Wednesday, April 30, 2014


Springtime is crappie time at Lake Anna; and no one knows this better than seasoned Lake Anna fisherman and guide, Chris Craft.
Photo by Matt Reilly

        Craft started fishing at a very young age, and has clocked countless hours of fishing on Lake Anna over the past 25 years.  He began fishing tournaments with an adult fishing club at the age of 16, and continues to fish tournaments on Lake Anna today. 

Craft's reputation as a crappie guide is really taking over;
and he gets plenty of press for it.  Here, Shane Baker (left)
films an installment of
Angling Virginia to begin airing in
June on Richmond Fox 35.  
Photo by Matt Reilly
        A little over eight years ago, after plenty of hard work and on-the-water research, Craft established CCBASSN Guide Service, guiding on the lake for largemouth bass, striped bass, and crappie.

        LakeAnna sports a strong reputation as a largemouth bass destination, and a productive striped bass fishery.  But despite Lake Anna’s variety of sport fishing opportunities, Craft’s reputation for crappie fishing has really taken over.  “Crappie fishing ranks number one for me these days,” he admits.  “They are fun to catch, taste great, and are a great fish to get a young angler started in fishing.”
Crappie are fun to catch, and a 25-fish limit is easily attained
if you know how to fish for them.  Photo by Matt Reilly.
        As it turns out, crappie fishing is a family affair.  Craft’s father, a passionate crappie fisherman who more than appreciates the fish’s table fare, provoked his interest in Lake Anna crappie.  On assignment, Craft delved into patterning and “figuring out” how crappie tick in the Lake.
        I was given the opportunity to witness his findings first hand, and was more than impressed.
        After meeting at Anna Point Marina, we headed straight for a creek edged with willow grass beds sporting 57-degree water.  “I start looking for crappie in the spring when water temperatures reach 45 degrees.  The temperatures for the best action are 50-65 degrees,” he professed.  

        Crappie are very temperature-sensitive fish, and are extremely mobile.  Rains or cold snaps can drop water temperatures mere degrees and cause schools to move significantly along the shoreline of spawning coves from one day to the next.  But Craft’s day-to-day monitoring is precise.

Two-inch Kalin grubs in "John Deere Green" and  "Green
Weenie" are local favorites.  Craft rigs them on a North Anna
Bait Company sickle hook.  Photo by Matt Reilly.
        Creeks and coves edged with willow grass beds are Craft’s go-to spring crappie spots.  “The reason crappie go to the grass in the spring is to spawn,” he said, positioning the boat several yards off of a favorite grass bed.  Crappie will often hold tight to grass edges, or even in the grass beds; but it’s important to leave some space between you and the cover.  “Many of the large spawning females will hold several feet from the grass edges, so I really believe that it’s key to stay off of the grass,” Craft explained. 
        The local favorite, and Craft’s personal choice, for crappie lures is simple.  Two-inch Kalin grubs in two colors, John Deere Green and Green Weenie, repeatedly get the job done.  For jigheads, a 1/16th-ounce sickle hook, engineered by Craft’s own North Anna Bait Company, is unbeatable.  A hook bend that is more of an angled corner than a bend penetrates and locks in the corner of a crappie’s mouth and stays buttoned.  Both are available at Fish Tales Tackle Shop at Anna Point Marina.
A male crappie in spawning colors
fooled by the John Deere Kalin Grub
Photo by Matt Reilly.
        It wasn’t long before John Deere and the sickle hook did their job and Chris’s rod was bent.  Lifting a slab of a male crappie, in full speckled-black or “tuxedo” spawning colors, from the water, he got sentimental:  “In terms of numbers and size, Lake Anna is the best crappie lake in Virginia,” he waxed; and he’s got the stats to prove it.  Every spring, crappie trumping two-and-a-half pounds are pulled from Anna’s fertile waters; and 100-fish days are not an uncommon occurrence.

        For this reason, Craft’s busiest month of the year is April.  “I’ve got crappie trips almost every day,” he said.  Anglers are well aware of his reputation.
        In fact, Craft’s reputation is so well-known that he’s taken on past-client-turned-associate-guide Braine Oxendine, who specializes in crappie fishing March through June, to handle overflow and crappie requests during Craft’s bass fishing season.
Brian Oxendine, Craft's associate guide, specializes in
crappie fishing, and pursues them well into the summer.
Photo by Matt Reilly.
  “Longer periods of daylight and increasing water temperatures trigger the movement from winter haunts to shallow bedding areas,” Oxendine explains.  “After the spawn ends, the crappie will move in waves out to flats, points, and docks where they can feed and recover from the spawn.  They move deeper as the summer approaches.”  Don’t let the title “Associate” fool you, Brian is a very knowledgeable and accomplished crappie fisherman.
        Together, the “Crappie King” and “Connoisseur” represent Lake Anna’s best “slab,” “speck,” and crappie fishing guides up for hire.  Moreover, both are relaxed, humorous, and fun-to-be-with fisherman at heart.  If you can’t book one of the pair this spring, try a fall crappie trip, one of Craft’s other specialties, or a combination trip.  To book a trip, email Chris at, or call 540-894-6195.  For regular fishing reports and pictures, visit

Originally published in the Rural Virginian

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