Learned something new the other day while preparing for a crappie tournament to be held on Sardis Reservoir. I learned the meaning of the term "turbidity level." Look, I was at the top of my vocabulary class when I was in grade school a hundred years or so ago, and I knew the word turbid. But I don't recall having the need to use "turbid" or "turbidity level" in day-to-day conversation. I know for a fact, that I've never written fishing articles using either of these terms.

Now, after fishing that Sardis tournament, I have a more-complete understanding of turbidity. Let me tell you about it.

As we were headed up to Sardis a couple of days before the early February Sardis tournament, I mentioned to my partner, "the turbidity level is as high as it gets on Sardis right now."

"What are you talking about?" asked my tournament partner, Tommy Moss of Brandon.

"Well, you see, partner, this here high turbidity level is going to make catching these things more difficult. Why, it's so turbid we'll need to knock 'em in the head just to get their attention. Don't be surprised if the fish are real close to the surface. High turbidity levels probably make 'em come to the top of the water column. I'd say we'd do best using orange-colored jigs, hooks and lures. Yes, sir, that high turbidity level is going to make it tough to get a bite."

"So it's muddy, real muddy," my brighter-than-the-average-bear partner replied. "Why didn't you just say it's muddy?"

Friends, if you want to know how muddy Sardis is, go online to the following Web site: www2.mvr.usace.army.mil/WaterControl/new/layout.cfm. There and only there you'll find that Sardis and only Sardis (in the entire state of Mississippi) reports "turbidity" levels.

How muddy was it, you ask? Well, on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being so turbid you can't see the minnows in your minnow bucket after dipping up a bucket full of lake water, the turbidity levels at Sardis were in the mid-90s. Turned out that on the actual day of the tournament the turbidity level dropped to a recorded level of a mere 58.70 - that means, we could barely see the minnows in our minnow bucket on T-Day.

Muddy was not the word for it, friend. It was way past muddy; more on the high turbid side, I'd say. I looked at the history of Sardis for the last 365 days with a keen eye toward its turbidity level. That is, I wanted to see when Sardis clears up. And, it does - clear up, that is. Why just last September, the turbidity gauge never made it out of the single digits. I'm a'guessin' that would be what we'd generally refer to as "gin clear," or if you're not a drinking man, "clear as well water." Although, I've drawn some well water that certainly wasn't "gin clear" - haven't you?


Great Sardis tournament

Brother, listen to me. Seventy-five or so of the most-insane and intense crappie fisherpersons - men, women, boys, and girls - gathered, shivering in the only hour of sun and dry weather on T-Day at the weigh-in line at our Sardis tournament.

As it turned out, muddy water was the least of our problems. Man, you know you're crazy when you get in the boat with the temps in the low 30s and rain clouds on the horizon. We had just enough time to get to our first fishing spot, put out our minnow poles and get our rain suits on before the first of many showers hit us.

Interestingly, 35 teams came to Sardis from six different states, including Illinois, Kentucky, Colorado, Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi. Wow! Mississippi crappie fishing in cold, turbid water, on a cold and wet day is quite the thing, I guess.

Now, here's the great news: The Sardis crappie didn't seem to mind the conditions one bit. I've rarely seen so many over-2-pound crappie weighed at one place at one time. Man, you want to talk about some fat, healthy Big Mamas - Grenada has nothing on Sardis right now.

From personal experience, I can tell you that even the 12-inch fish we had to measure would not fit in our crappie-measuring boards - neither the clear plastic one nor the bigger green one was thick enough to let these little footballs in.

Seriously fat, thicker-than-ever slabs, one right after another came on board out of that 42-degree muddy, and I mean MUD-DY, water.

To give you a pattern would be difficult. Some teams caught good fish in water over 20 feet deep fishing as deep as 12 to 14 feet deep. Others stayed in water less than 12 feet deep catching good fish no deeper than 5 to 6 feet.


New crappie rules on Sardis

Be aware of the new fishing rules for Sardis taking effect in mid-March, I think. Size limit is being reduced to 10 inches, and creel limits are being reduced to 15 crappie per person per day and 40 total per boat for those boats that have three or more people on board. Go to www.mdwfp.com for up-to-date changes in the Sardis laws.

Based on what I saw at Sardis, I have no clue why the MDWFP thinks it's necessary to change the crappie fishing laws at Sardis. Let me tell you what: Every fish caught and weighed was fatter and healthier than any crappie we've encountered on T-Day in a long time, and remember that the weather conditions and the water conditions were awful, absolutely awful.

Our December Eagle Lake tournament produced some wall-hangers, too, and that lake needs some attention from MDWFP because people are breaking the law at Eagle every single day.

John Harrison from Calhoun City, a "pro-fessional" guide on all the COE lakes, fished by himself and won the Sardis event with seven slabs weighing over 16 pounds. Congrats, John. That being said, all of us who tuffed it out, caught one or two "as big as they grow."

You should give Sardis a try if you're after some heavy pre-spawn slabs, friend. Check the turbidity gauge before you go, then pay it no mind, and go fishing anyway.