Karaoke Crappie

Greenwood veteran angler Bill Brookshire uses a 7- to 8-foot-long fly rod to fish vertically for crappies at boat docks each spring.

You can do the stroll, troll, or dip and catch your limit of fat slabs at Lake Greenwood this spring.

Surveying the landscape, seeing the boat docks, bridges, river arms, and just the general atmosphere of Lake Greenwood, even a novice angler can tell this is a place to catch fish.

If you need an official seal of approval, Gene Hayes, senior fisheries biologist for Lake Greenwood, is happy to help.

“Greenwood is a fishable, user-friendly lake,” said the biologist whose office with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is located within a few miles of the 11,400-acre impoundment.

Not only is Greenwood a good lake to catch a variety of freshwater species, it’s a tremendous lake to catch crappie.

“Over a third of the anglers who come to Lake Greenwood and a whopping 66 percent (by weight) of the fish caught from Greenwood are crappie,” said Hayes, quoting from recent creel data collected during the 2005 season.

“It’s unusual for a panfish fishery to yield that much weight when most other lakes achieve their harvest weight from species like largemouth and striped bass,” he said.

Despite the growing harvest of crappie from Lake Greenwood, Hayes indicated the survey also revealed the catch rate (the 2005 rate was three crappies caught per hour) at Lake Greenwood has increased during the last three years. This rate is currently double the catch rate of the larger Savannah chain lakes to the west.

Once you understand crappie are there for the taking, getting them into the boat is the next order of business.

Hayes describes Greenwood as a “user-friendly lake” because the lake’s width and length eliminate a lot of the vast open water that anglers have to cross when fishing bigger impoundments.

Greenwood is also a relatively shallow lake and its historic river and creek channels have softened some from distinct drop-offs to more subtle slopes. According to Hayes the lake also differs from other S.C. impoundments because the distribution of crappie is pretty even everywhere at the lake.

“Our creel surveys are broken down into three zones,” the biologist said. “The upper zone is measured from the Highway 72/221 bridge all the way up to the headwaters of the Reedy and Saluda rivers. The mid-lake zone is from the bridge down to Goat Island, and the lower-lake zone is from the island to the dam.”

Catch rates and angler usage were within a few percentage points at all three zones. Another fact related by Hayes that Greenwood crappie anglers may not realize was the lake is overwhelmingly a black crappie fishery.

“Although the lake does have some white crappie in it, the white crappie makes up less than 1 percent of the total crappie population of the lake,” he said.

Finding crappie at Lake Greenwood is usually a matter of either targeting specific fish holding structure such as boat docks, bridge crossings or brush piles or slow trolling the lake’s meandering river and creek channels.

Although not indicated in the creel data, three techniques probably account for more crappie at Lake Greenwood than any other — “dipping,” trolling (or drifting), and a finesse technique made popular by a local bait manufacturer.


As Lake Greenwood’s popularity as a recreational lake increased, so did the development of housing along its banks. Each house accounts for at least one boat dock and they’re one of the most productive fish-holding shoreline structures.

Bill Brookshire of Taylors is a veteran crappie angler and crappie guru when it comes to pulling slab crappie out of Lake Greenwood. Brookshire has faithfully logged every trip he has made to Greenwood going back at least 10 years.

Using his log book, he has successfully patterned which areas produce best during any given time of the year. His annual catch numbers are astounding, ranging between 2,000 to 3,000 crappie per year.

Brookshire’s weapon of choice is a 7- to 8-foot fly rod outfitted with an ultra-light spinning reel spooled with 6-pound-test monofilament line.

He uses the fly rod to make pinpoint vertical presentations of a single 1/16-ounce jig under and near structure.

“They’ll bite pearl,” is what Brookshire says when anyone asks him to name his favorite crappie jig color to match weather patterns, time of year, water color, and water depth.

His favorite style of jig skirt is a Southern Pro umbrella tube which he refers to as a “do-nothing tail.”

Brookshire’s favorite structure for catching Greenwood crappie is boat docks.

“Early in the year they’ll get around the bridges and railroad trestles but when the water starts to warm up, they’ll be around boat docks and that’s when you really catch them,” he said.

Knowing which boat docks hold crappie during a particular time of year is a major key to his success, and the two most common factors are fishing the sunny sides of docks when the water is cold and the shady side after the water warms.

He said boat docks that were closer to a creek channel are usually the better ones, especially if the dock owner has spiced up the area by sinking tree limbs or Christmas trees near the dock.

Brookshire’s technique is as simple as his tackle. He dips the jig (hence the name “dipping”) at the support structure of boat docks and holds the bait still. He said he rarely fishes deeper than the length of his rod and catches most of his fish at half that depth.

If a crappie doesn’t inhale the bait while Brookshire is dipping near a post or cross member he’ll “twitch” the bait by making a subtle movements with his wrist. Another trick when the crappie are farther back under the dock is to imitate a swimming shad by swinging the jig up under the dock and holding the rod tip still while the jig pendulums back toward him under water.


Winter rarely arrives and departs South Carolina on any predictable schedule and early March may find surface temperatures still in the lower to mid 50s. Because of the shallow nature of Lake Greenwood, few boat-dock locations offer deep enough water to attract crappies when the water is this cool.

Crappies have a habit of suspending at deep water early in the year and many Greenwood anglers target these fish by slowly trolling or drifting channel edges and river mouths in order to catch suspended fish.

While trolling tactics and setups vary widely, the one thing they have in common is a necessity to present baits right at or just above the level where crappies are holding.

Two trolling presentations include vertical tight-lining and slow trolling, otherwise known as flat-lining. Tight-lining involves setting up a number of rods in holders at the boat’s gunwales and using enough weight on the fishing line to keep the line vertical in the water column while slowly trolling or drifting the area.

Flat-lining is a less depth specific tactic but covers more water. While flat-lining, multiple rods are deployed along the sides and stern of the boat and are trolled some distance behind the boat in a more horizontal or flat-line presentation. Jig-head weight, trolling speed, and amount of line payed out are factors in to determining the depth of presentation.

Baits for flat-lining and tight-lining are generally some type of jig skirt or tail that gives a swimming action to baits or lures. Paddle-tail and curly-tail jigs are popular choices. Because multiple baits are deployed at once, it’s a good idea to offer a variety of color choices and hone in on which color catches fish.

Finesse fishing

As abundant as Greenwood’s crappie are, there are days when neither dipping docks or trolling channels yield great results. This is a time for finesse tactics and no one is better at finessing Greenwood crappie than local angler Tom Mundy of Laurens.

Mundy is also owner of Fish Stalker lures and makes a fantastic crappie soft-plastic bait he calls Crappie Slab Tails. The baits come in 1 1/2- and 2-inch models. The body of the jig is solid and made with a thin flap-like tail.

Mundy rigs the lures, which are small even by crappie standards, with an equally small 1/64-ounce jighead. The jighead, which is also made by Fish Stalker, is poured on a No. 6 jig hook.

Mundy advises fishing these tiny baits using 4-pound-test line.

“You can fish 6-pound-test line if you’ve got time,” he said, “but it takes a long time for the bait to reach the bottom on 6-pound test.”

Mundy’s finesse tactics involve locating brush piles in deep water, 20- to 25-feet deep, and dropping the lures straight down. Brush piles between the pilings of one of Lake Greenwood’s many bridges and overpasses are especially productive.

Once Mundy locates a suitable brush pile, he doesn’t get too concerned if he doesn’t mark crappie with his depth-finder.

“Greenwood is so full of crappie that almost any brush pile in the proper depth will hold fish,” he said. “Most often crappie in a neutral or negative mood will be holding down in or tight to the brush and won’t always show up on the graph. They also become extremely light biters.”

One of the keys to Mundy’s finesse tactic is to fish the slab-tail lure with a bait-casting rod made from a graphite fly rod blank. To complete the outfit, he attaches an old-style Zebco 202 spin-cast reel to the rod.

“Most ultra-light outfits are spinning tackle, which means the reel hangs under the rod and offers less sensitivity than a baitcast setup where the line runs across the rod tip,” he said.

Admitting to a matter of personal preference, Mundy also claims the 202 allows a slower, steady retrieve without the vibration of a spinning spool. He said the light bite of crappies can be camouflaged by the vibration of a spinning reel.

The final piece of the tactic is to let the bait settle to the bottom or into the brush pile. The light weight of the jig head and the small gap of the No. 6 hook prevents most of hang-ups. The bait actually will lie across or on top of a limb when the bait reaches bottom. If a crappie doesn’t pick up the bait on the way down, the reel is engaged and the line is reeled back at a cold molasses pace.

“When the line gets heavy or starts to bunch up while you’re reeling, set the hook,” Mundy said.

Fortunately, crappie are schooling fish and naturally competitive. Once the first fish has been enticed into biting, the other inhabitants of the brush pile are quick to warm up.

The future of Lake Greenwood’s crappies continues to look bright. The lake has a dense forage base of threadfin shad and the nutrient rich inflow of water from the Reedy and Saluda rivers keeps the crappie and their prey well fed.

Armed with one or all three of these tactics, a Greenwood angler should have no problem loading the live well with slab crappies this spring.

About Phillip Gentry 817 Articles
Phillip Gentry of Waterloo, S.C., is an avid outdoorsman and said if it swims, flies, hops or crawls, he's usually not too far behind.

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