BY DAVE HURLEY
LAKEPORT – Clear Lake has been the prime location for crappie for Northern California fishermen so for this winter into spring, and in addition to the impressive numbers of slabs, the lake can now be known for the new California state record for black crappie. Dave Burruss, owner of Clear Lake Outdoors in Lakeport, landed the monster slab at 4.33 pounds, breaking the old state record of 4 pounds, 1 ounce. The record-setting crappie still has to be verified by the Department of Fish and Wildlife, but it was weighed on a state-certified scale after being weighed on two non-certified scales.
Burruss was out solo on Wednesday targeting largemouth bass, and he said, “It was a slow day of bass fishing as I only ended up with 4 bass to 3 pounds, but the highlight was a very unexpected giant crappie. I was heading to a different spot when I noticed three big fish on my new Garmin PanOptix Live Scope. I saw these fish, but I didn’t know what they were, but they came so clear on the graph. I thought they might be carp, but I casted my underspin out there anyway.
“The first cast came through with no follower so I tried a different angle on the next cast. I was able to watch the fish follow and strike the lure so I set the hook. I thought I had a 5-pound bass on, but when the crappie came up to the surface, I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s the biggest crappie I have ever hooked.’ I stumbled for the net, netted it and placed it in the livewell. I went after the other two fish for another five minutes, and there was one that I really wanted to catch because it was even larger, but they wanted nothing to do with my underspin.
“I had learned the week before that the California state record was 4 pounds, 1 ounce, and I knew it was the largest crappie I had ever caught. I though it was around 3.8 pounds, but when I weighed on my boat scale, it read 4.4 pounds. I thought, ‘What the heck, this way bigger than I thought,’ so I counted the number of spines since I know that black crappie have seven spines. It had seven spines, and I knew that I had a record fish here. I hunt for trophy largemouth bass but not trophy crappie so this was big surprise. I took it into a certified scale, and it weighed 4.34 pounds, so I will go into the record books officially as 4 pounds, 5 ounces. To be honest, I don’t think this record will last a year since the Pan Optix is a game-changer for all fishermen, but it is a huge advantage for crappie.”
The majority of crappie fishermen are still working off of Rattlesnake on the huge schools that are located there, but Burruss advised, “These fish spook easily with the heavy boat pressure, and you are better off cruising the lake and finding a smaller school and working them. The fish I caught was nowhere near Rattlesnake, and I have landed them off of Lucerne or Nice a half-mile offshore this year. The big crappie are really aggressive and eating as there was a 3.5-pound slab landed this week on a big 4.75-inch Rage Swimmer. When they get this large, they are eating.”
While crappie remain the top draw at Clear Lake, there are several bass tournaments on the horizon including the extremely popular WON BASS California Open from April 14-16.
With the lake’s water as low as it has been in many years, only the Lakeport, Red Bud and Oaks launch ramps are open as Lucerne and Keeling Park are already out of the water. Parking is limited, and anglers are advised to get on the lake early.