Photo by Bill Lindner

No matter where the start and finish lines are located, every Southern road trip is also an exercise in eating. There are just too many great barbecue shacks and ­checkered-​cloth diners along the way to get much serious fishing done. Unless, of course, you bring your own ­Southern-fried kitchen with you. Plan accordingly and it’ll be fish, fry, eat, repeat as you hit any of the nameless backwaters full of crappies and bream.

The Fry Cook’s Tool Kit
Stuff the following into a milk crate or small tote to go from fishing to feasting within minutes.

– 5-quart Dutch oven
– Two-burner propane stove
– Fillet knife
– Mixing bowls
– Thermometer
– Spider skimmer
– Paper towels
– Welding gloves
– Garbage bags

Fish-Fillet TLC
A stringer of slab crappies makes for a good picture, but for the best fillets follow these tips.

  • Don’t stress your catch by stringing it off the side of the boat. Rap fish on the head for a quick kill.

  • Bury fish in a cooler of ice to keep the flesh firm.

  • Even bull bream don’t offer a lot of room for error. Keep your fillet knife sharp to get the most meat from the bones.

  • Scale and gut smaller fish and fry them whole, fins and all.

The Bread Winner
When you’re cooking from a camp or tailgate, a simple cornmeal breading is quicker, easier, and less messy than a batter. Pick up a bag of White Lily Cornmeal Mix at the Piggly Wiggly. Dredge your fillets in a couple of cups of cornmeal and a tablespoon or two of Old Bay. Fry in batches when the oil hits 350 degrees.

Tailgate Hush Puppies
– Peanut oil
– 2 cups white cornmeal
– 1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
– 1 tsp. baking soda
– 1 egg, lightly beaten
– 1 cup buttermilk
– 1 tsp. Tabasco
– 1⁄4 cup chopped onion

Heat the oil. Whisk the dry ingredients, then form a small well in the center of the mix. In it, put the egg, buttermilk, hot sauce, and onion. Incorporate until a thick mixture is formed. Carefully drop spoonfuls of batter into the 350-degree oil. Fry for 2 to 3 minutes, until the hush puppies are golden brown.

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