Forty-six years after the end of the Revolutionary War, a pair of Englishmen from Redditch opened a sporting good store on Park Place in New York City, €¨T & J Bate Company. It underwent several name changes, finally to William Mills & Sons in 1875, surviving over 100 years in business making fish hooks, flies, and top-end fly rods and reels. Their 1924 catalog was 160 pages.
Photos show that beginning in about 1859, one of their popular hook styles was an Aberdeen, with the long shank and fine wire we're familiar with today, but lacking an eye. Presumably anglers would pound the end flat into a "spade" shape, then tie directly with some form of a snell knot.
In the late 1920s, shortly after Drew McGill and Stan Wright had formed a fly tying company, the pair was trout fishing the upper Colorado River. As the story goes, McGill had difficulty hooking fish, and while observing closely an eagle's talons in action, decided to make a better hook. The resulting product had sweeping curves and a sharp point designed to set in line with the direct pull from a leader. Today, Eagle Claw offers several series of Aberdeen hooks, the most popular their #202 gold model.
According to Matt Gray, Eagle Claw Marketing Manager, the company has been making this style for at least 30 years. "The Aberdeen has always been one of our top sellers at Eagle Claw," he says. "Distribution is nationwide, but strongest in the southern states. This fine-wire, long-shank hook is a favorite of crappie anglers fishing minnows.
"They're tempered to be a little softer, to bend out easily when anglers hang in brush," Gray continues. "But when bent back into shape, they retain their strength." Eagle Claw offers Aberdeens in platinum black, red, chartreuse, and gold. A snelled version (#121) also is popular. Most are available from #8 to 2/0, with #2, #4, and #6 the best sellers. Eagle Claw also sells plenty of Crappie Rigs, a wire spreader with a pair of Aberdeens. Eagle Claw also offers an Aberdeen Automatic Rotating Hook (#222), bent to add action to a slow trolling presentation.
Mustad offers a gold Snelled Aberdeen, with a turned down eye, of extra-fine wire from #6 to 2/0 with leaders of 6- to 10-pound test. Their Slow Death hook is based on an Aberdeen hook, but with a lateral bend to impart a spiraling action to a trolled nightcrawler, deadly for walleyes and other gamefish. It's available in bulk or with a leader.
Tru-Turn, part of TTI Companies, offers six series of Aberdeens in blood red, real gold, bronze, and blue, all with their patented kinked shaft with cam action that turns in a fish's mouth to set the point upward into the jaw whatever the angle of the bite. Tru-Turns were invented in 1959, initially as a worm hook for bass. Company spokesman T. J. Stallings points to the #6 blood red Aberdeen as their top seller. "They bend out to free a snag, then can be bent back into shape, more than 10 times in my experience," he says.
Aberdeen hooks for panfish have a long history and continues as an American favorite for crappies and perch, but also for sunfish in smaller sizes. The thin wire not only bends but keeps livebaits frisky and can be readily removed, thanks to its extended shank.
6 Arc of Slabs, Northeast Mississippi
Like the Bordeaux region grows world-class wine grapes, the Arc of Slabs is famous for producing giant crappies. Grenada, Sardis, Enid, and Arkabutla — it's a tossup which of these reservoirs might be best for giant white crappies during March and April. Jigging in brush and spider-rigging are the best bets. Wading, too, at times. Contact: Guide John Woods, 731/334-9669; Guide John Harrison, 662/983-5999.
2 Lake Erie, Ohio
The best opportunities are between Port Clinton and Vermilion, says Ohio fishery biologist Travis Hartman. Many marinas and backwaters have excellent crappie fishing in the spring, peaking in late April to early May, and occasionally in the fall. Good open-water spots are East and West harbors and Sandusky Bay. Check connected rivers, too. Lots of fish to 12 inches, with 14-inchers not uncommon, Hartman says. Craig Lewis of Erie Outfitters says Lake Erie is a surprisingly overlooked crappie fishery, considering the numbers of fish caught, up to 18 inches, as big as any in the state. Contact: Erie Outfitters, 440/949-8934; Ohio DNR, dnr.state.oh.us
4 Reelfoot Lake, Tennessee
Guide Billy Blakley says the crappie forecast for the 'Earthquake Lake ' is excellent for 2013, with average fish running 1 to 11„4 pounds and catches up to 23„4 pounds. The lake contains both black and white crappies. From March through May, spider-rig and jig around underwater wood, and jig around exposed cypress stumps. The bite picks up again in the fall. Top-notch lodging and food at Blue Bank Resort. Contact: Guide Billy Blakley at Blue Bank Resort 877/258-3226, bluebankresort.com
7 Weiss Lake, Alabama
The crappie outlook is very good for 2013, reports Alabama district fisheries supervisor Dan Catchings. Samples indicate one, and possibly two, strong year-classes of crappies in 2010 and 2011. Expect good numbers of harvestable-size fish from the 2010 spawn this spring, with the 2011 year-class contributing to the fishing in mid- to late 2013. Fishing picks up in February as crappies move shallow. March through early May is best, with April being the peak. Contact: Guide Richard Green, 859/983-0673, or book through Little River Marina and Lodge (256/779-6461); Guide Mark Collins, markcollinsguideservice.com
8 Kentucky Lake, Kentucky / Tennessee
Anglers look forward to the 'Crappie Capital ' living up to its name in 2013, says guide Steve McCadams. Expect numbers of quality fish with a shot at slabs over 2 pounds. While action during the spawn in late March into April is outstanding, don't overlook May and June, when stable lake levels and weather patterns find crappies concentrating around fish attractors at midrange depths, he says. Contact: Guide Steve McCadams, stevemccadams.com
9 Kerr (Buggs Island) Reservoir, Virginia/North Carolina
Numbers of crappies from 1 to 13„4 pounds with a chance for 2- to 3-pounders. Once the spider-rigging bite wanes in shallower creek channels by April, action turns to jigging deeper brushpiles. Contact: Guide Bud Haynes, 434/374-0308; Guide Keith Wray, 434/635-0207; Bobcats Bait and Tackle, 434/374-8381.
3 Lake Eufaula, Oklahoma
This shallow reservoir boasts numbers of crappies in the 2- to 3-pound range, with 37-fish limits common. In spring, the action is shallow, doodlesocking flooded buckbrush in high water, or working rocky banks and brush cover in low water, says guide Todd Huckabee. Crappies move to deeper brush later in spring. Contact: Guide Todd Huckabee, toddhuckabee.net
; Guide Barry Morrow, barrymro.com
; Blue Heron Bait and Tackle, 918/334-5528.
5 Lake Fork, Texas
Numbers of slabs from 11„4 to 21„2 pounds tend to get overlooked in this lake famous for lunker bass. Mid-May through June is guide Terri Moon's favorite time for crappies, when the fish head to brushpiles and bridge abutments in 20 to 24 feet of water. Pitching Fork Tackle's Live Baby Shads on 1/16-ounce jigs is a top option. Ivan Martin and Rick Loomis also guide clients to Fork's crappies in November and December, when fish are on points and in deeper brush. Contact: Guide Terri Moon, 903/383-7773; Guide Ivan Martin, 918/260-7743; Guide Rick Loomis, rickloomis.com
; Lake Fork Marina for lodging, food, and tackle, lakeforkmarina.com
1 Lake of the Woods, Ontario
The Woods is top-notch for black crappies to 16 inches, says In-Fisherman contributor Jeff Gustafson. Many crappies on this massive water have never seen lures, so once you find them, the numbers and quality are second to none, he says. Action starts in mid-May, with fish moving to shallow areas with cover. After spawning in early June, target them on weedflats in 6 to 10 feet of water. Float-and-jig combinations excel. Also try small suspending jerkbaits and swimming marabou jigs. Contact: Guide Dave Bennett, davebennettoutdoors.com
, 807/466-2140; Guide Jamie Bruce, brucescanadianangling.com
10 St. Johns River, Florida
The stretch of the St. Johns River south of Lake George offers outstanding fishing. Crappies from 2 to 3 pounds are caught regularly, with average catches well over a pound. This was the scene of an In-Fisherman television episode that airs this spring. Weedflats hold fish that can't resist tubes fished under a float. Or troll channel edges using jigs or minnows. Contact: Lodging at Castaways on the River, 352/759-4522, castawaysontheriver.com
; Guide Steve Niemoeller, 386/846-2861, cflfishing.com