Dean McCoy’s Monster Lake Havasu Shellcracker

Dean McCoy’s Monster Lake Havasu Shellcracker

May 08, 2024

Dean McCoy’s Monster Lake Havasu Shellcracker

Phillip Gentry


One of the great benefits of fishing large scale crappie tournaments is getting to meet anglers from different parts of the country. It’s not unusual for those friendships to produce invitations to travel to a new lake or new region to sample the fishing available.

A post tournament conversation between B’n’M brand ambassador Dean McCoy from Tennessee’s Dale Hollow Reservoir and B’n’M pro Randy Howton from Arizona Crappie Sniper Guide Service produced such a scenario. The two crappie anglers got on the subject of bream fishing which evolved into Howton inviting McCoy to visit Lake Havasu, located about halfway between Lav Vegas and Phoenix to sample some Arizona panfishing.

Lake Havasu is known worldwide for the size of its redear sunfish, more commonly called shellcrackers and is home to the world record redear caught in May of 2021 that tipped the scales at a staggering 6.30 pounds. With the invitation from Howton for a two-day trip in late April, McCoy didn’t know what to expect.

Arizona’s Lake Havasu holds a nice population of bass and crappie but is world famous for the size of its shellcrackers.

“We fished on Randy’s boat with some pretty familiar equipment, we were using Garmin LiveScope to locate fish, Cornfield Fishing Gear and B’n’M 8-foot Russ Bailey Signature Series rods,” said McCoy. “The rig was a pretty simple set up – 20-pound braided line with a section of 10-pound fluorocarbon leader and a drop shot rig using whole live nightcrawlers on a #1 baitholder hook.”

Starting shortly after lunch on the first day of the trip, McCoy said he knew they were on to something when he landed his personal best 3-pound shellcracker in the first 5 casts. But that record would not stand long.

The Russ Bailey Signature Series rod has tamed more then it’s share of slab crappie, but McCoy’s redear is a testament to this rods fish catching ability.

“The fish were not on the beds yet,” he said. “It seemed like they were just out scouting places and you could look down in the gin clear water and see them just off the bottom in water that was 12 feet deep.”

After landing several decent fish, the fishing party of McCoy, Howton, and Howton’s fishing partner Cameron Gilliam decided to work their way back into the protection of the marina basin to escape the high winds that were starting to blow. Finding no shortage of fish to keep them occupied, McCoy soon marked an interesting looking fish on the forward-facing sonar in a corner of one of the many crock outcroppings that surround Havasu and pitched his bait to it.

“I watched the bait fall and the fish came up to it and just pecked at it like a bluegill,” said McCoy, “but then the line went tight and the fish started pulling drag. I knew then this was a good one.”

After pulling off nearly 50 feet of drag and threatening to foul the line in one of the many wooden and concrete fish attractors in the lake, McCoy managed to get the fish turned and headed back to the boat. When it made its first pass under the boat, it was easy to see this was a monster shellcracker.

(From left to right) Cameron Gilliam, Dean McCoy, and Randy Howton had a day of shellcracker fishing that won’t soon be forgotten.

When the battle was finally won, McCoy’s catch weighed in at 5.10 pounds with an 18 ½ inch girth and 16-inch length. It was without a doubt, the fish of a lifetime.

Lake Havasu’s formerly boasted a modest 2-pound average size for redear until the lake became inundated with quagga mussels sometime in the 2000’s. The quagga is a larger specimen closely related to the zebra mussel and are considered invasive species, most likely hitch hiking in on boats visiting the clear canyon lake from other states.

Regardless of their status, Havasu’s shellcracker population has taken a liking to the quaggas and regularly gorge themselves on the bi-valves year-round, providing the fish with an endless supply of protein.  

The trio ended their day with McCoy’s 5 pounder, another 4 pounder, 3 pounder, 2 ¾ pounder and a 2 ½ pound redear on top of more 1 -1/2-pound fish than he could remember.

“Our top 5 fish was enough to win us a check in a bass tournament,” said McCoy.

While he vows to return to see if he can top his record, McCoy left the fish in the care of T&A Taxidermy in Mesa, Arizona. Soon the giant fish will adorn his wall as a testament to always welcome visiting anglers when fishing national crappie tournaments. You never know where those friendships might lead.


B’n’M has all the tackle you need no matter where your fishing takes you. Check out our website at   

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