It’s July — thank goodness. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t be singing the praises of the coming Mississippi summer with all our hot weather, but, based on the last few months of unprecedented cold and windy conditions, I’m glad to see summer finally get here.

Seems to me that everything related to crappie fishing in the lakes I fish ran a month behind schedule this year. I fished a crappie tournament at Enid the first Saturday in May, and on T-Day we had ice on our boat seats!

I mean it’s been tough fishing weather for most of this year’s "spring." Raking ice off the boat seats in early May was not something we planned for. It’s been a tough spring, folks.

But, now, with this writing, it’s early June. In fact, right now, it’s the week after our annual State Championship tournament that was held on Barnett.

New State Champs

The Magnolia Crappie Club held our 21st Annual Magnolia Crappie State Championship tournament — a two-day event — on May 31 and June 1.

We had 38 teams from five states compete in this tournament. The wind blew like crazy, forcing most teams "up river."

Before the tournament, by accident and strictly trying to find a place out of the wind down in the main lake, I’d found some spawning fish on the main dam rocks down by the spillway. We pre-fished the rocks for several days before the tournament and were convinced that is where we needed to fish on T-Day.

The strong winds were consistently out of the south-southeast every day for several days, and the main dam provided us a windbreak, and we were catching good crappie that were still spawning.

And, no other team in the tournament — that we knew of — was pre-fishing the same water.

So our plan was to pull crankbaits along the main dam. Tommy and I caught lots of fish on the two days of the tournament; they just weren’t big enough. We finished in 12th place overall, placing in the money both days.

But, Rabbit Rogers and Pat Jeffcoats, both veteran Barnett fishermen, fished with one jig pole apiece with one naked jig on each pole in 25 to 50 of Rabbit’s "secret hotspots" and waxed every other team in the tournament.

It wasn’t really even very close.

They won both days, and their overall weight was a couple of kicker fish ahead of the second-place team of John Harrison of Calhoun City and Kent Driscoll of Atlanta, Ga.

Quite honestly, going into the Barnett Championship, most of us agreed that we were fishing for second place. Rabbit is "Mr. Barnett," and has been for decades, when it comes to fishing the big bad Rez.

Pat and Rabbit fought the windy conditions, and just did their thing.

When asked at the weigh-in what their secret strategy was, Rabbit said, "We made this real simple. We fished with one jig pole apiece with one bare, naked jig on each pole on my best spots.

"We’d catch one or two fish on each spot and move on to the next one. Pat put on a crappie nibble one time, and we didn’t catch a fish for the next 30 minutes. We ran and gunned from one hotspot to the next for two days."

The summer pattern shows up — all of a sudden

I’m a few days late turning in this column, and the reason I am is because the week immediately following our annual championship, the wind has diminished — GREATLY.

And, I’m on the lake every day, down in the big water, pulling cranks and catching the daylights out of huge slab crappie.

Ohhh, if only this pattern had come a week earlier. Tommy and I would have won the two-day event, hands down.

That’s my humble opinion, and I’m sticking to it.

Today, I fished with long-time veteran crappie fisherman Charlie Rice of Clinton.

"Paul, will you take me fishing one day and show me how to do that cranking stuff you talk about all the time?" he asked.

"Yeah, you bet, Charlie, meet me at Fannin Landing in the morning at sunup. Bring a cooler," I said.

Charlie and I fished from 6 a.m. until noon.

"Look, I really don’t want to clean this many fish," Charlie said about 10 o’clock. "Let’s don’t keep any more."

We caught them as fast as we could reel them in on deep- and medium-running cranks. Neither color nor brand of crank seemed to make any difference.

It was on, friend, is all I can tell you. I’m going early in the morning, too. I’ll finish this report after tomorrow morning’s fishing. The difference? Little to no wind, and all of a sudden the shad have shown up on my ledges in droves.

Honestly, Charlie and I got tired of reeling in one slab after another — multiple fish on my six trolling poles almost all morning long. Summer is great, ain’t it?

So, I’ve just come back from a wonderful morning of cranking on the Rez. Fished by myself this morning, and today was a carbon copy of yesterday. The very early bite was a little slow, but as soon as that sun got up a little, brother, it was on.

I wish I had taken somebody with me — I needed help. I mean the fish were biting — bam, bam, bam — one right after the other. I literally couldn’t keep up with six poles.

I had multiple crappie on practically all morning long.

Southeast wind picked up around 10 o’clock, and I called it a day. A very good day catching Barnett crappie as big as they grow on Bomber 6As, 4As, and Bandit 300s and 200s.

Y’all should come try some of this great early summer trolling action!