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Kayak Fisherman Breaks Colorado Crappie Record Using Forward-Facing Sonar

"I’m not sure the crappie that took the lure was the largest of the three"
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A kayak angler holds up a state-record crappie caught in Colorado.
Eric Allee holds up the new state-record black crappie he caught in November. Photograph by Eric Allee

Most anglers don’t think about big crappies coming from Colorado. But Eric Allee may change that notion after catching a slab of a black crappie that broke the state record a few months ago.

On Nov. 12, Allee was kayak fishing for bass on a small lake in Adams County east of Denver. (He chose not to share the name of the lake to avoid added fishing pressure there.) Using forward-facing sonar, he found what looked like a crappie hot spot in the lake and tossed out an artificial lure.   

“It was late morning, and I’d already caught a 2.5-pound bass when I noticed on my sonar three fish near a deep sunken brush pile in 14 feet of water,” Allee tells Outdoor Life. “I figured they were crappies. So, I eased close to them in my kayak to present a small finesse lure.”

Allee was using a 3.6-inch black Berkley Flat Worm with a small 1/32-ounce tungsten nail weight fastened on a 3/0 Eagle Claw Trokar Hook. Allee works as the marketing director for Eagle Claw Tackle in Denver, and he says it’s the perfect setup for what he calls “hover rig” fishing — a finesse technique for vertically jigging soft plastic lures.  

A Berkley Flat Worm soft plastic lure.
This is the same lure Allee used to catch his state-record crappie.

Photograph by Eric Allee

“It’s a deadly tactic, but it takes patience and concentration for it to work,” Allee explains. “The fish didn’t take it right away. I watched them on my Active Target sonar for two minutes before one hit. And I’m not sure the crappie that took the lure was the largest of the three.”

Using a 7-foot spinning rod with 15-pound test braid and an 8-pound fluorocarbon leader, Allee just felt weight on his line, and he lifted the rod to set the hook. It wasn’t a stressful fight because of the cooler water temps. Until, that is, Allee got the fish near the surface.

“I was nervous netting it when I saw how big it was, and thought that it might be a Colorado record,” he says. “When I measured it, and weighed it carefully, that made me even more nervous because I knew it was a giant of a crappie, especially for Colorado.”

A kayak angler puts his hand on a black crappie for scale.
Allee puts his hand on the state-record crappie for scale.

Photograph by Eric Allee

A seasoned kayak tournament bass angler, Allee carries measuring boards and a scale to document his catches. He says that he regularly catches and eats crappies, but when he realized it was a potential state-record fish, he decided to release it into the lake.

Along with some other state fish and game agencies, Colorado Parks and Wildlife maintains fishing record books for both weight records and length records. Weight records must be kept and weighed on a certified scale, while length records must be measured in inches and then released to qualify for record consideration, according to CPW.

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Allee explains that his 18.25-inch black crappie weighed around 3 pounds 15 ounces on his hand scale, which would have been enough to break the state’s weight record as well. (The previous state length record for black crappie is a 16.25-inch fish caught in 2023, while the standing weight record is a 3.48-pound fish from 2017.) He says he measured the fish multiple times before releasing it, in the hopes that it would surpass the 4-pound mark.

Although Allee’s new state-record crappie hasn’t been announced yet, CPW records official Brandon White confirmed in an email to Outdoor Life that “the black crappie that Eric Allee caught is the new state record by length for Colorado.”