Beverly Shaw at first thought she’d snagged a submerged tree.
But it wasn’t a tree, it was a giant crappie. And even after it was netted and in the boat, she still didn’t initially fantom what she’d caught – the biggest crappie ever to come out of Percy Priest Lake, weighing an even three pounds.
“She thought catching three-pound crappie was routine,” chuckled guide Eric Dickens. “I literally broke out in goose bumps. I’ve boated thousands of crappie over the years, and it was by far the biggest I’ve seen. I told her this is what dreams are made of.”
“Eric was pretty excited,” said Beverly. “I began to understand what I’d caught.”
Beverly’s husband Darrell had earlier caught a 10-incher, which Dickens used to illustrate how big his wife’s crappie was.
“He put hers beside mine -- and mine looked awfully small,” Darrell said.
Here's how it came about:
The Shaws, from Euharlee, GA were visiting Nashville over Labor Day weekend to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary. They decided to book a fishing trip through the Brian Carper Guide Service in Murfreesboro, and Dickens, who has guided for Carper for eight years, was assigned the trip.
“We haven’t fished very much,” said Beverly, a housewife. “We decided a trip would be fun.”
“We started fishing in Altoona Lake during the pandemic,” said Darrell, a pastor. “We caught mostly little bluegill.”
They had been on Priest for a couple of hours, with a few average-size crappie in the boat, when Dickens located a school on his sonar. He told the Shaws to lower their minnows down around some submerged brush.
“I saw a big one on the screen,” Dickens said, “but I didn’t realize how big.”
Beverly felt a tug on her line and began reeling.
“At first I thought I’d hooked a tree,” she said. “Then the fish began to swim and splash.”
“After I netted it, I had to catch my breath before I could weigh it,” Dickens said.
The crappie tipped the scales at exactly three pounds, crushing the former lake record of 2.15. Dickens, who resides in Pleasant Shade near Carthage, had never seen one like it. The closest was a two-pounder caught by his daughter Emma.
The fish is well short of the state-record white crappie, a 5.7-pounder caught in 2018 in an East Tennessee farm pond, but a lunker by Percy Priest standards.
“I never imagined there were crappie that big in there,” Dickens said.
Dickens is having the fish mounted by Defeated Creek Taxidermy and will send the finished mount to the Shaws. He plans to make a replica for Carper’s guide service.
“We’ll display it at our fishing shows,” said. “It’ll attract attention.”
The Shaws plan to display theirs, too.
“We’ll hang it on the wall,” Beverly said, “and tell people, ‘Look what I caught!’”