One is Fishing Creek Lake, a fairly well- known crappie producer. The other is Stumpy Pond Lake, a smaller reservoir prized by local crappie fishermen, also known as Rocky Creek. Both are small in terms of physical size compared to many of the bigger lakes across the Palmetto State, but both are crappie powerhouses and both are located almost in downtown Great Falls.
Crappie pros Jay Bruce and Carolyn Reeves have fished just about every wet spot that holds crappie, and they agree the two lakes are outstanding crappie fishing hotspots.
"Put them both together, and they are still not a lot, size-wise, but they are outstanding crappie-producing lakes," Bruce said.
Bruce, 34, hails from Greer. He has fished both the lakes in tournaments and for fun, and he said May is an excellent month on both lakes.
"The two lakes are close together but quite different in terms of shape and structure," Bruce said. "But between the two lakes, they offer plenty of crappie-fishing opportunities, regardless of the style of fishing a person enjoys."
Reeves, 29, from Landrum, teams with Bruce on the crappie tournament trails. She said May is a prime time for either tight-lining or long-lining at these lakes.
"These lakes are usually producing good spawn and postspawn fishing later than a lot of lakes, because of water temperature," she said. "Tight-lining minnows is a good technique, but trolling small jigs is also very effective, especially on Fishing Creek Lake."
Fishing Creek Lake covers more than 3,000 acres, while Stumpy Pond has 847 surface acres. According to Bruce, one of the primary keys to Fishing Creek is the mainstream Catawba River channel and the ledges, drops and humps associated with that feature.
"By May, most of the shallow-water fishing, in terms of very shallow water, is usually over," he said, "so the keys to success on Fishing Creek will be more about the underwater contours along the lake bottom and the woody cover associated with those areas.
"Fishing Creek, except for the very lower end, is primarily the main Catawba River channel," Bruce said. "But don't be fooled; there is some excellent crappie cover along the way, even far up the river. In fact, during the colder months, that's often my preferred area to fish - all the way up to the (SR 9) bridge.
"By springtime, fish are found throughout the lake, and the lower end produces excellent fishing. But there are also some creeks and large coves that offer plenty of water depth and excellent fishing prospects during May."
Reeves said that Bear Creek is an excellent area to long-line this month.
"We use Kalin jigs and will typically use small jigheads in the 1/32nd-ounce size," she said. "Sometimes you can get away with larger-sized jigs, and occasionally you need even smaller jigheads; it is a daily experiment. But that's a good rule of thumb as for a good size to begin fishing.
"Generally, we'll slow-troll with different lengths of line out on different rods, which will help cover different depths. Once we begin to get bites on a particular depth pattern, or grub color pattern, we'll focus more rods in the productive zone. The Bear Creek area is great for this time of the year but not the only place you'll catch crappie by slow trolling.
"Trolling along the main river channel in the lower end of the lake is also excellent," she said. "We'll do that sometimes when looking for scattered fish, and (we) will work up into some of the larger coves and pockets as well. There are some areas with a lot of stumps which will produce excellent fishing."
May is also a transition month, and as the fish begin to work back to deeper water, they also begin to congregate around specific cover features, according to Bruce. When crappie reach this stage, spider-rigging - using live minnows on rods rigged out of the front of the boat - is also very effective.
"One of the keys to this fishing is a quality rod with a sensitive tip but with ample backbone to land large crappie," he said. "We've found the 12-foot Pinnacle Vertex crappie rods to be ideal for fishing lakes with lots of cover like Fishing Creek and Stumpy Pond. Also, I'd recommend a good rod holder. We use the Driftmaster model because in both of these lakes there is abundant woody cover and hang-ups are going to happen. So plan on having rods secured so they don't get pulled out of your boat.
"We also use the graph a lot to help us locate cover with fish holding on it," he said. "We'll ease up to the specific cover using the electric motor and work around the edges and then back into and over the cover. I've found on Fishing Creek that the fish have a great affinity for the ledges and drops along the river and creek channels.
"When we are trolling on Fishing Creek, we've had excellent results on the Kalin's black/chartreuse color pattern," Bruce said. "If the water is very clear, I've found that the motor oil (color) will work best."
Bruce said Stumpy Pond is a unique lake that offers outstanding fishing but is overlooked by most fishermen except local anglers.
"Stumpy Pond is a neat crappie fishing lake," he said. "It's generally pretty deep water, with depths up to 35 to 40 feet. Usually this time of the year, the crappie will often be found around the standing timber in about 20 feet of water on the flats.
"However, there is another specific type of place on Stump Pond that often produces very excellent results," Bruce said. "The rocky areas, the vertical ledges, are sometimes outstanding at this time of the year. I fished a tournament there once and caught over 100 fish that day along a vertical drop into deep water."
Sometimes in early May, Bruce said long-lining will be very productive in the flats, sometime in water as shallow as five to 10 feet. As the month progresses and the fish transition back toward deeper water, tight-lining begins to be productive.
"It depends on the severity of the winter and what the water temperature is at this time of the year," Bruce said. "The winter of 2010 was very cold. Sometimes late in April or early May, there will be some fish left in the shallower water. However, I wouldn't work that pattern long on Stumpy Pond if the action is slow. The fish will begin to be found primarily in the deeper water by this time of the year.
"It's almost certain that by mid-May and into June, there will be some outstanding fishing on the main-lake part of Stumpy Pond, fishing island points that drop into deep water," he said. "Often, the fish will be holding close to the bottom in the 20- to 25-foot depth range. For best results, key on standing timber or stumps along the ledges, as well as the vertical rock walls."
Reeves said the crappie they catch at Stumpy Pond average in the ¾-pound class, but they have caught fish up to 2½ pounds.
"Generally, you'll catch several crappies in the 1- to 2-pound class on any given day," she said. "On Stumpy Pond, when we are long-lining, our most-productive color patterns for jigs have been the Kalin's chartreuse shad and the black-and-silver patterns. The jig-head size will vary but we'll usually begin with a 1/32nd-ounce size and experiment from there."
Bruce said that one of the two lakes will be producing well during May, and if one isn't red hot, it's usually worth the short trip to make the change to the other.