Kerr Lake will be a top-drawer location for slab seekers in April, but it will take a versatile angler to stay in the strike zone. Switching between techniques and covering a variety of water depths, guide Chris Bullock of Fountain pulls out all the stops as he follows crappie through the spawning phases and their progression to boat docks.

Because Kerr, aka Buggs Island, is North Carolina’s northernmost lake, it’s not uncommon for water temperatures in the low 50s to greet the beginning of April and temperatures in 70s to send it packing, and that runs the gamut of fishing scenarios. Bullock (252-902-4039), who runs Kerr Lake Crappie and Cats Guide Service, rolls with the changes and comes prepared.

Early in April, Bullock sets his sights on the backs of the creeks upstream from Clarksville, Va., believing the spawn turns on in these areas first — unless muddy water forces him closer to the dam.  

“You’ll have all stages of the spawn,” he said.  “Some are spawning, some staging and a few have spawned and started out. When the water temperature hits 50, some of them are about to pop.”

To best cover the spawning flats, Bullock starts by spider-rigging a spread of eight to 10 rods from the bow, each with a Capps and Coleman double-minnow rig anchored by a ¾-ounce weight, slow trolling at .5 mph or less. As the day progresses, he often backs out to slightly deeper water in the 6- to 10-foot range to target prespawn fish, and those that have already spawned. Often near creek channels, Bullock long-lines eight rods about a cast-and-a-half behind the boat with jigheads alternating between 1/16- and 1/32 -ounce. He trolls at about 1.0 mph with baits a couple feet from the bottom.  Whether spider-rigging or long-lining, he tips all his jigs with live minnows.

Towards mid-month or later, if the water temperature has reached the low 60s, Bullock targets boat docks for the big numbers of postspawn crappie recuperating there.  

“Some crappie will spawn under the shallow docks, but most will be postspawn in up to 22 feet of water towards the middle of the creeks,” said Bullock, who doubles his rod to shoot a 1/16-ounce jig as far under it as possible.  

“Count it down until you see the line jump. If it differs in any way, set the hook,” he said.

Bullock prefers to fish jigs in colors such as watermelon, orange, chartreuse, John Deere green, key lime pie and Cajun cricket, believing the latter the be best in stained conditions.