On a cool, clear and breezy mid-October weekend I found myself fishing a crappie tournament on Lake Gaston.
This event was the culmination of the Richmond Crappie Club’s 2023 season with the Classic on the 20,000+ acre lake that straddles the Virginia/North Carolina border. For those unfamiliar with Gaston, it’s a 35-mile long hydro-electric lake with an impressive 350 miles of shoreline created when Dominion Energy dammed the Roanoke River back in 1953. Lake Gaston may not be the national crappie destination of its upstream counterpart (Buggs Island), but make no mistake, it’s a good crappie fishery and there were plenty of freckles to be found during my visit.
I had only been to Lake Gaston one time previously, about 10 years ago, so I had no history to go on. Last year’s Classic was also held on Gaston and a lot of fish were caught off docks, something that I was excited about because I feel that it fits in my crappie fishing strengths. Luckily my partner Brian Green was able to get down prior to the tournament to do some pre-fishing, and he found enough fish that we felt confident heading into tournament.
Sunday morning came and we were met with a beautiful sunrise over the Virginia/North Carolina border. Josh began calling boat numbers and all the teams were off from the Pea Hill launch.
Brian and I headed down lake to a stretch of channel swing docks that Brian had found holding a good number of specks holding under. Using the Active Target on Brian’s boat we were able to pinpoint exactly where on the docks the fish were holding. This would be a critical piece of our success as the fish would reposition on the docks throughout the day.
We had a limit fairly quickly and we kept rotating through the three docks for the first few hours culling here and there. Eventually we decided to make a move up the lake, but rough lake conditions the result of a nasty north wind would not allow the long run. We eventually returned to the stretch of docks we started on.
The last hour of the day provided a few key culls that significantly upgraded our bag. They key detail was realizing those fish had moved off the dock and were suspended in the shade line off to the side. This is something I have observed often on Lake Anna also, especially on the bridges, so keep that in mind for your future use.
Brian caught all of his fish using a 1/16-oz. Googan crappie jig with a Googan soft plastic minnow style bait. Most of my fish came off a 1/16-oz. Trippy Stix hair jig. Utilizing the Active Target and those bait combinations we were able to catch 7.5 pounds of crappie for our seven fish limit, along with Brian catching a 1.52 slab that was good enough for big fish of the tournament! We ended up in third place for the Classic, just narrowly missing out on second by a tenth of an ounce.
One of the things that I really enjoy about the Richmond Crappie Club is that usually at least the top three teams will give some information on how they caught their fish.
Joshua Powell Morris and his wife Farah-Dale Morris ended up winning the tournament with nine pounds. They reported catching most of their fish off of brush piles from 10 feet all the way down to 30 feet off Nic Taylor jigs.
Coming in second place was Jeff Poston, who also reported catching most of his fish off of brushpiles as well.
The Pea Hill Boat ramp has a nice parking lot and a good double lane boat ramp that should accommodate any boat. If you enjoy fishing for crappie or just are looking for a little friendly competition on the water, I can’t recommend the Richmond Crappie Club enough. Next year’s schedule should be completed within the next month, and you can find all that information on the club’s Facebook page.
If you are looking to enjoy crappie fishing on a new lake, I recommend you visit Gaston. The mid to lower end is fairly clear and the fish are predictable in that they do what most clear lake fish do – suspend around wood near channel bends or ledges. Locals fish for crappie on Gaston year around. Since Dominion Energy tried to maintain the water level steady, the fish don’t move around that much.
Guide Rick Morris would be a person to contact if you don’t have a boat or are looking to learn how to fish Gaston. He’s a local and has been fishing the lake for the last 40 years.