An ad on the back page of a magazine touted a particular brand of crankbait as “the newest and hottest tactic on the water.” In the ad, a young crappie-fishing guide wearing a NASCAR-style fishing jersey emblazoned with sponsors displays a slab crappie while the images of the crankbait in hot pink and neon chartreuse colors fills the background. All the “new” hype over catching crappie on crankbaits makes Ken Franklin just smile.
Mr. Ken, as he’s known all around Lake Enid, has long since retired and spends most of his days either hunting or fishing near his Hernando home.
And Franklin has long been a big fan of trolling crankbaits. He’s never doubted their effectiveness or their ability to catch crappie, especially on Lake Enid and especially this time of year.
He smiles because he owns several boxes of old-school crankbaits, most of which have lost their original paint because of hungry crappie chewing on them since the days when the young crappie guide in the magazine ad was still in diapers.
Mr. Ken agreed to be our guide this month as Mississippi Sportsman continues its quest to map out crappie hotspots across the state.
Like most everything in the fishing world, there’s nothing new under the sun, as Franklin describes these 10 spots that have been providing him with crappie for many years:
1. Wallace Creek Landing
N 34 09.842/W 89 53.188
Franklin backed his 21-foot fishing pontoon off the trailer at Wallace Creek. Instead of cranking the big motor, he announced that this is spot No. 1, and goes to the back of the pontoon and fires up the 2.5-horsepower Mercury kicker motor and begins unwinding his crankbaiting poles.
"Crappie spawn in the backs of all these creeks, especially Wallace, Bean and Long Branch," Franklin said. "By late May and the first of June, they start working their way out of the creeks toward the main lake and we’ll catch them trolling crankbaits right off the end of the ramp."
He begins by placing a 14-foot pole on each side of the pontoon, working his way toward the back with an 11-footer and then a 7-footer. Across the transom he places four 5-foot rods vertically in a specially made rack.
Through more homemade ingenuity, he’s attached a steering rod between the big motor and the kicker so he can steer the little motor with the main steering wheel.
"At this spot we’ll concentrate on trolling the mouth of the creek," Franklin said. "As the month wears on, they’ll leave the creek and move out to the main lake and eventually be in front of the dam, but early on this is a good place to catch them."
2. Bean Creek – Yocona Ridge
N 34 07.831/W 89 53.549
Bean Creek has a minimum depth of 12 feet during the month of June during most years when the flood-control lake is keeping pace with the rule curve established by the Corps of Engineers.
Like Wallace Creek straight across the lake, Franklin concentrates on fishing the mouth of Bean Creek.
"You might find them in 12 feet of water, or you might find them in 20 feet of water," he said. "When you do find them, you’ll pick up several fish at a time. Then it’s time to circle around and pull back through them again.
"With 100 feet of line out, it will take me 200 to 300 yards to get turned around, so you end up fishing the whole thing anyway."
3. Bean Creek – Persimmon Hill
N 34 07.975/W 89 53.785
Because he’s trolling crankbaits and covering a lot of water, there’s not much difference between fishing hotspot No. 2 and hotspot No. 3. The only real difference is how far the angler wants to travel by boat versus how far he wants to trailer the boat.
"With the number of ramps there are on this lake — and some creeks even have a ramp on each side — I may choose to put in at a closer ramp, especially if I hear they were biting better in Bean Creek than over at Wallace," Franklin said. "Usually for me it’s easier to put in at Wallace and motor across the lake than run farther down the interstate to get to the other side."
4. Long Branch
N 34 07.722/W 89 50.480
Franklin cautions that he likes to troll the mouth of Long Branch but won’t go much deeper into the creek than the marked coordinates near the Long Branch Boat Ramp.
For trolling crankbaits, he will work the mouth of the tributary and concentrate on the two long points that form the mouth of the creek.
"The trees you see toward the back of the creek are in 12 to 14 feet of water," he said. "It’s what you can’t see, the stumps before you get to the standing timber, that will cost you in terms of crankbaits."
Fortunately, Franklin is also set up to tight-line from the front of his pontoon, and claims that it’s common to still find post-spawn crappie around the underwater structure.
He suggests adjusting the depth to 8 to 10 feet, depending on the prevailing water temperatures, and slow-troll live minnows in and around the timber.
5. Standing Timber – Long Branch
N 34 07.383/W 89 50.166
"Stay out of here with crankbaits," Franklin said. "This spot is for tight-lining from up there (Spot No. 4) back to the bridge at Highway 32 that runs from I-55 into Water Valley."
When fishing this area, Franklin will roll up his crankbait poles, shut off the kicker motor, move to the front of the boat, set out his tight-line poles and drop the trolling motor.
Double minnow rigs are on the crappie menu here, and the veteran angler eases from side to side serving them up.
"The Long Branch Creek channel silted in years ago; it never was much of a defined channel to start with," Franklin said. "The best thing to do back here is work from stump to stump.
"Watch your depth finder and, when you see you’re over something on the bottom, just let it drift. Usually I might catch a fish or two on each stump; then I’m on to the next one."
6. Main Lake
N 34 09.570/W 89 48.473
Other than the fact that the big, blue sign on the bank matches up with the same number hotspot, Franklin said there is nothing special about the exact GPS location marked here except that he considers it the general eastern boundary that he will troll crankbaits to.
Even though there are seasonal fluctuations in water level, anything east of this point — which Franklin views more as a line if extended perpendicularly across the lake — is too shallow to effectively troll crankbaits.
"Generally, I won’t pull crankbaits unless I know I’ve got at least 12 feet of water under the boat," Franklin said. "This is also going in the wrong direction for summer fishing: As the water and the weather heats up, the crappie will head the other way toward the dam."
Franklin chose this spot, however, because it is highly visible from the middle of the lake — and that’s where he’ll be doing most of his trolling, working the edge of the old Yocona River channel.
As a point of more specific reference, Franklin makes a note of the Yocona River channel at N 34 09.286 / W 89 48.478 (a bonus spot) which is a somewhat arbitrary mark on the northern edge of the river channel.
"The old channel is more than 100 feet wide,and it drops from about 17 feet on the edge of the channel to about 24 to 25 feet down in the channel," he said.
7. Number 7
N 34 08.620/W 89 48.155
Keeping with the sign theme, spot No. 7 is also marked on the south side of the lake with a signpost bearing the number 7.
Franklin said the south bank is a little steeper, so he can often run closer to the shoreline without fear of hitting bottom.
"The long point off of that sign will hold a lot of crappie year round," he said. "Make sure you check it out and troll across it."
As if to punctuate his statement, we found a local couple "power trolling" the long point at No. 7.
Power trolling is somewhat of a hybridized version between trolling crankbaits out the back and "pushing" crankbaits, jigs or live bait from the front of the boat using heavy weights and long, limber poles to keep the lines vertical in the water.
"You’ll need to use your electronics to follow the channel because it’s anything but straight," Franklin sad. "It winds and twists its way all the way to the dam, and crappie will follow the channel edge when they decide to move down the lake."
8. Chickasaw Hills
N 34 09.603/W 89 49.637
Cutting back across the lake, spot No. 8 marks a long point extending off the northern shore from the boat ramp and campground at Chickasaw Hills out into deeper water.
Franklin said that long points are prime feeding areas for crappie early and late in the day.
"Tight-liners will camp out on these long points, while crankbait trollers need to make sure to crisscross the area to locate fish," he said. "Bear in mind that it shallows up pretty good on top of the point so you’re likely to hit bottom when trolling crankbaits, but there’s very little if any timber on the bottom here so even if you do hit bottom most of the time your crank baits will just skip across the sand."
A more effective tact might be to angle your trolling runs to allow crankbaits to work parallel to the edge of the points, and then turn once out in deeper water and work an angle along the other side of the point.
9. Plum Point
N 34 09.457/W 89 51.281
Franklin relates his spot at No. 9 to the Chickasaw mark, as it’s another long point that extends out into the main lake.
The big difference is that there’s much deeper water here.
"The point drops off into 27 feet of water here because the river channel swings right up next to the point," Franklin said. "This exact spot is where the point starts to drop off into the channel and, like anywhere else, that change in depth will attract crappie."
Franklin said there are actually two points in this location that are formed by a little drainage ditch runnings out from the McCurdy Point boat ramp.
10. Number 2 Point
N 34 09.427/W 89 52.179
The final location in Franklin’s top 10 crappie hotspots is on the north bank of the lake.
Like the previous two spots, it’s a long point extending into deeper water, but it offers the deepest water of the last three spots on the list.
"The river channel cuts diagonally across the lake from back there around No. 7 on the other side of the lake," Franklin said. "It runs up by the north bank off of this point, and then heads to the dam about two miles below here."
The Number 2 Point is steep and drops off into the river channel in over 30 feet of water. Naturally, Franklin trolls crankbaits all over this point until he catches a fish or two, and then he marks that specific spot on the point and makes more runs at it from other angles.
Tight-line anglers who are able to pinpoint where the fish have decided to hold along the point on that particular day can hover right over the top of them and catch them for as long as they’ll bite.
Franklin said it’s hard to go wrong with either approach.
"This is another area that will hold crappie just about year round," he said. "Its got good structure, a lot of bait fish and a variety of depths.
"I almost always find some fish here, except for when they move shallow in the spring to spawn."