Guide Freddie Sinclair won’t be hard to spot this month when he’s prowling Jordan Lake for crappie. 

Sinclair’s boat feature 10 to 12 fishing rods, 14 to 16 feet long, mounted along both sides of the vessel leading to the bow of the boat where other rods are mounted.

“With that arrangement, I can sample the water column thoroughly while my clients have immediate access to the rods to reel in crappie,” said Sinclair (, who specializes in slow-trolling and tight-line fishing for crappie.

Sinclair’s crappie rig is simple but effective. The rods hold light spinning reels spooled with 6-pound line connected to a No. 2 Aberdeen hook with a live minnow for bait.

“In cold weather, live minnows often produce better than crappie jigs,” he said. 

About 14 to 18 inches above the hook, Sinclair adds a 1/4- or 1/2-ounce egg sinker, depending upon the depth he’s fishing and the strength of the wind. The weight can’t slide down to the hook because it’s blocked by a small split shot that Sinclair clamps tight on the line just below it.

Sinclair uses his side-scan electronics to search for crappie in creek channels in 18 to 30 feet of water. Features along the channel, including brush, rock, or stumps, are a plus. Other likely crappie hot spots include main-lake points, ledges and drops. 

This month, Sinclair’s searches take place in the lake’s Haw River arm, S-turns on the lower end of the main lake and the US 64 causeway area.

Finding baitfish is the key.

“Crappie school up in December with forage, which is why finding baitfish is critical to catching good numbers of crappie,” Sinclair said. “If my unit doesn’t show large numbers of baitfish, I won’t stay at that spot very long.”

Once a school of crappie is located, Sinclair has his clients fish vertically by lowering minnows to the fish on a tight line. When the school moves and the bite slackens, Sinclair slow-trolls the to locate them again.

Sinclair said most Jordan crappie range from 10 to 14 inches with a 2-pound fish considered bragging-size.

The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission manages crappie on Jordan with a 10-inch minimum size and a 20-fish daily creel limit.