Want To Catch A 3-Pound Crappie?
How big does a crappie have to be to make you sit back and give a whistle? You know the kind; a slab that bends the rod double, gives you the shakes and makes you shout, "Get the net!" to anyone within ear shot.
Would you like to catch that fish-of-a-lifetime this year? Of course you would, but to do it you may need to adhere to Rule No. 1, "fish where big fish live." You can't catch a 3-pounder if your water only holds fish up to 2 pounds. Often that means heading South, where the growing seasons are long and the waters perfect for growing out-sized crappies.
Everything is relative to the waters you fish and the amount of time you dedicate to crappie fishing. You can set your own standard for a wall-hanger and go for it on waters near you. Or, if you want to travel to improve your odds, here are the lakes most experts recommend if you want to catch a truly giant slab.
#3 MISSISSIPPI'S SISTER LAKES
Mississippi is generally accepted as the home of seriously big slabs. We've got to remove Grenada Lake from the No. 3 ranking, however, because it figures into the top spot, but its sisters deserve mention in the 3 hole. Grenada Lake’s four sister lakes are Arklabutla, Sardis, Enid and Ross Barnett. Your potential for a wall-hanger slab is better than average at any of these.
Arklabutla is the most northern and is known for huge crappie. It likely holds the state and maybe even the world record. But the lake is known for being very stingy and having moody fish. Spring pre-spawn is the ideal time to catch the biggest fish, although summer crankbaiting can produce super-sized slabs, too.
The other three lakes have their own personalities, with Enid known as the home of the world record white crappie at 5-lb, 3-oz. Sardis is a good lake, with summer crankbaiting being the most popular tactic. You can go there, pull Lindy Shadlings, Rebel Crank R crankbaits or Bomber Fat Free Fry or Fingerlings and catch crappie from open water areas. Ross Barnett is the most southern and is known for its good numbers of 2-plus-pound crappie. Try slow trolling jigs at Barnett.
#2 ALABAMA RIVER, AL
They grow crappie like they do college football offensive linemen in The Heart of Dixie, big, strong and hungry. The Alabama River gives up a few 3-pound fish, but has recently become famous for big numbers of 1.5 to 2.25 pound fish. Heavy rains and current can make the river unpredictable, but hit the right conditions and you’ll have a trip of a lifetime.
In the spring any technique will work in the creeks and backouts because of the wide range of depths and covers. One of the easier areas to fish is Swift Creek, about 15 minutes from Prattville, AL. You’ll find shallow water cover, big flats and excellent drop-offs.
Slow trolling or fast trolling are good techniques this time of year. Look for drop-offs and points if you’re slow trolling. Large flats next to channels are excellent when fast trolling.
#1 GRENADA LAKE, MS
The unanimous No. 1 pick for catching a jaw-dropping, momma-slapping crappie is Mississippi’s Grenada Lake. Tournament weights and photos in bait shops verify that the lake produces huge crappie every year. March is a good time for pre-spawn and the start of the spawn. Summer and fall are good, too, but the fish won’t have the same weights. An average spring day when fish are biting you can expect several fish over 2 pounds, maybe kicker or two over 2.5, and occasional fish over 3 pounds.
The top tactic at Grenada is slow trolling spider rigs. In both the spring and fall, it lets you work baits slow or fast along channel and ditch ledges. Baits stay in the strike zone and you cut a wide path.
“I’ve fished all my life and several years as a guide but I’ve only caught one 3-pound crappie,” says guide Barry Morrow. “It was 3-pounds, 13-ounces, and was 19 ¼-inches long. It was a big female in the springtime at Grenada. I was spider rigging 12 feet of water in a little ditch and it hit a jig tipped with a minnow.
“My suggestion is to go into the dingy part of the lake and fish the cover on a drop-off. In early spring fish have their best weights so your odds are better for a heavy fish. If you want a big fish you need to go to Grenada.”
Grenada’s runoff waters provide plenty of dingy water situations. Also, as you go up the rivers you’ll find the underwater channels. The drop may only be a foot or two but a small indention is all it takes. The channels are difficult to follow, so take your time and make them work for you.
Post-spawn fish will be 5 to 12 feet deep. Spawning crappie will usually be 1 to 5 feet deep.
What to take to Grenada? Slow trolling is best done with a rack and rod holders, poles 12- to 16-feet long and reels with good drags; heavy 10- or 12-lb line; 1/8- and 1/4-ounce jigheads with big plastic bodies like the Lindy Watsit, Yum Wooly Beavertail or Wooly Bee. Also be sure to bring scales to weigh your fish and a camera to capture the moment.
Big Crappie Tips
-If a lake doesn’t have big crappie you’re not going to catch one. Go to a lake with big crappie or adjust your image of what constitutes "big."
-Fish when they're the biggest. Pre-spawn and spawn are when females are heaviest, up to 15-percent heavier than other times of year.
-In general, big baits catch big fish. A 1/8- or 1/4-ounce head and a two-inch plastic body tipped with a minnow is standard at Grenada.
-Keep your drag loose when slow trolling very shallow water with long poles. When a big slab hits it must go sideways, forward or toward the boat. It can’t go down.
-Always use a net when landing a big fish.
-You have to spend a lot of time on the water if you expect to catch a big one. The odds of your bait hitting the right spot at the right time is limited, so the more you fish the better your odds are of catching one.
By: Lindy Team