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Crappie Karma: How one local fishing club gets better bites by doing good
fishing
Brady Rogers, unsplash

Do you know what the absolute best thing to use as bait when you’re fishing for Crappie on a weekday morning on Lake Lanier is? Or when to go? I’m tempted not to tell you, because it’s information best learned on a screened porch tucked into a hilltop cove over fried chicken, collards and cornbread with Woodie Malone.

Malone is the vice president of the North Georgia Crappie Anglers, Inc., a non-profit, 501 (c)(3) social club that exists to share knowledge about—and the fun of—Crappie fishing on Lake Lanier. He’s an Atlanta native, retired banker and real estate investor, and avid fisherman who loves to share his passion with other people. Whether you like fishing or not, it’s irresistible to watch his eyes light up when he tells you about the itinerary for an upcoming trip to Apalachicola where he goes every two weeks to off-shore fish for triple tail. They get even brighter, though, when he’s talking about the good stuff this fishing club does for his community right here in Cumming.

At its core, the Crappie Anglers are a group of fishing- and fun-loving men and women who live on or nearby Lake Lanier. They meet every month to hear from professional biologists, fishing guides, members from other area fishing clubs, fishing professionals and more. They are the second largest Crappie club in the Southeast, and while it’s mostly about Crappie fishing on the lake, they’ve been known to digress into an array of other applicable topics and activities.  

Some of those digressions include game nights, pontoon excursions, fish frys, fishing trips to other lakes or to the coast, local plays and concerts, day trips to Ellijay and the like, and plenty of fishing tournaments. You’ll spot a member when he’s sporting his fishing hat, showing off his Crappie hat pins—the prize for their monthly membership tournaments.  

But aside from fun trips, great dinners and ego-boosting accessories, this group of more than 100 men and women (the latter, proudly known as the Crappie Girls) are better known for the work they’re doing in the community. From fishing tournaments to boat rides and lots of luncheons, they know that the best kind of fishing is the kind you do together. 

That’s the good stuff. It’s the reason they broke off into their own club from the state’s largest Crappie club; because they wanted to do more together than just go fish, talk about fishing and eat good fish. They wanted to share their passion with the community, so the community could have as much as fun as they do. I asked Malone why they cared so much about doing good, and his best answer was, “that’s just what we want to do.” He looked at me like it was a silly question, because the answer seemed so obvious to him. It’s truly a group of great people doing some real good, simply out of instinct. 

Their outreach includes taking out the girls from Jessie’s House on boat rides and to lunch, which they’ll do again this fall. They host tournaments for the Hall, Dawson and Forsyth County Fire Departments and Forsyth County Sherriff’s Department, sparking friendly competition to see who can catch the most fish. They also work with Big Brothers and Sisters, hosting the kids and their mentors on the boat for a day of fishing, fun and prizes before having lunch together at a local park. They’ve done similar events for Jericho House, Georgia OWL and the Wounded Warriors.  

One of their biggest events is the Fishing with Military Heroes Tournament, where they take 100 veterans—both men and women—fishing on Lake Lanier. They give each participant a t-shirt and provide lunch, trophies and prizes for participants and their families. They host a similar style tournament for Georgia OWL.  

“These tournament days are so fun and rewarding for our members,” said Malone, who handles the community sponsorships and partnerships for the club. “We do them in hopes that we are doing a little something special for the betterment of our community, that’s all.” 

Community is probably the biggest member of the Crappie Anglers. Meeting Malone, and hearing stories about its president, Josh Thornton, and others’ involvement with the community, illustrates why it wasn’t a hard member to recruit. They don’t charge anything for these events, they provide all the gas, bait and tackle, making it simply a fun day on the lake (with maybe a little competition). They’re able to do that because of the great partnerships with businesses in and around Forsyth County. 

Perhaps one of the most exciting tournaments is the annual Fall Children’s Fishing Classic. Every October, captains helm their pontoons and take out 100 children ages 6-15 and their chaperones for a morning on the lake. They give each child his or her own rod and reel, letting them hook as many Crappie, Bream, Bass, Striper and Catfish as they can. They meet back at Bolding Mill Park for trophy presentations, appreciation plaques, prizes, lunch on the grounds and just about the most fun you can have with an inter-generational party on the lake.  

“We love taking out the kids,” said Malone. “It’s fun for us, because this is what we love to do, and we get to spend a day on the boat, fishing, but it’s also because we love getting all children involved in Crappie fishing here on the lake.” 

This year’s tournament is October 8. You can visit their website for more details, but registration fills up fast and is limited to the first 100.   

About the time I took my last sip of sweet tea, Malone can’t help but tell another story. It was an explanation of why the Six of Clubs was perched in his ceiling rafters. I was happy to listen. His stories are the kind of stories that make you comfortable, make you chuckle, and make you feel like you’ve known him—and whoever he’s talking about—forever. The bottom line is that any time spent with a Crappie Angler just makes you feel good, and it feels even better knowing that amidst a storm of chaos on the news and in the world, there are a heck of a lot of good people out there, even right here in our own community. And all you have to do is agree to go fishing. That’s a pretty good bite. 

Find out more information about the Crappie Anglers, or donate to their cause, by calling Malone at 770-634-6539, or visiting them online at northgeorgiacrappieanglers.com