Customers biting on Carthage angler’s hand-tied fishing jigs
If you happen unannounced by Darryl York’s little backyard workshop just west of Carthage, don’t be surprised if you encounter a “Gone Fishing” sign.
York, who turns 50 this spring, doesn’t just dream about going fishing a lot. He lives that dream a majority of the time.
“I’m doing something a lot that I’ve always loved to do a lot. I’m out fishing probably 200 days a year,” York told Center Hill Sun on a clear-skied midwinter afternoon that in fact found him docked at his jig-tying table rather than trolling a submerged brush pile.
“I’ve been fortunate enough that if I say I want to go crappie fishing, then I can go crappie fishing,” explained York, adding that not having a wife has probably aided his lifestyle. “And if I’m going crappie fishing, I catch crappie. Just thinking about catching crappie gives me goosebumps.”
York has stalked the scrappy slabs all over the southeastern United States, from up in Kentucky across Middle and West Tennessee down into Mississippi on over to Georgia and back up through Tennessee, again and again.
Make no mistake about it: “We live right in the heart of fishing country,” said York.
“Carthage is within 60 miles of eight lakes,” he said. “And I like being able to fish all of them.”
His favorite is Center Hill. “That’s where I learned to fish for crappie,” he said.
York recalls when state fishery managers first started stocking the feisty blacknose strain of crappie in Center Hill Lake in the mid-1990s.
“I fished there every day,” he said. “And a lot of nights, too.”
Those were the good ol’ days, before the work on Center Hill Dam commenced. “I just don’t have confidence to fish Center Hill as regularly now as I used to. Not until they get that water back up and keep it there,” he said.
York credits his love of fishing and skill for locating and landing big crappie to local fishing luminary Carroll Wilburn, an angling ace on all the local waters. “He fishes every day and he’s taught me everything I know,” York said.
And York has parlayed his shrewd on-the-water schooling into becoming a savvy guide and enterprising fishing-lure designer. For about eight years he’s run the York Bait Company out of his home. He specializes in churning out vibrant handmade jigs, spinners and plugs for anglers tracking the tastiest warm-water sport fish species — crappie, sauger and walleye.
York assembles the baits to order through his website, yorkbaitcompany.com. On the site, you’ll find a rainbow of hues and gamut of sizes for all fishing conditions and water types.
It took some time for the business to start paying off. But as a result of word of mouth, the internet and a commitment to craftsmanship and customer service, things are working out, he said.
“Business has been coming around pretty good,” said York, who has expertise as a plumber and electrician in case absolutely nothing’s biting.
Over the years, he’s developed a dexterous proficiency for putting orders together as quick as he gets them. “I can probably tie about two dozen jigs in an hour, one color,” York said. “If you start adding multiple colors, it takes a little longer.”
Like most adept anglers, York will tell you that a key to reliably hooking up with an underwater tug is confidence in what you’re tossing. That’s because confidence is also key to fishing with concentration. If a fisherman doesn’t like the bait, it won’t likely get fished in appetizing fashion, he said.
“Color is for the fisherman,” he said. “All color really does is make the object look bigger or smaller in the water. They can’t see color, per se.”
Brighter colors for darker, murkier water — more natural colors for clearer water — that’s York’s approach.
“But I wouldn’t be scared to close my eyes and pick a color and fish it,” he said. “In the springtime when they are beginning to spawn, that’s the best time. That’s when everyone’s an expert.”
To that end, York expresses supreme confidence in his jigs — especially when warming late-winter and early-spring water temperatures start luring crappie into the shallows.
“If you’re casting these jigs and you aren’t’ catching them, then the fish aren’t there,” he said.
Interested in ordering some hand-crafted baits, booking an outing or just talking crappie tactics with a regional guru? Drop Darryl York a line online, or give him a call at 615-732-2109.