A LAKE EUFAULA CRAPPIE DREAM TRIP
As dawn broke on the eastern horizon my fishing buddy, outdoor writer John Phillips, and I were sitting at the launching ramp on Lake Eufaula Alabama watching two mid-size alligators patrol the open water just outside the boat launch area. The June morning was somewhat comfortable for this part of Dixie thanks to a brisk breeze blowing out of the west. It was the perfect beginning of a two day crappie trip that should be on the bucket list of every angler.
John and I were at Lake Eufaula to defy the odds, we were looking for a crappie fishing adventure that was worthy of magazine articles and web copy. There were a couple of things against us from the day we decided this was a challenge we were willing to accept. First, the 45,181 acre reservoir is known for largemouth bass, not crappie. Second, any crappie fisherman worth his salt knows June is not a good month for catching slab-sided crappie.
Two additional challenges developed long before daylight the first morning of our trip. When we left our room at the beautiful Lakepoint State Park Resort Lodge a fairly strong westerly wind hit us in the face, the lake would be choppy. As we walked to the lodge dining room across the lighted parking lot, it caught our attention that the lights were attracting huge swarms of willow flies. The air around the launch site was filled with flying bugs; the fish would be gorged on the massive number of willow flies and not interest in our baits, no matter what we used.
As we watched the gators swimming in the early morning light, waiting for our guide, John and I discussed all the odds against us having a successful day of crappie fishing. “Not to worry,” John said with a smile on his face, “I’ve lined us up with one of the best crappie guides in the country, Tony Adams. Tony is passionate about crappie fishing and under the worst of conditions he can produce fish.”
What John knew that I didn’t was that Tony is constantly putting out “crappie habitat” and has places to fish, regardless of the wind and the weather. He takes a 5-gallon plastic bucket and fills it with concrete, sticking several tall stalks of river cane in it. He puts these fish attractors, John called “crappie habitat” out in groups of five to 10 buckets and may have four or five groups of 10 buckets each in the same general area. He records the location of each on his Hummingbird Helix 12 GPS depth finder. He has placed several hundred of these “crappie habitats” in the lake and he easily can move from one habitat to the other and continuously catch crappie, without having to run all over the lake, or overfishing one location.
Tony has placed the habitat buckets at water depths where he knows the crappie hold at different times of the year so he can catch crappie in the hot summer months, the cold winter months, as well as the spring and fall, often when most people aren’t crappie fishing.
Crappie Against all Odds
As the first golden rays of the June sun began to show up in the east, Tony arrived along with his friend Dave Ondrey and 11 year old granddaughter, Grace, with their boat. Since John and I would be shooting photos for magazine articles we had requested a second boat and Dave and Grace were glad to go with us.
After a short boat ride, we quickly arrived at the first location Tony showed me on his Hummingbird Helix 12. I had told Tony about the huge willow fly hatch but that didn’t seem to concern him. We each had two rods/reels equipped with 4-pound test line armed with a No. 2 crappie hook and a split shot weight about 12 inches above the hook. Tony suggested we not use a float, just tight line fishing, a method I have enjoyed since my childhood. Our bait was live minnows.
Our first location was a bit windy so soon we were off to another of Tony’s “crappie habitats” that was out of the wind. That paid off. Soon Grace, Dave, John and Tony were landing crappie in the ¾ to 1 ½ pound size. Me, my luck waited a while before I joined in the harvest, but once it did it was crappie on all morning.
The day was one of the best days I have ever spent crappie fishing. Thanks to Tony’s guiding and his hundreds of “crappie habitats” he had placed in the lake. We easily caught our limit of the tasty fish going from one of his habitats to another.
John was right; Tony really could produce fish on a hot, windy June day when there was an over abundance of food in the water, willow flies. A day most crappie anglers would stay home.
Our noon break was spent photographing Grace catching fish, a beautiful little girl loving the outdoor life with her grandad.
An Added Bonus – Catfish
The second morning of the two day trip found John and I long before daylight in beautiful downtown Eufaula at a must stop for anyone fishing at dawn, The Donut King. At this well-known donut shop we bought a mixed dozen of the best donuts I have ever eaten. Later both boats enjoyed the tasty treats.
At daybreak we met Tony, Dave and Grace at a landing on the main lake. The wind had died down and today we were going to spent time fishing Tony’s “crappie habitats” in deep water.
The previous day Tony had found out that I had a passion for jug fishing and he wanted me to see the techniques he uses on Lake Eufaula. Most of my jug fishing had been done at night but Tony likes to jug fish during the day.
He finds the most and biggest catfish in 20 to 70 feet of water all summer and fall. He likes to put out 40 to 75 jugs, jugs being plastic 20-ounce Gatorade bottles, equipped with 6/0 stainless steel hook on 18-inches of leader line attached to the 40 pound main line with a swivel just above which is an egg sinker. He baits the hooks with cut skip-jack. On the way out to crappie fishing Tony keeps his boat running as he throws the jug out, each jug has the long line wound around the jug. As the boat moves forward the baited hook is unwound. He says that with this technique he can put out up to 72 jugs in about 45 minutes and cover ¾ mile of the lake.
When a mornings fishing for crappie is complete he runs the jugs on the way back in to the dock. His clients usually go home with an added bonus of catfish.
This is what Tony did on our second morning. It was amazing how fast he could put out the jugs and have them in a good pattern in the deep water over the underwater ledges the big catfish loved.
Our second day of crappie fishing was fast and furious. Tony’s “crappie habitats” paid off and by mid-day we had limited out. The trip on the way to the dock was equally exciting as a high percentage of the jugs had catfish on them ranging from 5 pounds to 16 pounds, and Tony said these were small ones.
This was among the best two days I have ever spent fishing. I suggest anyone who likes crappie fishing, jug fishing and great fish to take home for the family fish fry, add this to your bucket list, and don’t put it off.
To contact Tony Adams, you can call him at (334) 688-7505. To see what he’s catching at this time of the year, go to Facebook.com/Tony.Adams.5477.