December is a great month to do a lot of things, not the least of them being hunting deer, organizing your tackle and cleaning up your boat.

But I have to admit December always has been a month when I could just sit back for two or three days and fish for fun. And for me, that's fishing for stripers and crappie.

I get kind of tired of the kind of fishing I've been doing for bass in tournaments. So the chance to get on the water and have absolutely nothing in mind but catching fish for the fun of it is a great getaway, and December is a great month to do it.

I have striper fished a lot at Kerr Reservoir and Lake Gaston in December. I've had some great days at both lakes, and it's never been really hard for me because as a rule, the places you catch stripers in December are the same places you catch bass with a crankbait during the middle of the summer.

I've had some days during December at Gaston where I've caught a limit of 20, 25 and 30 pounds of fish.

At this time of year, it's pretty easy to catch 'em if you can find 'em, and to do that, you've got to go to the main river channel.

Good places to catch them are any places you can find where there's an excess of current at bends in the channel and drops or where creek channels run into the river, whether they're 15- or 35-feet deep. Those are usually good ambush points; so are the humps at the river channel at Gaston.

I've caught a ton of striped bass at long, tapering points with a sharp drop-off into deep water.

Most of the time in December, stripers will be out on those kinds of deep edges.

My favorite bait is probably a 1 1/2-ounce Hopkins spoon. You just get over top of fish - I keep an eye on my Lowrance depth-finder all the time - and just jig straight up and down.

At Buggs Island, to find the same kind of structure you find at Gaston, you need to start at the Clarksville, Va., area, or you'll wind up fishing water that's way too deep.

At Clarksville, you get those spots off the river channel at about the right depth where you can really work on 'em. And one thing to remember that when you find balls of baitfish on your depth-finder, you're probably pretty close to being near some stripers.

The hardest part is locating them. Once you find them, you're liable to really catch 'em.

I've had days at Buggs Island or Gaston where I've fished all day and caught nothing, then in the last hour, got on 'em and caught a limit in no time.

The other kind of fun fishing I'll do this month is for crappie. I like to take my kids, Dalisa and Thomas, and go to either High Rock or Tuckertown, and catch crappie using tiny jigs.

I'm looking to catch nice big crappie, and what I've found is the key is figuring out the right depth. If you find big crappie one place 6- or 7-feet deep, they'll probably be at that same depth all over the lake.

It's difficult at High Rock or Tuckertown to idle out more than 50 yards without looking at your depth-finder and seeing a brush pile. I like to go from brush pile to brush pile, fishing different depths until I find good fish. Then I try to stay at that key depth.

One place you can do that is the old railroad trestle beside the Rt. 8 boat landing. That's always been a great spot to crappie fish because it's loaded with brush piles, and day in and day out, it's hard to beat. Another place is the mouth of Flat Swamp Creek.

I don't think I'm doing anything special the way I catch crappie. I take a fly rod - you can use a cane pole or crappie pole - and I tie on a jig and just jig up and down.

I like a chartreuse curly-tail jig. Sometimes, white colors will work well, and if crappie aren't biting a curlytail, you can change to a straight tail or a little chartreuse tube.

I slide a cork on my line, but it's mainly for depth control - not to detect bites, even though you'll see it go under when one grabs it. You just work along the brush, dropping your jig down to different depths until you hit those big crappie you're looking for. Then you just keep moving and fishing that depth.

It's a relaxing way to fish, the kids love it, and you can catch a pretty good mess of good-eating fish - I mean those 1 1/2- and 2-pound fish that are really nice.

Usually if you find a big fish at the right depth, all of your big fish will come from that depth. Once in a while, you'll have to catch some little ones, and you might move to a spot and catch a few little ones and one big one, but most of the time, when you find the right depth, it's all big ones.

Now, I've caught a bunch of fish on a spinning rod with a float or cork, but with a fly rod or a cane pole, you can control your depth so much better - and depth is a key.

So when you've gotten your deer, when bass fishing is the last thing on your mind, but you still have a desire to get on the water, take a day and have a great time catching stripers or crappie.

 

David Fritts is a 50-year-old professional bass fisherman from Lexington. He won the 1993 Bassmasters Classic, was the 1994 Bass Angler of the Year and won the FLW Tour Championship in 1997. He is sponsored by Ranger boats, Evinrude outboards, MinnKota, Zoom, Rapala, Bass Pro Shops, American RodSmiths, Solar Bat and Chevrolet.