John's Journal...


What is Crappie Unlimited

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jason Tucker, who guides out of J.R.’s Marina on Weiss Lake near Cedar Bluff, Alabama, has guided and fished on Lake Weiss, known as the Crappie Capital of the World, for 18 years. He guides more than 200 days a year for crappie during the fall, winter and spring and for striped bass during the hot summer months. Tucker’s also a member of the Weiss Lake Improvement Association and Crappie Unlimited, and you’ll learn more about both these organizations. Crappie Unlimited has the most-unique inshore artificial-reef-building program ever that’s funded by crappie fishermen, for crappie fishermen, and improves the habitat for all the fish in the lake.

Crappie Unlimited started here at Weiss Lake, and next year there will be a similar program on Kentucky Lake. We hope that the Crappie Unlimited philosophy will be adopted by crappie fishermen throughout the nation. Every year, guides and fishermen who belong to Crappie Unlimited on Weiss Lake sink brushpiles and build stake beds in the lake to increase the habitat for the crappie and the bass. In an average year, we’ll put out 300 to 500 stake beds and brushpiles. Each of the locations of these stake beds and brushpiles is marked as a waypoint on a GPS (global position system) receiver. The fishermen who have these waypoint numbers can use their GPS receivers to go to this underwater cover and fish. When you join Crappie Unlimited, you get the GPS Click to enlargecoordinates for the brushpiles and stake beds in Weiss. Then when you fish on Weiss Lake, you’ve got several hundred brushpiles and stake beds that you can check for crappie, and you have as good a database of underwater structure as any guide on the lake. By joining Crappie Unlimited, you’re also helping us improve the habitat of the lake and create more habitat for more crappie. Then more fishermen can fish here successfully.

On Alabama’s Gulf Coast, each year for the last two years, the boat captains have held a Red Snapper World Championship, where for a $5 entry fee you have the opportunity to win thousands of dollars worth of prizes. That $5 entry fee has been used to build over 500-artificial reefs to raise more red snapper and other species for saltwater fishermen. A year after these reefs are sunk, the locations of these reefs and their GPS coordinates are put on the Alabama Marine Resources web page. The anglers who fish in salt water and participate in the Red Snapper World Championship are using their dollars to build more habitat and have more fishing spots. This philosophy is the same one we’re using at Weiss Lake to build more underwater reefs for crappie, bass, bream and the other species that will use that habitat each year.

When we build stake beds, each bed will have 50 to 100 stakes in it. When we put out brushpiles, there’ll be two or three hardwood tree tops bound together and sunk along the edges of creek and river channels about 100-yards apart. We also put brushpiles on underwater humps, drop-offs and ledges. These brushpiles will last up to 6 years, and most of the brush is in 6 to 12 feet of water. We also put out brushpiles that are ideal for winter fishing as well as spring and summer fishing. To get more information about Crappie Unlimited, you can call J.R.’s Marina at (256) 779-6461. Click to enlargeOne year’s membership costs $35 per year, and you get a choice of a fishing cap or a t-shirt, a Crappie Unlimited decal and the GPS coordinates for the brushpiles and stake beds. To become a lifetime member, the charge is $150 initiation fee and $50 per year after that. To learn more about how to become a member and all the benefits of being a member of Crappie Unlimited, visit

We’ve been asked why did we start this program, and the answer is simple. When the power company draws the lake down 6 feet every winter, the brushpiles and stake beds will begin to dry rot. Then in several years, all that structure will be gone out of the lake. If no one puts any new cover out and creates new brushpiles, when that cover’s gone, so are the fish. What we try and do is have new brushpiles being built every year to not only keep the crappie population we have, but also to try and grow the population by enhancing the habitat and providing more cover for the crappie and the baitfish on which they feed. A byproduct of building these crappie brushpiles is that bass and any other species of fish will hold on to them too.

As I’ve said earlier, one of the reasons why people come from all over the country to Weiss Lake is the size of crappie we have here. Three years ago our lake produced a crappie that weighed 5-pounds, 1-ounce. A lady caught this fish in Cowan Creek while fishing a minnow off the dock at Pruitt’s Fish Camp. The 10 crappie, all caught in 2-months time during Feburary and March, in our display case here at J.R.’s Marina weigh from 2-pounds, 13-ounces to 3-pounds, 14-ounces. Two to 2-1/2-pound crappie are fairly common on our lake, and a 3-pounder isn’t uncommon. My biggest crappie weighed 3-pounds, 12-ounces, and I had a Click to enlargecustomer catch one that weighed 3-pounds, 14-ounces. Weiss Lake crappie get so big, so quick, because the water in the lake never gets too cold, the crappie at Weiss can feed all year long, three river systems flow into Weiss that bring a lot of fertility to the lake, and Weiss Lake has plenty of shallow-water flats and drop-offs. The lake is overpopulated with shad, so the Weiss Lake crappie don’t have to wonder if and when they’re going to feed. They simply open their mouths. All three river systems, the Little River, the Chattooga River and the Coosa River, come into Alabama from Georgia, and when they leave Weiss Lake, they flow together to become the Coosa River system.
To learn more about Jason Tucker, J.R.’s Marina and the fishing at Weiss Lake call (256) 779-6461 or visit

Check back each day this week for more about WINTERTIME CRAPPIE FISHING AT WEISS LAKE

Day 1: The Blow Hole
Day 2: Here They Come
Day 3: Why the Length Limit and Why Spider-Rigging
Day 4: Crappie Plus
Day 5: What is Crappie Unlimited



Entry 333, Day 5