Why Go to Wappapello?
Fishermen may stretch the truth, but fisheries researchers never do. Fish biologists count and measure fish and tally and survey anglers. They then release their findings without the least bit of exaggeration, or even a wink.
Their conclusion? Wappapello is a great fishing lake that’s getting better. The crappie have a predictable baby boom every year, and largemouth bass are growing bigger and bigger.
About 75 percent of anglers who fish Wappapello target those abundant crappie. A nice day in the fall and winter, and almost any kind of day in the spring, will bring a flock of southeast Missouri and St. Louis anglers to the lake.
If it’s a weekday, Ron McKuin is among the flock. Because he’s retired, he leaves weekend fishing to those he calls “poor fellows who still have to work.” His boat is always ready, though, and he’s calculated that it takes him 30 minutes to go from the recliner in his home at Poplar Bluff to a boat seat on Wappapello.
McKuin has been fishing Lake Wappapello for more than 30 years. He says the lake’s good crappie fishing tugs him away from bass fishing during winter and spring.
He mostly tightlines 1/16-ounce tube jigs around cover with a long jigging pole. McKuin uses only one fishing rod and generally attaches only one color of tube bait to his 1/16-ounce jig.
“I almost exclusively use purple and chartreuse,” he said. “Sometimes I’ll use pink and white, but my go-to bait has a purple body and a chartreuse tail.”
McKuin says he motors around the lake, looking for stumps and logs with his depthfinder.
“In our lake, 10 to 12 feet on the edge of the channel is kind of the magic depth,” he said. “I’m usually easing along with my trolling motor trying to find some structure on the bottom that shows some fish around it that I assume and hope to prove are crappie.”
He said using only one pole lets him work quietly and efficiently, and the 20-pound test line on his reel lets him straighten jig hooks that get hung up in stumps.
When water begins warming up in the spring, starting about late February or early March, McKuin follows the crappie up into the backs of coves and bays.
“Then, I fish with a floater and a jig,” he said. “It’s amazing that you can tie a jig under that floater no more than a foot deep and catch nice, big crappie.”