Three ways to catch crappie on Lake Blackshear
What began as a fishing excursion turned out to be a whole lot more. The destination was Lake Blackshear near Cordele, GA. Blackshear is known as a good crappie lake and I wanted to get a sampling.
As you get off I-75 and turn west into Cordele it looks like any other busy Interstate intersection. You see the usual array of restaurants, gas stations and hotels, but as you drive through the development around the interstate you find the charm of a small Georgia town and a friendly atmosphere oozing with southern hospitality.
Our first stop was actually just outside and opposite the welcoming gates to Lake Blackshear. You can tell at first sight this little country store is going to be something different. Maybe it is the huge pink pig on the porch? With a little research I found out that the Stripling’s General Store dates back over 50 years from humble beginnings as a small grocery store to what it is today. It has been in its current location near Lake Blackshear since 1991.
Stripling’s is an outdoorsman’s dream store. Hunters and fishers alike can stop in and stock up for the days activities. I always look first for the Beanie Weenies. They had em’ and I knew I have found my food source for my visit to Blackshear.
The little general store handles a full line of grocery items. Specialty items from pickled quail eggs, jams and jellies, and jerky will appeal to most outdoorsmen’s tastes. Every morning their warming cases are stocked with breakfast items and before noon they are filled with hot grab-and-go lunch items. Their carryout food is quick, easy and delicious.
The Stripling reputation for service and quality comes from a long history that started with a special recipe for Stripling’s Sausage. Sausage is their specialty, but their meat case holds so many options it will give a hungry angler just what he looking for. Believe me, you don’t want to miss this place. As they say at the store, “You Never Sausage A Place.”
We left the Stripling’s General Store and headed to Lake Blackshear Resort & Golf Club. The name itself indicates golfing possibilities. If you are a golfer you will love it. The beautiful golf course is recorded on Golf Digest magazine's list of four star-rated courses. Just like the rest of the area the course is immaculately kept and beautiful.
We were greeted at the registration desk with more southern hospitality and a clean and comfortable room was ready for our stay. The screened-in porch overlooking the lake was perfect for sipping coffee and watching the sunset.
There is an excellent workspace with a comfortable chair and Wi-Fi for connecting to the world outside if needed. Given the natural surroundings of the resort, I have to confess that my desire to connect with others was not that high. I was more into the wild deer passing through the grounds, the Canadian Geese honking on the lakeshore, and the crappie fishing on the lake.
The resort sets inside the Georgia Veterans Memorial State Park. Operated by the State of Georgia, the park is a tribute to Georgia's military veterans. A museum on site displays medals, uniforms, weapons, vehicles, aircraft and other items that span the time from the Revolutionary War through the Gulf War.
Lake activities include boating, jet skiing, water skiing, fishing and swimming. You can bring your own boat or rent one at the Georgia Veterans State Park Marina. With all the various activities available on Blackshear I was there to sample one. My mission was to find out more about crappie fishing on Lake Blackshear.
Dock Shooting for Crappie
After a great nights rest at the resort, I met up with local angler Rusty Parker. Parker has been fishing Lake Blackshear since he was around 4 years old. He lives in Cordele and considers Lake Blackshear his home lake.
The shoreline of Lake Blackshear is lined with residential docks. It is the perfect setup for anglers like Rusty that like to fish around docks for crappie. Dock shooting is a method of using the leverage of a fishing rod to sling small crappie jigs back under and around docks.
“My favorite style of fishing is dock shooting,” remarked Parker. “I have been doing it now for about 25 or 30 years. It is a very productive way to catch crappie on Blackshear.”
It is all about angles and obstructions according to Parker. “You have to read the docks,” instructs Parker. “You have to avoid things like crossties and cables that might hang you up. The crappie like the shade produced by the dock and if you can choose the right angle and shoot the bait under there the chances of catching one are good.”
Parker has perfected the technique to the point that he can sail his tiny 1/24-ounce jig through an opening no more than 4 or 5 inches above the water and only a few inches wide. “I want that tiny jig to sink at a slow rate. I shoot it back under a dock and leave it alone as I watch the line for the smallest of movement. Sometimes you don’t feel a thing, you just see the line move. That’s the time to set the hook.”
Parker makes it sound easy, but in reality it takes a little skill, probably best achieved through lots of practice. Parker likes to remind anglers that the same technique, once developed, can also be used to fish train trestles, bridges or overhanging trees with great success.
“You are always going to catch fish on Blackshear,” said Parker. “There is someone out there catching fish anytime. The heat of the summer is the toughest, but I don’t ever give up. The best time to come is in the fall. Once the water temperature begins to fall the bite picks up. When the heat wave starts breaking down and you start getting into the 50s and 60s on Blackshear that is the time to fish.”
Fishing the River Channel
Stephen Cremshaw is another local angler with years of fishing experience on Blackshear. He has been pinned with the nickname “Mr. Wildlife” because of his knowledge of all the plants and animals around the lake. One of his favorite methods to catch crappie on Blackshear is fishing the old river channel.
“I like to suspend on the old channel of the Flint River,” explains Cremshaw. “I set several poles on each side of the boat and slow troll the river channel parallel to the old riverbank.”
Cremshaw’s techniques are back to basic and he uses the same set up year around. “I like to use 16-foot telescopic poles, no reels,” informs Cremshaw. “I use single minnow rigs. The double minnow rigs they sell for crappie don’t work well here.”
His setup seems simple enough, but he adds his secret ingredient. “I add colored beads to my rig to attract the crappie. Just a little plastic bead, you will be surprised how it will catch their eye.”
Over time Cremshaw has tweaked his presentation until he discovered what he thinks works best on Blackshear. “Selecting the beads has been trial and error. I have found green and red to be the standard colors that work most of the time. I am up to three beads now. It depends on the time of the year. You have to try them until you find the right combination.”
Cremshaw’s completed rig includes a 3/8-ounce bullet weight slid up the main line followed by three beads and a swivel. Once the swivel is tied it holds the other items on the line. Then he adds a 12-inch leader with hook and a minnow. “I like to start shallow near the old river bank and work out to deeper water. Once I find the right depth I use Humminbird side imaging and down imaging to stay in the depth of water where the crappie are holding.”
Cremshaw says the crappies see those beads out of the corner of their eye and come over to investigate the beads and find your bait. He says some colors don’t work on certain days, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
Lake Blackshear Brush Piles
A third way to catch crappie on Lake Blackshear is to fish the brush piles. Over the years anglers have put out their own brush piles to attract crappie. This is a legal activity as long as the brush piles do not interfere with navigation in any way. Once deployed the brush piles become public property. Modern technology, like that created by Humminbird, has made it easier to find these submerged crappie havens.
Even though he lives in Cochran, GA, crappie fishing pro Scott Williams considers Blackshear to be one of his home waters. He has fished the lake for many years and has placed a few of those brush piles himself. Scott and his daddy Billy Williams were recently named the Bass Pro Shops Crappie Masters Angler Team of the Year. They know a little about crappie fishing.
According to Scott, when the fish are in the main lake they tend to congregate around brush piles. This is where they are most of the summer. “If I haven’t done any prefishing I will use side imaging on brush piles,” comments Williams. “Go from brush pile to brush pile until you find some fish on them.”
Once Williams finds some fish he throws out an orange buoy marker over the brush. Next he loads up his Driftmaster Rod Holders with 16-foot B’n’M Poles and prepares to push up on the marker with six or eight rods deployed. “When I fish isolated brush I use single rig minnows,” explained Williams. “You won’t get hung as much.”
“You have to watch the poles closely, advises Williams. “Sometimes the bite is detected only because one of the B’n’M Poles looks different than the rest of them. That might mean a tip that is closer to the water, a line that goes sideways or a pole that has straightened up as the fish bit and swam up.”
“I like to see a rod tip that straightens out. Most of those bites where the rod tip comes up are good fish. I get excited when I see that rod tip come up. If you get on the right spot and catch one fish, there are likely to be more. Summer pattern fish are schooled up in deeper water. If you don’t have good electronics they can be hard to find. I depend heavily on my Humminbird to find them.”
Williams always begins his approach downwind from the buoy. This allows him to push up to the pile, catch a fish, and let the boat drift back away from the brush. “I like my buoy to be in front of me,” explained Williams. “I will fish upwind to the marker buoy, set right on top of the fish, and then let the wind push me back.”
“If you catch more than one fish on a push and spend time over the school thrashing around they can be spooked by the commotion,” explains Williams. “That is why I let the wind push me back. I want the school to stay calm so I can approach it again.”
Williams also warns anglers to watch the depth they are fishing. “You definitely want to be above the fish. They are rarely going to go down to feed. You want to use your sonar to determine depth and keep the bait just above their eyes. “
Williams’s final advice for anglers is to be patient. “You gotta’ be patient. Sometimes you can run up on a bush pile on Blackshear and run out of minnows without even moving. Others times you pull up catch 3 or 4 or 5 and they quit. My Humminbird tells me they are down there, but they don’t bite. Knowing they are there gives me confidence to stay.”
After learning about three methods for catching crappie on Lake Blackshear I am ready to go back and do it again. The beautiful lake, the bountiful fishing, the outstanding accommodations and the natural beauty of the region are a draw for any outdoorsman.
Lake Blackshear is definitely a candidate to be placed on your bucket list of places to visit. Once you add in the friendly atmosphere and the southern hospitality you will find in the area it should move Lake Blackshear and Cordele, GA to the top of your list.