"Krappie Kings Television" is a character-driven, angling travel show that features unique people, places and appetizing culinary techniques and recipes across the United States and Canada. One of the most enjoyable aspects of planning our road trips to film episodes for "Krappie Kings Television" is being able to meet great people along the way. And, experiencing some of the best crappie fishing in North America is priceless.
Our Arkansas trip began in Conway. Rachel Shaw, director of destination marketing, arranged this portion of our trip. We began filming our popular series segment, "Chill n' Grill" at Mike's Place on Front Street. We met John McNamara, the restaurant's general manager, who gave us a guided tour and history of the Mike's Place. The restaurant specializes in seafood, steaks and wood-fire pizza, but serves speciality appetizers that we were lucky to sample. They were simply out-of-this-world great.
Our arrival date in Arkansas was pushed back past the prime bite time due to a devastating tornado that ripped through the Faulkner County area a few days before our original arrival date of May 2, 2014. As we passed through the destruction left the storm's wake, our thoughts and prayers were with the victims. The tornado left a lot of debris in the lake and the fish were as scattered as scattered gets.
We were very fortunate to hook up with Jeff Smith of Arkansas lure manufacturer Crappie Magnet. Smith volunteered to guide us through the lake. We had to literally dissect every little spot we stopped to find our catch. We fished the many cypress trees and timber on Lake Conway with Crappie Magnet's tiny, soft plastic jigs–creeping along ever so slowly and dropping our baits on a tight line into every little shady hole we could find. Working the tree trunks and branches produced a few bites. Having to fish a little harder gave us an opportunity to explore acres of excellent crappie fishing on Lake Conway.
One of the challenges of so much timber provided some of the most enjoyable experiences Smith and I shared. We would hook into a bigger-than-average slab and have to figure out a way to get that fish back into the boat while avoiding lifting our rods into the overhanging branches and tree limbs. All while the fish was splashing on the surface. Pandemonium? Yes, but so rewarding when a fish was landed. It truly made for great TV moments.
The second leg of our Arkansas trip was to Fayetteville. Marilyn Heifner and Jessica Leonard of the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission made our first visit to Fayetteville impressionable. Fayetteville reminded us of a Norman Rockwell-type place you read about in books or see in movies. The people were friendly, the restaurants and nightclubs were plentiful and unique, and local attractions like the Arkansas Air and Military Museum as varied as anyone could ever expect.
The ladies arranged for us to film our cooking segment at Café Rue Orleans with owner/chef Maudie Schmitt, who is one heck of a cook and so friendly it felt like we were meeting a favorite aunt. Schmitt prepared several appetizers, including a mess of boiled crawfish and seafood samplers, and several main dishes that stuffed us like Christmas hams.
Once again we had an opportunity to fish and film with another great guy, Mark Pifer. Pifer works for the Washington County Sheriff's Office. He contacted us via Facebook and told us about this little lake named Sequoyah that consistently produced plentiful numbers of crappieósome very large!
Lake Sequoyah has stained water with shorelines that feature miles of potential crappie holding cover including trees, lily pads, brush piles, many "lay down trees" and stumps that are scattered on the flats. We decided to pound the shorelines first and see if any of those big slabs that we had heard about were willing to come out to play. Again, due to our later arrival date in Arkansas, many of the fish were in post-spawn mode. This made for additional effort in locating and provoking bites from larger crappie. Not to be outdone by the fish, we cast jigs under slip floats to submerged brush piles and small isolated weed edges away from the banks and began catching fish.
This lake has so many year-classes of crappie (five to ten inches) including a wide range of fish species that our float usually didn't sit still for long, signaling a bite from a crappie, bream, bass or catfish.
Searching for larger crappies, we sought out Piferís friend, Mike McBride. McBride operates the park boat ramp, bait shop and canoe rental. He suggested we move further off the banks onto the wide-open flats in search of the isolated ìlay downsî that hold bigger crappie.
Bingo! We began pitching our tiny jigs and soft plastic baits and started putting bigger slabs into the live well.
Our first-ever trip to Arkansas was impressive. Both Conway and Fayetteville didnít disappoint. The people were friendly, the restaurants plentiful and the crappie fishing opportunities endless. If you're a crappie fisherman, consider Conway and Fayetteville for your next crappie fishing adventure.
These Arkansas adventures can be seen in early episodes of ìKrappie Kings,î season two starting January 2015 on the Sportsman Channel and World Fishing Network. Visit www.krappiekings.com for more information about the show.