of this fishing is Carl Herring of Virginia Beach, who landed the 4.5-pound black crappie world record for 6-pound line the first day of March in 1981.
The big question for Kerr crappie anglers: “Where to try next?” There is tons of cover along the lake’s 800-mile shoreline. All the major creeks hold crappie, as do the main-lake bridge pilings.
This is crappie fishing paradise, good days and bad.
FIVE TIPS FROM KEITH WRAY:
1. Learn the seasonal patterns.
2. Learn to shoot docks.
3. Learn the count-down method of fishing a jig.
4. Get proficient at slow trolling.
5. Hunt new brush piles 1 hour every day that you fish.