• Bass, which should be blasting topwater baits along the shoreline, have already moved to deep cover where it takes a little more work to entice a bite.
• Crappie, which should be in post-spawn, have returned to their deep summertime haunts.
• Bluegill, which usually hit a peak spawn near the end of May or early June, bedded big-time on the early May "super moon" and are still shallow.
• Tripletail, which are usually summer arrivals on the coast, are already being found in the Mississippi Sound.
• Striped bass, which usually turn on in June along the humps in the middle of Barnett Reservoir, are up on top of those humps already.
"I don't think there's any doubt that fishing, all fishing, is about three weeks to a month ahead of schedule this year. I guess our mild winter and early spring caused it," said B.A.S.S. Elite series pro Pete Ponds of Madison, who was stupefied on Monday at a well-stocked farm pond in Hinds County. After spending 90 minutes pounding the banks at sunrise on an overcast morning, Ponds finally surrendered and moved out.
Switching to a weight-less whacky-rigged Senko worm, he picked up a couple of buck bass on points out from where bream beds could easily be smelled.
The action - and size - increased when he moved his boat out to the middle of the lake and used his electronics to find the creek channel. The fish-finders lit up with fish suspended over structure.
"Look at that, all those fish suspended about 5 or 6 feet in 12 feet of water," he said. "Now, how do we make them bite."
Crankbaits? No. Carolina rig? No.
Suspending jerk bait? Yep.
Ponds quickly caught two 5 pounders on the stick bait, and I topped it off with a 7 ½ pounder.
Statewide reports echo our results. The only shallow bass are bucks still hanging close to their spawning grounds. Fishing with soft plastic jerkbaits (Fluke-like), spinnerbaits and lizards are producing good numbers, but not big fish. The Tenn-Tom lakes at Aberdeen, Columbus and Aliceville have all been producing good shallow catches of small fish.
Crappie fishermen are also consistent in reporting big fish returning deep. At Sardis, Grenada and Enid (deep points), as well as Barnett Reservoir (river channel), trolling is beginning to produce the big post-spawn females where they usually aren't found until June or July.
"Hammered them Wednesday on river ledges while trolling crankbaits for striped bass," said Johnny Ferrell of Jackson. "I couldn't believe all the crappie. I eventually stopped pulling crankbaits and put out my crappie trolling poles and jigs and couldn't get a big crappie to hit. I must have caught about 100 throw-backs to every five keepers. Then I went back to crankbaits and I started catching more keepers."
The reason Ferrell couldn't find the stripers was he was fishing to deep.
Joe Watts of Canton moved off the river channel and started looking for the stripes 10-11 feet deep on flats or ridges surrounded by deeper water.
"Caught about 50, but only five over the 15-inch minimum," he said. "The key was finding the ridges that topped out at 10 feet or less. That's where I found shad, where I saw schools and where I caught fish. I heard about some schools of bigger fish but I just didn't find them."
Tuesday in Bay St. Louis, I hooked up with Capt. Sonny Schindler of Shore Thing Charters and got an unexpected bonus. "In addition to some of the best speck fishing we've had in years, the triple-tails are already in," he said. "We've got some early arrivals but the best is yet to come."
We missed on the only two triples we spotted, but all four Shore Thing Captains returned to port with fish boxes loaded with 17- to 18-inch trout.
"I like it when you don't have to measure the specks to make sure they're legal," said fisherman Bob Hammond of Hattiesburg. "Those are great speckled trout."