Catchin’ not fishin’
by Ron Presley
Do you know what a veteran is? That was the question that Dereck Fulton, event organizer, asked the gathered crowd of Peach State Crappie Club (PSCC) members and their invited guests. “Veterans are folks who volunteered to risk their life to protect your freedom. We are here to honor them today.”
The occasion was the first ever PSCC Veterans Appreciation Day. The invited vets and the club members that volunteered to take them crappie fishing packed the isles at Cliatt Crossing for registration and breakfast. In a gesture of kindness and appreciation, Jason Raiford of Cliatt Crossing provided breakfast and the gathering space to kick off the event and later have the weigh-in.
“Dereck Fulton has been a long time customer and has always stopped in to get his minnows or stopped in to get breakfast before he would go fishing,” said Raiford. He was an integral part of organizing the event. He contacted me about helping and I was happy to do so. I wish I had more room and more space for them to do it, but we made it work. Dereck did a good job with it.”
“I briefly met with a few of the Vets,” continued Raiford. “Every one of them was just jam up guys.”
At the end of registration and breakfast, Club president Scott Williams made the fishing assignments and paired 8 veterans with volunteer guides on 8 different boats. To increase the fun and add a competitive component to the event the club involved the anglers in a 3-fish weigh-in. Williams explained to the group that each boat should keep 3 fish for the weigh-in and bring them back to Cliatt Crossing about noon.
A caravan of boats then proceeded to the Soap Creek area of Clark’s Hill Lake to do some crappie fishing. That’s where the fun began. Actually, they weren’t fishing, they were catching. It did not take long before the crappies were coming to the boats. Everyone caught fish, regardless of the passing cold front, and everyone reported having a good time.
“We had a cold front pass and the water temps dropped about 10 degrees,” reported Fulton. “We definitely did great considering the weather conditions. Of the veterans we carried out, maybe half fished for crappie before, many were bass fishermen. I think they definitely learned something today from our club members. Education is part of what we want to do with the club, teach other people how to catch crappie. Our veterans had an opportunity to fish with some of the best crappie fishermen in the south. Most people pay money for that!”
Williams confirmed the success the anglers had. “We had a cold front come in, but today was better than yesterday,” verified Williams. “There was very little wind and the fish were biting great. We were thinking about going to Georgia Little River and Big Heart Creek, because the last several weeks they were catching lots of fish there. Derek suggested that everyone should go to Soap Creek and that worked out well. Everybody was catching fish in there and it was easier to get around and get photos. I think everybody enjoyed catching fish today.”
One vet was heard to say, “I never crappie fished before, but I had fun. My guy was good. He really knew how to crappie fish. I hope to come back next year.”
“The Crappie Club’s event was awesome,” declared Jose Javier, another of the vet guests. “When I got there, I thought it was going to be kinda’ awkward. I was the first one to arrive, so I went inside. Someone asked if I was with the club and I said yes. Jason Little came out to meet me and offered me coffee. What a wonderful group of folks.”
“People started showing up and I met all the guys,” continued Javier. “Even standing in the parking lot I felt welcome and I knew that it was going to be a magnificent day. Of course, it always is when I’m on the water. I had a great time and great guides. I don’t remember their last names but Mr. Danny and Mr. Jerry and a dog named Chester “The Fish Whisperer” put me on the fish. I even took some home for dinner.”
“I just want to thank those guys for the amazing time and experience,” concluded Javier. “I hope to do it again and looking forward to seeing photos and videos of the event.”
At the end of the day it was Paul McCrary, fishing with Dereck Fulton, that earned braggin’ rights, a new t-shirt and a first-place plaque to commemorate winning the event. Paul weighed-in three fish at 4.52 pounds to claim the top spot. He had a big fish of 1.60 pounds.
Following the weigh-in all the vets received two crappie rods and a spool of line from Mr. Crappie, a popular brand of crappie fishing equipment. Fulton thanked Wally Marshall, founder of the Mr. Crappie brand, for his support of the PSCC event. Vets that wanted to also took some crappie home for the dinner table.
Speaking of dinner tables, Dairy Lane (478-552-2482) of Sandersville, GA provide a BBQ lunch for the vets and the club members.
It all began with the desire to thank veterans for their service. “When we started this club last year, one of the things we wanted to do was have an event to honor our veterans,” said Fulton. “Since Ft. Gordon is fairly close to Clarks Hill Lake we decided to hold the event here, out of Cliatt Crossing, near the lake. I think it went extremely well today.”
For more information on the Peach State Crappie Club follow and like them on Facebook.
Epilogue: Secret Revealed
In a signal of his extreme appreciation of the veteran’s service to their country, Fulton gave away one of his long-held secrets about Cliatt Crossing. Anglers normally hold their fishing secrets close to the vest, but on this day Fulton could not hold back.
“I have been buying my cross-eyed minnows here at Cliatts Crossing for years,” joked Fulton. “This is the only place you can get the cross-eyed ones, but the crappie cannot resist them. Just remember that you have to ask for them.”