A kayak fishing trip for on the Catawba River produced a pleasant surprise for Stewart Venable of Lake Wylie, S.C., on June 25, when the black plastic worm he was pitching into a laydown was inhaled by a huge black crappie that measured 17 ¼ inches long and weighed exactly 3 pounds.

Venable said he regularly fishes a section of the Catawba River below Rock Hill for largemouth bass and wasn’t exactly surprised by what the river produced.

‘A lot of anglers don’t realize it, but there are some really big crappie in this river, and they love to lay up in these blowdown trees just like a bass,” said Venable, a Jackson Kayak pro-staff angler who was fishing with a friend, Josh Bowling of Rock Hill.

Trying to get Bowling his best river bass from a kayak, the two anglers were casting topwater lures when Venable decided to hit a couple of laydowns.

“I have a few laydowns that are always key for the bigger crappie and white bass, so I always hit those on this section of the river,” said Venable. “The water was dead calm, with no release, and under those conditions, the fish will hold in 5 to 7 feet under a large laydown. I always make a couple casts with a very small square-bill (crankbait) around the outside edges, then use a cut-down trick worm to get underneath.”

Using a light-action spinning rod to flip a black Zoom trick worm cut down to almost a finesse size on a 1/0 Gamakatsu hook and a split shot on 8-pound fluorocarbon, Venable said he was pleasantly surprised when the thump he felt turned out to be his personal-best crappie.

“I freaked once I saw that it was a crappie, since papermouths are so bad to tear loose,” he said, “and this guy fought hard like a bass all the way to the net.”

Venable, typically a staunch CPR angler, kept the big crappie to be mounted. He was also proud to report that Bowling also ended up catching his personal best kayak bass – a 21-inch largemouth – on the same outing.

“We both had a great day,” said Venable. “River fishing is a great way to beat the heat of summer, plus, there are no jet skis, power boats or pontoon parties to deal with.”