Summer in Mississippi — you either love it or you shrink from it. Only the hardiest, die-hard crappie fishermen tackle the brutal Mississippi summer conditions.
Trust me, with heat indexes above the century mark, few of us even think about going to the lake to catch a crappie.
Veteran Ross Barnett crappie angler, Rabbit Rogers — winner, with the assist from tournament partner Pat Jeffcoats of Brandon, of the 2013 Magnolia Crappie State Championship — makes the summer pattern on the Rez work for him.
At Barnett, once summer sets in, a thermocline in the main lake kicks in. The thermocline will range from 8 to 13 feet deep, depending on water temp, wind, current caused by fresh water, and sunshine or cloudy conditions.
The Barnett thermocline works for Rogers and others in the know because it helps predict where the crappie will be suspended. You see, below the thermocline, there is very little oxygen, so crappie live above the thermocline, in oxygen-rich waters.
Your fish finder will show you the thermocline if you turn the sensitivity high enough. It’s easy to see and to learn.
Ever fish with minnows in the summertime and notice that after only a few minutes they are dead on the hook? Yes, you have — so have I.
Friend, you’re fishing below the thermocline.
Crank it up a little. Crappie are not deep in the summer. Crappie in your lake are located just above the thermocline.
At Barnett that can mean the best catches come from less than 6 feet.
Lake Washington is another prime example of the shallow bite in the summer. Every summer when the thermometer hits on that 100-degree mark, you can catch all you want, as big as they grow, fishing no deeper than 5 to 6 feet deep. Many locals, who have learned this over the course of time fish no deeper than 3 feet deep in the hottest part of the summer.
Cranking in the summer
Y’all know me. I love to crankbait during the summer months. And, I want you to know that the summer is my least-favorite time to crankbait. Why? It’s too damn hot.
My favorite time to crankbait is in the fall. Look, I’m old, and the older I get the harder it is for me to convince myself that I need to be doing anything outdoors when the temps reach the century mark and when the A/C is working perfectly fine.
Here’s my advice: Go to the lake at sunup. Pull crankbaits wherever the shad are located. Fish until it starts getting hot, and then head to the boat ramp and the shade tree.
Although July 5 on Barnett was not extraordinarily hot — in fact with the scattered clouds and the breeze, it was a very enjoyable morning — I hit the shade tree before noon.
I had caught a really good mess of summer crappie. Some big-bodied slabs — I mean these suckers wouldn’t fit in the measuring board. Other states only dream of such slabs. Here, in Mississippi, especially at Barnett, it is a common occurrence to catch these humongous, wont-fit-in-the-measuring board white perch.
During the last three weeks, I’ve pulled crankbaits 10 days or so. I had one bad morning — July 4 — where Herman Duckworth of Magee and I only caught one keeper crappie. Admittedly, Herman and I quit early. We were back at Fannin Landing, on the trailer and under the shade tree by 9:30. Our intention was to dodge the Fourth of July crowd.
I went back the next morning, knowing that we did not give it my best shot yesterday. I thought long and hard about it the night before — dreamed about it. Where did Herman and I go wrong? We caught a peach basket full of little-bitty catfish, but we only caught one crappie.
Light bulb moment: You dummy, you aren’t following your own advice. Herman and I fished below the thermocline. Today, before launching the boat, I changed every crankbait from deep-running (11 to 13 feet deep) to medium-running (8 to 10 feet deep) models. I fished in exactly the same places, on exactly the same ledges and at the same speed.
And I had one of the best mornings this year. I’m talking about I caught slabs as big as they grow — hey, I tried to measure one or two of them, and they wouldn’t fit into the measuring board.
Brother, that’s a good ’un.
I wanted to call Herman, who was camping out for the weekend at Goshin Springs, but I left my phone at home. Dadgumit, Herman, you’ll have to come on back and get in the boat with me another day this summer. Remind me to bring the medium-running crankbaits.
Fannin Landing is open
Thank you, Barnett Rez officials. The new boat launch ramps at Fannin Landing are great. Perhaps built a little steep for my personal taste and boat and trailer, but we definitely have a much-needed new access point to Barnett.
Let me add that I surely hope you do not chop down the wonderful shade provided by the trees closest to the old ramps. Look, that’s the last place on the entire Rez where a feller can come off the lake, and seek solace and comfort under the shade, with the breeze blowing, while he fixes his crappie poles dreaming of a better tomorrow. We need to keep those shade trees!
New tournament season
The nation’s largest crappie club, our very own Mississippi-based Magnolia Crappie Club, begins our new year. We’ve set our 2013-14 Tournament Schedule. Hope you will join us.
See www.magnoliacrappieclub.com for more information.
2013-14 Magnolia Crappie Club Tournament Schedule
Sept. 21 — Grenada Big Mama Open
Oct. 19 — Wolf Lake
Nov. 16 —Sardis Reservoir
Dec. 14 — Eagle Lake
Jan. 11 — Chotard Lake
Feb. 22 — Lake Washington
March 15 — Grenada Reservoir
April 12 — Barnett Reservoir
May 3 — Enid World’s Largest Crappie Tourn.
2-Day State Championship in June TBA