Ordinarily, my deadline for submitting each month’s “As Big As They Grow” column with Mississippi Sportsman is the first day of the month immediately preceding next month’s magazine issue date. I asked this time to be a week late, wanting to reference the Magnolia Crappie Club’s first tournament of the new 2014-15 season as the backdrop of this column.

I can’t truly say that waiting a week to get through the Wolf Lake tournament on Sept. 6 helped any with writing this month’s piece. In a word, the fishing at Wolf Lake in late September was “miserable.” It was hot. It was humid. It was within a couple of days of the full moon. And, the crappie didn’t bite, much.

Almost everyone who has tried fishing the river connected oxbows and lakes will agree that since the 500-year-flood three years ago crappie fishing has been down, way down. Wolf Lake is not directly connected to the Mississippi River, but, 3 years ago, it was.

The historic flood waters backed up the Yazoo River, which is connected to the Mississippi. And, eventually, those historically high waters inundated Wolf Lake and other lakes like it in the lower Mississippi Delta. The high waters brought the ever-increasing population of Asian carp into Wolf. And, that, along with a heavy increase of gar have just about ruined Wolf Lake.

I understand that Asian carp are strictly vegetarian filter feeders. That means they strain all the algae and plankton from the water. That’s devastating because the entire food chain which eventually feeds crappie and other predatory fish depends on a healthy supply of plankton and algae. I don’t pretend to know much about this ecological disaster, but it seems the Asian carp are certainly at the heart of the problem.

Point is that I don’t have much to report from Wolf Lake. The best stringer of seven was weighed by Charles Lindsay of Pelahatchie at 8.79 pounds. That’s awful, folks. My partner and I scored in the Top 10 with a paltry weight of seven fish at 6.48 pounds. That’s even worse, folks.

Seven fish were hard to come by on a day where the heat index eventually hit triple digits. I was surprised that the average weight was barely below a pound at .97 pounds. Shoot, I would have guessed that those “poor-looking” fish wouldn’t have weighed much more than hand-sized bream.

My new tournament partner, Ellis Bates of Fannin, and I pre-fished on Thursday and Friday before Saturday’s big tournament. We started out pulling crankbaits on Thursday morning. And, all we caught were gar — some really good ‘uns, too. We finally put up the trolling poles around 10:30 a.m. or so and broke out the jig poles fishing downed tops on the banks. We finally caught one keeper-sized crappie on a straight jig.

On Friday we went to the minnow store and tried slow trolling with 14 foot poles from our bow-mounted pole racks. Eventually, we found a few crappie suspended right out in the middle of the lake not close to any structure or shade. Even caught a 2-pounder on Friday.

So, it was an easy decision to make once we hit the shade tree Friday afternoon. Forget the cranks. Put the jig poles in the truck. Re-rig the “minner” poles and hit the “minner sto” in the morning for fresh minnows before we head to the lake. Look, we were really glad to finally put No. 7 in the boat on T-Day.

Let me just say, “Good-bye, Wolf Lake. I’ll be super glad to get on to the next tournament at Grenada, Oct. 25.”

Fall fishing at Grenada

Boy, let me tell you what! They tell me they’re burning it up at Grenada this fall catching monster-sized crappie on deep-running crankbaits. Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself. I know you know that I was telling one there. Heck, it’s not even fall, yet. It’s still very hot summertime.

But, I know two things. By the time our Grenada Big Mama Open tournament rolls around on Oct. 25, fall and cooler conditions will be upon us, and, if history repeats, some of the biggest fish of the year will be smacking magnum-size deep-running cranks. Trust me on that, friend.

Yes, there is a fall pattern for Mississippi’s crappie. They eat everything that swims by that they can get in their mouths. Shorter days, a lower angle of the sun, and cooler water temps signal those big mamas to feed up. Just like a bear, they know that winter is next in line and that an extra layer of fat will feel great once our water temperatures drop below the 50 degree mark.

Yes, they’ll eat a minnow or a jig fished 15 feet and deeper. And, yes, they’ll smack Bandits, Bombers, Wiggle Warts, Hot Shots, Fat Fish, Hellbenders and most any hard bait fished deep, too.

The annual Fall Big Mama at Grenada draws a crowd, folks. I expect us to have over 75 boats from 10 or 11 states in October. The tournament is open to all. No club membership required. Check the details at www.magnoliacrappieclub.com. I fully expect the fall pattern to be in full swing. Mark your calendar now.

And, if you can’t make the Big Mama Open, get out on the water of your favorite crappie lake. I’m telling you, friend, the fall action is incredible. Typically, you’ll be limited out before lunch catching ‘em as big as they grow as fast as you can.

Barnett is great in the fall. Try the main river channel edges from about the S-Curve on up to River Bend. We’re tournament fishing Enid in mid-November, and I can’t wait. I don’t believe I’ve tried crankbaits on Enid in November, ever, but I can’t wait to test my favorite way to catch a slab on a lake that is famous for its crankbait-friendly crappie. And, they tell me Okatibbee just out of Meridian is a really good fall lake. I keep seeing pictures of some pretty good looking Big O slabs. 

Come December I plan to hit Albermarle/Chotard. I may break out the minnow poles for that one — depends on how fast winter comes on. I can’t wait. It’s prime time, friend.