Granted, the crappie biting at High Rock Lake these days are little bitty, with most measuring less than the legal length of eight inches. But when you can catch more than 100 fish a day, maybe “it’s alright to be little bitty,” as the Alan Jackson song says.
That’s the view shared by Winston-Salem’s Ralph Hollifield Jr. and Chris Chimiak, two tournament anglers who trade in their bass fishing gear for ultralight spinning tackle when the crappie go on a biting spree at High Rock in the late fall.
“I can’t resist … trying for crappie around Thanksgiving and later,” said Hollifield. “The fish are easy to catch, and I have the lake to myself. Not many guys are willing to fish in the cold, but that’s the time to load up on crappie.
“It’s easy fishing, too. There’s no secret about the location of the fish. You’ll find them stacked (around) the most brush-laden piers on the lake.”
This past Saturday was one of those days when most fishermen stay at home. The day was cloudy and dreary, with threatening signs of rain and nippy winds. Temperatures struggled to reach the lower 50s.
Hollifield and Chimiak thought it was a great day to be out on the lake. While they didn’t catch a lot of crappie big enough for the frying pan, they reeled in 150 to 200 fish, hardly seeing another crappie fisherman on the lake.
“We caught the fish at piers in four to 10 feet of water sweetened with brush,” said Hollifield. “We‘re fishing with small Slider jigs, initially made famous by Charlie Brewer. We’re dropping the jigs slowly into the brush using 6-pound line. It’s almost nonstop action until a brush pile is depleted.”
Though the fish are on the small side, the constant action keeps Hollifield and Chimiak from noticing the cold.
Visit High Rock on a sunny day, and the fish might not be so little bitty. Hollifield said they usually catch bigger crappie under sunny skies on cold days.
“The cold front and overcast weather that moved in this week turned off the bigger fish,” said Hollifield. “A week ago, we caught crappie weighing close to two pounds with the sun shining. One sunny Thanksgiving, we limited out with big crappie.”