Scenic Beauty and Fishy Waters
Crappie anglers like coming to Lake Greenwood because they catch fish in great numbers and they also catch quality size fish. Greenwood is a beautiful clear water lake and a pretty deep lake, especially up around the dam. It is a long narrow lake with plenty of crappie holding creeks coming into it.
The lake has some flooded timber in spots that make for excellent crappie fishing. Most of the creeks have 20 feet of water with some going as deep as 30 feet. The water is deep enough that you don’t have to worry about hitting the stumps and tearing up your boat. The lake is also known for its man-made cover. Anglers have put out a lot of their own crappie attractors to improve fishing success.
There are residential docks where anglers can dock shoot, brush piles where they can one pole, and open water where they can spider rig or long line. Yet, with all those various methods available, Lake Greenwood is known as a long lining lake. That reputation probably comes from the fact that most crappie tournaments on Greenwood have been won by teams that long line troll.
One angler with a long history of long line trolling is Billy Williams. Billy and his son Scott make up the Johnson Fishing team that travel the county in search of heavy stringers of slab crappie. Their success speaks for itself. The father/son team has many tournament wins under their belt and most recently they won the Bass Pro Shops Crappie Masters Angler Team of the Year for 2015.
When it comes to long line trolling Billy is a bit of a legend himself. I met up with Billy at the Crappie Masters South Carolina State Championship in early March to pick up some tips about long line trolling on Lake Greenwood.
“Billy has been tournament fishing for a lot a lot a lot of years,” stated Crappie Masters president, Mike Vallentine. “He now fishes with his son Scott. He comes from Georgia with a good background in long line trolling. In fact, he is kinda’ known for it. He is very good at it. Billy is up there at that legendary statue among long line trollers. He also has a lot of knowledge of lakes all over the United States. When he shows up at a tournament he has probably been there before. There are not many unfamiliar waters to him.”
“I started crappie fishing about 40 years ago,” recalled Billy. “I have been tournament fishing about 30 of those years. I started tournament fishing back in the early 80’s with a friend of mine. I have been at it for a while.”
One we launched Billy was quick to explain the method of long line trolling that he has developed over the years. Also known as pulling, the technique pulls numerous baits behind the boat to cover a lot of water in search of the crappie.
“Today we will run 8 poles,” explained Billy. “Four out the back and 4 out the front.” Billy sat in the front watching his 4 poles, running the trolling motor and watching the sonar. I sat in the back watching my four B’n’M poles.
“I am running a 16-foot and a 12-foot B’n’M pole out each side,” instructed Billy. “We will run four 10-foot B’n’M poles out of the Driftmaster Rod Holders in the back. Normally when we start off each morning we have a variety of colors on. We also have a variety of jig sizes either one or two jigs on the poles. You want a variety of things going on at the same time to see what is going to work as you start off every morning.”
We had not been trolling long before putting a Greenwood crappie in the boat. That first fish came on a ¼ ounce black/blue/chartreuse jig, one of Billy’s favorites. “The fish are pretty shallow in the water column so far. We will give it a try for a while and see what happens and go from there.”
“I am trying to run right on the contour of the first drop out of the creek,” explained Billy. “We are right up on the edge of the ledge. We will give that a try to start with. Then we will move on up on the ledge. I like to run down the ledge and around the edge of a point because that is where you find the fish concentrated. The first drop coming up on a channel is one of my favorite places.”
Billy uses Humminbird electronics to locate the depth of the fish and the depth of the shad. “I try to watch the sonar as much as I can and pay attention to where the fish are on the sonar. For example, I might go over a little school of shad. If the shad are running about 10 feet deep then I know those crappie are not going to be far away. The crappie will be running just under those shad and I want my jigs running about the same depth as those shad. That is the most likely depth to get a bite when those fish decide to feed.”
As we trolled along a couple of fish showed up on the Humminbird. “There’s one at 9 feet and there is another at 12,” said Billy. “That is just about where the fish have been all morning and we have been pulling just above them. I think the fish will move a couple to 3 feet up to strike the bait. If they see it they will chase it down. You can get too high and they don’t see it. You want to keep those jigs right there in the strike zone.”
Boat speed is a significant factor in successful long lining. “Speed is very important,” informed Billy. “If you are going too fast your jig is not where it needs to be. If you are going too slow your jig is not where it needs be. Sometimes, I don’t know what it is, fish will only bite at a certain speed. If you are going a little too fast you can’t get them to hit it and if you are going to slow your jig is below them and you are sure enough not going to get em.”
“If your jig is below the fish you will not catch them. When you are long lining and figure out you are below them you can speed up and bring that presentation up in the water column where it needs to be.”
“Every tenth of a mile per hour, .1, .2, .3, everyone of those is about a foot in terms of depth,” explained Billy. “If you are going .9 and running 8 foot you can speed up to 1 mph and you will be running at 7 foot. Speed is something I am watching all the time. I am always playing with it, adjusting it up and down. When I catch a fish I look and see how fast we was running.”
“The other thing is knowing how much line you have out,” said Billy. “When I am long line trolling I will play with the amount of line I have out. When I catch a good fish I try to remember how far that line was out so I can put it right back in the same place at the same speed.”
Billy identified wind as one of the things that can throw off his game plan. He has used drift socks, chains, and other things to slow down the boat in the past. Now he relies on Power Pole Drift Paddles to help him in the wind. “Those drift paddles really help us out in the wind,” continued Billy. “If the water is only 7 or 8 feet deep you can actually put those things down to where they are just bumping the bottom. They will hold you back and slow you down. If you get to going a little too fast you can put them all the way down and completely stop and then start slowly again.”
“You can also turn the paddles sideways and let them down where they are in the water enough to create a lot of drag on the back of the boat. This helps hold the boat straight. The paddles are a real good tool that helps us a lot in the wind.”
Billy’s eyes are constantly scanning the poles looking for a bite. Anything that looks a little different is a possible strike. “Mr. Ron you got a fish on that outside pole,” declared Billy. “I am watching the poles and the speed and watching everything constantly. If I am on a new lake I am trying to watch my contours too. I like staying on that first drop to see what is going on. I don’t even think about it. I am watching the poles all the time no matter what else I am doing. I am anticipating the bite.”
With the basics of long line trolling laid out Billy concluded with two pieces of advice for crappie anglers. “If I could pick just one color to go fishing with it would have to be a black/blue/chanteuse. Most of the time it will catch a fish when nothing else will. It would be hard for me to leave it at home.”
His second piece of advice related to tipping with minnows. “A long time ago I used to say that if you can catch fish on a minnow then I can catch fish on a jig,” concluded Billy. “However, competitive fishing has taught me that you need to be versatile. Sometimes all it takes is a minnow on there to make the difference in catching some bigger fish or maybe catching any fish at all. I used to not think that. I have come to believe that you catch a little bigger fish when tipping with minnows.”
You may have your own favorite method of crappie fishing, but when you visit Lake Greenwood follow tradition and try some old fashion long line trolling. It is a proven and effective way to put some nice crappie in the boat.
Epilogue: The Greenwood, SC area provides excellent recreational opportunities for visitors. Lake Greenwood is well known for an abundant crappie population and its scenic beauty. It is not just the crappies that attract anglers to Lake Greenwood. The Lake is also a wonderful venue for kayaking, canoeing, and rowing. Lake Greenwood State Recreation Area provides easy access to the lake. The park has picnic areas, a campground, fishing pier, hiking trail and the Drummond Event Center, which can accommodate up to 272 people for group events.
Other fishing opportunities include bass, bream, perch, catfish and stripers. For more information on recreational opportunities visit the website at visitgreenwoodsc.com.
Lodging: We stayed at Inn on the Square and it was great. The facility is described as a boutique hotel. The rooms were clean, roomy and comfortable. The lobby is gorgeous and the staff amazing. Ever
yone went beyond the call of duty to make our stay a pleasant one. It is located in downtown Greenwood where there are plenty of restaurants and shopping opportunities close at hand. Travellers could not ask for a more convenient and accommodating location.
I always look forward to breakfast before fishing. Not only was the breakfast excellent, the attendants’ make you feel like royalty. This is not the normal “breakfast with your room” type of deal. It is cooked especially for you from a menu that you select items from. You can choose up to 4 items off the menu, but if you do you will need to be
rolled out in a wheelbarrow. Karen and I fell in love with Inn on the Square and will definitely return again.