If you're going to spend the day crappie fishing and only catch two fish, having one of them break the state record is pretty much a trip-saver.

That's the way Tracey Smith of Nashville felt on March 8.

Fishing with buddy Leonard Davis of Rocky Mount in the Tar River Reservoir, Smith caught the only two crappie the two fishermen ran into. The second one, which hit a live minnow in 12 feet of water around a brush pile, was 17 1/8 inches long, 15 inches in girth and, most important, weighed 3 pounds, 11 ounces.

Smith and Davis had the fish weighed on several sets of scales, the last ones certified. When they met biologist Bill Collart of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission later that day, Smith got the good news: His fish was a white crappie and 3 ounces larger than the existing record, a 3-8 slab caught last March 30 in a Granville County farm pond by Ronnie Emory.

Smith was fishing in the back of Davis' boat when Davis pulled up to a brush pile around 11:30 a.m. Smith dropped a live minnow straight down beside the boat and was rewarded by seeing his cork move off and finally sink.

"I let him go a good while, because I'd had a couple the trip before that took it like that but didn't really bite it," said Smith, who knew he had something interesting on the other end of his Uncle Buck's Crappie Rod when he set the hook. "She fought pretty good."

The fight didn't last long, however, and Davis soon had the big slab in his landing net, and then on a stringer over the side of the boat. They talked about how big the fish was for a little while – "It was a whopper," Smith thought – and then ran into another fisherman, showed it to him and decided they might really have something when he said it was the biggest he'd ever seen.

"We weighed it on our scales and his scales, then we went by a bait shop and weighed it on the scales there," Smith said. "We called Raleigh (North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission headquarters), and then we got up with Bill. He lives pretty close to me. I still had the fish alive in a big tank, but it finally died. I took it over to him and left the fish with him. He looked at it and called me back and told me it was a white crappie."

Smith has filed the paperwork with the Commission, which will go through the process of certifying the fish. He's also sent some paperwork off to the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Wisconsin to see how the fish will fare in those record books.

Smith, who was using one of Davis' rods.

"I had a Zebco outfit I was using, but he handed me that rod and said the more rods we had out, the better," he said.

The angler didn't know what pound test line was spooled on the South Bend spinning reel, but he sent 25 feet of it in with his record application.

Collart said the Tar River Reservoir is a great crappie fishery.

"It produces a lot of big fish," he said. "Every time we sample there, we get a lot of real slabs."