Crappie Roots

By Perry Hensley

Growing up here in East Tennessee we did a lot of hunting and, of course, fishing. I have many fond memories of fishing the old farm ponds with my father and my brother and sometimes, with the entire family.

One year, on my 8th birthday, I got a second-hand Zebco 202 fishing rod from a local pawnshop and from that day on, I would go fishing anytime I could get out there. Sundays were always my favorite day of the week because my family would all gather at my Grandparents’ for Sunday dinner, playing with my cousins, and a guaranteed day of fishing. I would spend hours walking the wide-open cow pastures, going from farm pond to farm pond, enjoying the outdoors and its peaceful nature. I started out fishing for bream/bluegill of course, because they were plentiful, and fun and easy to catch. It was nothing to catch 20-30 in no time.

My Father worked long hours when I was growing up so every chance we got to go fishing, that’s exactly what we did. Now, going to Douglas Lake was a big deal since I rarely got a chance to fish the big water and, even though my father was a hardcore crappie angler, I was out to catch whatever hit my line.We would fish the months of fall, winter, and spring pretty hard but I would have to say fall was my favorite.

Once the big-time fisherman hit the TV in the late 70’s to early 80’s, like Bill Dance, Roland Martin, and Orlando Wilson along with the B.A.S.S and their tournament recaps, I knew I wanted to be a bass angler. I was glued to that TV absorbing as much info as I could squeeze into a young boys brain. Numerous times on our fishing trips, Dad would be catching the crappie one after the other, while I walked the banks searching for bass. He would yell down the bank to me saying, “Hey, get over here and tie on some jigs and help me catch these crappie!”. I laugh now because I actually didn’t know how important Crappie fishing was going to be to my life. Around age twelve, I was taught by my father, how to tie my own crappie hair jigs. He was always tying up jigs the night before our fishing trips.

We didn’t own a boat back then and spent many days walking many miles around the areas of Swann’s Marina, Fancher’s Hollow, Nina Creek, and Indian Creek. There were many cold days accompanied by numb hands and feet, but we would fish until we thought our freezer was full and we had plenty for not only us but also others needing a meal. Dad made sure we always shared our blessings with others, as God had given to us. Now, this was back before there was a limit put on crappie at Douglas Lake.

Thinking back, I’m not quite sure when, or how I started my journey of crappie fishing, other than hours would pass, and I’d see Dad is catching fish hand over fist while I was catching the occasional dumb fish. Well, it didn’t take me too long to know I wanted to catch fish like he was doing so I joined him. So many times, I would get aggravated, but he would calm me down and tell me to slow down and fish slow. I am grateful that my Dad taught me the finesse it takes to catch these sometimes finicky fish.

I’m so blessed to still have my dad as a fishing buddy even at 76 years old and yes, he can still out-fish me. He still loves to float n’ jig fish whereas I moved into different methods for crappie, such as vertical jigging or dead sticking, casting on structure such as rock piles, drop offs, and brush.

Fast forward to today and I own my own business named Slab Happy Lures, where I tie jigs and mold heads and have a full line of fish catching products. Above all of that, I thank you for taking time out of your day to read my story. I look forward to sharing many more articles on Crappie fishing that may just help you become a better angler or open your mind to different methods of catching these tasty little panfish.

Nothing better than God, family and fishing. Get Out N’ Get Slab Happy!

Perry Hensley was born and raised in East Tennessee. God has blessed him with a wife, four children, and 6 amazing grandchildren. He grew up hunting and fishing with his father and brother. He is an avid crappie angler with a passion for the outdoors, which led him and his wife to start a business (Slab Happy Lures) in 2018. They offer hand-tied jigs known as the renegade hair jig, which is one of their featured items and sells out in many of the bait shops where they are supplied in their area. If he is not in the Slab Lab, he is out on the lake as much as possible pursuing crappie.