No place got more business than Shearon Harris, a 4,100-acre impoundment between Raleigh and Sanford. However, most of the boats and fishermen targeted crappie and not the largemouth bass that built the lake's reputation.
"I've been crappie fishing most of the winter at Harris," said guide Freddie Sinclair of Clayton. "The crappie bite has been pretty consistent, even when it's been cold.
"Everyone's been fishing for crappie real deep," said Sinclair (919-553-4547). "I look for schools of baitfish that also are deep with the crappie."
Sinclair fishes from a "spider-rigged" Stratos bass boat, putting out as many as 16 rods while using his trolling motor to move the boat no faster than .4 miles per hour. His basic terminal tackle set-up is a combination Carolina/drop-shot rig. Sinclair ties 6-pound monofilament through a No. 2 crappie hook, then 1½ feet below the hook he threads his line through a half-ounce egg sinker and crimps a split shot beneath the sinker to keep if stationary. He leaves 1½ feet of leader below the sinker and he ties on another No. 2 hook. Midway from the bottom hook, Sinclair crimps on another split shot.
Sinclair mates ultra-light spinning reels to B&M crappie poles from eight to 16 feet long, then flips open the bails and lets the rigs sink to the bottom.
"Once I hit bottom, I reel up twice, enough to keep the baits and hooks from getting snagged, then I slow-troll," he said. He can use this rig with live minnows, tiny crappie jigs or jigs tipped with minnows. He often begins a day of fishing with a mixture of rigs.
"I'll note what the fish are hitting most – the color of jigs they like best, stuff like that – then I might change out most of my rods to that rig," said Sinclair, who watches his depth-finder constantly to make sure he doesn't run his lures into the bottom.
"They're usually scattered in winter, so you won't just catch one after the other like you would in shallow water in the spring."
Shearon Harris Lake has no creel or size limits, but crappie can reach 2½ pounds.