Catch winter crappie at Falls of the Neuse

Tournament angler Freddie Sinclair shows off a Falls of Neuse slab.

Falls of the Neuse is a haven for winter crappie

January might mean cold weather, but it also means a concentrated, deep-water crappie pattern at Falls of the Neuse Lake. Along the river channel, crappie wait out the winter with an abundance of shad, fattening up for the spring spawn. And tournament angler Freddie Sinclair of Clayton, N.C. will be hitting the hotspots with a tight-line trolling rig.

“In the mouths of coves and creeks that come close to the main river channel is where you’re going to want to be,” said Sinclair. “Inside those areas, I’ll target ledge drop-offs, deep brush piles and deep wood, like laydowns. The upper end of the lake will have more stumps. But the lower end will have more brush piles and lay downs. The water depth that you fish will also vary from the upper end of the lake to the lower. On the upper end, I’ll target water in the 10- to 12-foot range. And I’ll be fishing water in the 15- to 25-foot range on the lower end.”

Sinclair said the upper end of the lake can be hard to beat, with the mouth of Ledgerock Creek all the way toward I-85 as well as the Eno River end being prime areas. On the lower end, the mouth of Horse Creek and the mouths of the coves where the creek channel is deep are good starting points.

Slow trolling is the key

Once on location, an angler’s sonar equipment will be imperative to finding the hotspot within the cover and contour breaks. Also, Sinclair said that fish can be anywhere from hugging the bottom to 2 feet below the surface. Successful fishing will mean placing those baits slightly above where the fish are marked. However, when in doubt, it is always better to be too far above the fish then below them.

“Most of the anglers that are vertically tight lining will be using a double minnow rig set up,” said Sinclair. “The wind will dictate the size of the egg sinker I use. But it will be in that ¼ to ½-ounce range. I’ll be using 12- to 16-foot rods to get the baits away from the boat and trolling at a speed of 0.5 to 0 if I know I’m over fish. I’ll use my Livescope to present to individual fish whenever possible.

At Falls, I like to use a red or white jighead for the bottom hook or as a soft plastic. If the water is particularly clear, black and blue are good. But if it’s murky or stained, I like pink, chartreuse, or orange.”

About Dusty Wilson 274 Articles
Dusty Wilson of Raleigh, N.C., is a lifelong outdoorsman. He is the manager of Tarheel Nursery in Angier and can be followed on his blog at

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