As far as I’m concerned, there’s no fishing like crappie fishing, and springtime is prime time.
Part of the charm of crappie fishing is that it comes at a perfect time of year, signaling the end to a dark and dreary winter. Dogwoods are blooming, birds are singing and a bright sun warms our pale and puckered epidermis.
It’s a great time to be outdoors.
But that doesn’t explain it entirely. After all, other freshwater species of game fish also become active about the same time as crappie. And I have to admit an average-sized largemouth, white bass or channel cat puts up a harder fight on sporting tackle than does an average-sized crappie.
The great thing is that we don’t have to choose. In Middle Tennessee we can fish for all those species, even on the same trip if we wish.
But if I had to choose one – just one – I’d choose crappie.
I don’t base my decision on the fact that crappie are the best-tasting fish this side of a wintertime walleye, although that’s part of it.
In my case, part of it is nostalgic. Crappie was the first big-league game fish I caught as a kid. Almost from the time I could walk I started catching bluegills and bullheads in local farm ponds, and graduated to an occasional stunted largemouth bass.
I came to crappie relatively late in life, around 12.
That was about the age at which I began to accompany my Uncle Bud to Watts Bar Lake in quest of crappie. Watts Bar was a sprawling, massive body of water created by a dam on the Tennessee River. It’s an awesome fishing spot for a kid accustomed to muddy farm ponds and foot-deep creeks.
Watts Bar Lake held crappie. Big, slab-sided crappie that sometimes tipped the scales at two pounds – a far cry from my normal haul of five-inch bluegills and runty catfish. Crappie were an exotic species, and I was fishing for them in an exotic setting in the company of grownups.
That’s when I became hooked on bobber fishing. As a kid there was nothing more exciting than watching a bobber riding the ripple of the lake surface, holding my breath while waiting for it to twitch and go under. When it did, I’d set the hook and on the other end of my line and big crappie would come splashing to the surface.
Today, a half-century later, there’s nothing more enchanting than watching a bouncing bobber.
Fishing jigs is fun too – and at times more productive than dunking minnows beneath a bobber. When a crappie hits a jig it doesn’t hit hard – usually just a slight tap or bump – but there’s something exciting about it.
In the spring crappie move into the shallows to spawn, ready to pounce on any bait or lure that comes their way. Whether it’s watching a bobber take a dive or anticipating a tap on a slow-moving jig, to me no other fishing beats crappie fishing.
It’s kinda hard to explain. Guess you have to be there.