Our guide this month is the owner/operator of Honey Hole Guide Service, Charlie Kent. Born and raised in Baldwyn, Kent has been fishing the crappie-infested waters of Bay Springs since the lake was created by the Corps of Engineers in 1979.
Depending on the weather patterns, the month of April finds Bay Springs crappie in full-blown spawn at the beginning of the month and moving toward the post-spawn as the month progresses. Crappie tend to spawn deeper in the clear-water lake than they might in other murkier waters.
Kent is well versed in many crappie fishing tactics, but April will find him with a single pole, "hand fishing" for crappie around both visible and submerged structure. If you went looking for the guide on the water in April, you'd likely find him fishing one of these spots:
1. Riddle Creek N 34 36.414 / W 88 19.522
Kent usually starts looking for structure on his graph some 300 yards west of the island in Riddle Creek. The river channel runs all the way to the back of the creek with an average depth of 12 feet flanked with 6 foot flats on either side. He advised that the water depths get shallower as you move west toward spot No. 2.
Kent claims Riddle Creek will produce fish just about anyway you choose to fish it. He often sees other boats vertically trolling the area while others choose to long line and still others take the Pickwick influence and side pull the area. His preference is to hunt up the structure on the bottom and vertically jig it.
"The trolling guys will slow troll this area but for me, I'd rather just jump from stump to stump vertically fishing each one as I find it on the depth finder," he said. "Every where you cross the creek channel you'll find stumps and logs on your depth finder where the lake was cleared.
"This one location could easily provide you with a limit of slab crappie and a whole day's worth of fishing."
2. Back of Riddle Creek N 34 36.581 / W 88 19.476
Typical of most feeder creeks in many lakes and reservoirs across the country, the very back of Riddle Creek flattens out and turns into a spacious spawning flat for crappie during the spawn. The typical water depth is in the 4 – 5 foot range. The area is made more hospitable to spawning fish by the aquatic grasses that grow under water, often reaching to the surface, in this area.
"Crappie will go all the way to the bank in this area and you'll find lot's of them back here, many of them in the grass, some along the bank, and others around submerged stumps and logs," he said. "And they'll be nice fish, but the better sized fish tend to hold along the river channel as it winds back through the flat and runs up into the woods."
His favorite baits are Crappie 101 baits that he obtains through the Crappie101,com website. His favorite color is a pearl tail jig named "Charlie's Angel" in his honor and tipped with a Berkley crappie nibble
3. Old Road Bed N 34 36.185 / W 88 18.669
Jumping to the east, Ashcraft Creek runs parallel to Riddle Creek. Though it is shorter and narrower than Riddle, it has a number of locations that hold both spawning and post-spawn crappie. Midway down Ashcraft is an old road bed that crosses the creek. Lining up the openings in the trees on either side puts you right on top of hotspot No. 3.
"It's hard to tell from here but the paved road runs under the water and the old road bed will hold a lot of crappie," said Kent. "I guess they like the sandy bottom but you'll find crappie on this crossing during the pre-spawn and the post-spawn.
"I think some of them never leave and will spawn right here."
The creek channel itself, which crappie use to move up and down Ashcraft Creek, is made even better due to the remains of the demolished bridge that used to cross the creek. Look for crappie to hold on the debris which ranges from 12 – 14 feet in depth.
4. Ashcraft Stumpfield N 34 36.332 / W 88 18.697
Moving to the back of Ashcraft, the creek flattens out and forms a good spawning flat though smaller in size than neighboring Riddle Creek. Water depths are also slightly deeper, averaging around 4 ½ feet up on the flat.
"Crappie will start holding on the edge of this flat in late February," said Kent. "This is one of the first places you'll find them spawning and there will usually be fish back in here through the month of April."
Spot No. 4 is dotted with visible standing timber, which tends to draw the most attention. However, the visible structure is a drop in the bucket compared to the broken off timber that lies just below the surface.
"Most of the fishing back here will be single pole," said Kent. "Too much timber to troll through.
"I've done pretty good working my way across the flat casting jigs or you could anchor out in the middle and cast minnows under corks out in all directions."
5. Ashcraft Creek – Secondary Points N 34 35.837 / W 88 18.558
The marker located at spot No. 5 marks a large brush pile as well as delineating the Corps line where the USACE stopped clearing brush when the lake was built. Many of the local anglers will pick secondary points like this one to plant man made brush piles and Kent has done his share of building this kind of crappie holding structure in Bay Springs.
"Look for the submerged structure along the edge of these points in 12 – 14 feet of water," he said. "A lot of the old standing timber has rotted away except for the trunk.
"When a fresh brush top is put into the lake, crappie will move out of the old timber and take up residence in the new brush."
Crappie often show a preference for holding on the shallow side or the deeper side of a brushpile and may move from one side to the other with the progression of the sun. The best way to fish this structure is to mark the middle of the pile, either with a floating buoy or on your electronics, then move all the way around the structure, vertically fishing the edges until the fish are located.
6. Jackson Camp Area - North N 34 36.259 / W 88 18.073
Hot spots 6, 7, and 8 are all located in the Jackson Camp Area, located on the main Tenn-Tom river channel. This spot marks the middle of a mid depth flat located approximately 1000 yards south of Jackson Camp Church and lying on the west side of the Tenn-Tom channel. The flat runs from 21 feet out near the channel to around 16 feet moving toward the bank.
"A lot of crappie fishermen troll this flat from here down to the next spot," said Kent. "The depth is pretty consistent, about 22 feet at normal pool, and they catch of lot of fish between this point and that point."
7. Jackson Camp Area - South N 34 36.075 / W 88 18.159
The other end of the trolling run set up at spot No. 6, visible stumps and standing timber start showing up on the south end at spot No. 7 on the west bank of the Tenn-Tom channel.
"Crappie will stage here during the pre-spawn, but they will also retreat back to this area during a cold front that hits during late March and April," said Kent. "After the spawn, crappie will also come back out here until they enter the summer pattern.
"We've even had years when there were still crappie hanging on this flat into June and July."
8. Jackson Camp Church N 34 36.673 / W 88 17.996
Kent claims that this no name creek that runs off the main channel and up past the Jackson Camp Church fishes very similar to Ashcraft Creek. The hot spot marks the road bed that runs down past the church and marks the line where Kent will start fishing, moving towards the back of the creek.
"Not a lot of structure on this creek channel, so you need to work closer to the bank," he said. "There's more structure along the banks in the cove and you'll find a lot of underwater structure like stumps and logs laying out 50 – 60 yards off the bank."
The guide fishes this area like a bass fisherman, he'll get on the bow mounted trolling motor and work his way down the bank, casting jigs under a cork, or at times may fish a live minnow under a cork, casting the rig up next to a piece of fishy looking structure and letting it sit. As the spawn comes to a close, he'll come in here to fish the old road bed.
"This road bed is deeper than the one in Ashcraft," he said. "It's about 15 feet deep and a lot of times crappie will suspend over the top of it and chase baitfish before heading out to deeper water on the flat."
9. McDougal Creek N 34 35.435 / W 88 17.015
Kent claims that spot No. 9, McDougal Creek, has got it all for crappie anglers fishing before, during and after the crappie spawn in April. As you enter the creek, the channel bears to the right and on the left side of the channel is a great long flat with 16 feet of water on it.
"This exact GPS coordinate is the beginning of some standing timber in the creek," said Kent. "Start fishing here and work your way toward the back of the creek where the structure ends.
"Most of this is old standing timber that most of the limbs have rotted off of, but it will still hold fish staging before, during and after the spawn."
During the peak of the spawn, the guide will move from this stump filled flat and work the adjacent shore line, casting jigs to visible structure along the bank. A levee at the back of McDougal Creek separates the main lake from McDougal Pond, a smaller impoundment above the levee. Crappie will often spawn right in the rip rap that lines this area.
10. McDougal Ramp N 34 34.962 / W 88 17.536
The USACE website for Bay Springs lists nine available public ramps spaced out around the lake. Kent's favorite is McDougal Ramp located within the McDougal Branch Recreation Area. This ramp provides access to the other nine spots from a centrally located position.
"This ramp is right off the Natchez Trace and makes for a shorter ride when fishing these locations," said Kent.
Also located at the Recreation Area are a fishing dock, fish cleaning station, picnic shelter, restrooms and a courtesy dock. For more information about this facility and any of the other Corps properties on Bay Springs, contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Bay Springs Site Office.
Guide Charlie Kent can be contacted at (662) 401-3766 or view his on-line fishing reports on Crappie 101 at http://www.crappie101.com/crappie/honey-hole-guide-service-llc