Unlike many tournament anglers, when Matthew Outlaw of St. Matthews goes crappie fishing, he likes to catch a lot of crappie. So, rather than concentrating on just getting 10 to 12 bites from bigger fish in a full day’s fishing, he’ll go for numbers and cull his biggest fish from them — a strategy that has worked many times.
When it comes to catching numbers of crappie, with some respectable fish mixed in as well, Outlaw said his favorite destination has to be Lake Greenwood.
“Greenwood is probably the best lake in the state for numbers of crappie,” he said. “I don’t think I’ve ever caught a white crappie in Greenwood; all of them are black crappie, and that defines how you fish for them.”
Outlaw is a born-and-bred, tight-line trolling enthusiast. If he is fishing for crappie, it’s a sure bet you will find him sitting in the front of his bass boat working a set of poles dangling off the front of the boat. He prefers to wrangle 16-foot B’n’M poles that are outfitted with double-hook minnow rigs.
With up to eight rods, each perched in its own rod holder, he can work a swathe of water that’s 40 feet wide with the assurance that every crappie in that path will get a good look at what he’s serving for dinner.
“Greenwood crappie always seem to prefer smaller baits,” said Outlaw. “If I use straight minnows, it’s always a 1- to 1½-inch toughie minnow on No. 2 hook. If I pair it with a jig, I’ll hook the minnow on the back of a 1/32- or 1/64-ounce hair jig or small tube jig.”
“That’s not going to mean you’re only going to catch small fish, because I’ve seen the bigger crappie in Greenwood swim past a larger bait and eat the smaller baits,” he said.
Greenwood fishermen often describe the lake as a bowl. Although the impoundment has more than its share of tributary creeks, many of those creeks have silted in, presumably from the residential development that surrounds the lake. For this reason, Outlaw doesn’t stick to the creek channels that other anglers flock to when trolling for crappie.
“I’ll start about midway back in a creek, for example, Cane Creek, even in late February,” he said. “I’ll start in water that’s 12 to 15 feet deep and work my way towards the back of the creek. That’s one of the great benefits of side-imaging (electronics). I’m graphing from the front while I’m trolling, and I’m watching the side-imaging. As I see fish show up, I’ll make course corrections and troll into those fish.”
Water clarity typically has much to do with where crappie will hold. In stained water, crappie may feel more comfortable and rise up in the water column. In clear water, they might be hugging any litter that can find on the bottom.
“As early as late February, it’s a transition time of year for Greenwood crappie,” Outlaw said. “I find especially at Greenwood that they’ll move early. By March, those fish are going to be at least halfway back, and not long after, they’ll be in the backs of the creeks and along the banks ready to spawn. While I’m graphing, I’m watching how high the fish are sitting in the water, and I’m going to adjust my baits to that level.”
Many fishermen roughly Greenwood into three areas, imaginatively known as the Upper Lake, the Mid Lake and the Lower Lake. The dividing lines are the two railroad crossings that span the lake, one upstream of the US 221/SC 72 bridge and the other several miles downstream.
Biologists have long touted that Greenwood’s crappie population is evenly distributed, based on creel and trapping surveys. Anglers, however, have evolved a different theory to which Outlaw prescribes.
“I prefer to fish the mid-lake areas first. Any of the creeks in there are good, and then I like the lower lake area next,” Outlaw said. “My experience is there are better-sized fish further down the lake. The upper lake is full of fish, too, and a lot of guys fish up there because the numbers are greater.”
Outlaw sums up his frequent experiences at Lake Greenwood as “fun.”
“Catching crappie is fun,” he smiled. “Everyone likes to catch fish and you can catch a lot of fish in this lake.”
HOW TO GET THERE — Impounding a section of the Saluda River, Lake Greenwood forms the border between Laurens, Greenwood and Newberry counties. The lake is owned and maintained by Greenwood County, which maintains several public ramps in each count. Visit www.dnr.sc.gov/mlands/boatramp for exact locations. US 221 offers the best access from points north and south, along with SC 72. SC 34 provides east-west access from Newberry and Greenwood.
BEST TECHNIQUES — Crappie at Lake Greenwood will move into pre-spawn once the water temperatures bottom out and begin to rise back into the lower to mid 50’s. Anglers report the most success using tight-line tactics in clear water when crappie tend to stay closer to the bottom and hold tighter to cover. Use small minnows or jig-minnow combos from halfway back to the back of most creeks. Single-pole jigging techniques wil also work around many of the bridges or the railroad trestles that cross the lake.
FISHING INFO/GUIDES — Charlie’s B’s Citgo, Greenwood, 864- 543-4828; Crenshaw’s Store, Laurens, 864-682-2541; 702 Bait & Tackle, Ninety Six, 864-543-1556. See also Guides and Outfitters in Classifieds.
ACCOMMODATIONS — Greenwood Regional Tourism and Visitor’s Bureau, 864-953-2465, www.greenwoodsc.gov.