Handling five to eight fishing poles with tips bent each from the weight of fish on all at the same time is some pretty good fishing action. In fact, it's the most fever-pitched crappie action this angler has ever run into.

The time of this crappie frenzy was March last year, and the location was one of the best crappie fisheries in the state known as Enid Reservoir. These two coincidences afford the bet that perhaps now is the time to repeat history in this regard.

You're obviously an outdoors enthusiast, or you would not be reading this. Then you know that sometimes a really good Plan B often works out better than the original Plan A. That's exactly what happened in this case.

It started out as a turkey hunting trip on the Delta Hills of Tallahatchie County that went flat due to some influential hens and their control over every gobbler we came into contact with.

Party to this gig was Preston Pittman of Pittman Game Calls, Radale Reed of Longleaf Camo, one of the trip sponsors along with Mike Jones and Nick Tarlton of the Mississippi Development Authority's Division of Tourism.

With the turkey hunting not panning out, Jones made a few quick calls to put Plan B into action.

Showing up to save the day was a trio of crappie-fishing fanatics from BnM Poles of West Point. I mean, after all, these guys are in the business of producing a wide spectrum of panfish poles, reels and accessories, so you gotta naturally figure they know how to crappie fish.

Enid Reservoir was nearest our host accommodations at Paradise Lodge west of Charleston, so opting out for a little crappie fishing was a no-brainer.

Crappie-catching platforms

"With a lake this big, one naturally assumes a boat is the primary fishing platform and that would be right," said Steve Coleman, six-time National Crappie Champion from Tiptonville, Tenn. "And not because it is a requirement, but simply because of the flexibility it gives the angler to move back and forth from area to area or to troll around a hotspot until the cooler is full."

Coleman is a member of the BnM Pole Company Pro Team, but on that day, he had not crappie fished Enid in 15 years, but rather easily led the way to the entire group, nearly filling the creel limit of 20 crappie each. With six anglers in three boats, we were only shy of the day limit by a few fish. The bonus part was that many of the slabs went over 2 pounds.

Today's fishing boats are technological marvels as were the ones used by the BnM team, but one sees these kinds of boats everywhere on the lake. All have big engines for quick lake travel and foot-controlled trolling motors. They are rigged out with modern electronics, including computerized sonar reading the lake bottom terrain, depth finders, water temperature monitors, compasses and GPS's to lock in the crappie hotspots.

On the bow of Coleman's boat were set up two fixtures capable of handling four poles per angler on each side of the boat. The 2008 regulations allowed five poles per fisherman, but that might change this year as could the creel limit and minimal fish size of 12 inches. Be sure to check that out on line or at the lake office before fishing in order to be legal.

Of course, none of this elaborate gear is necessary. Anglers were spotted with chest waders standing in 2 feet of water casting for crappie from the shore. Others were easing along the edges in smaller flat-bottomed johnboats getting the job done just as well in terms of hauling crappie aboard. In some areas, too, anglers can fish right from the bank.

Slab rigs

"There is nothing in this world but one thing I would rather do than turkey hunting, and that is fishing for crappie," Pittman said. "Enid Lake is an ideal crappie fishery with plenty of shoreline fish habitat to work and a fish population second to none.

"Basically all it takes is some simple gear, select bait rig choices and fishing time. We used an ultra-lightweight 14-foot, three-piece BnM crappie jig pole with their factory engineered spinning reel designed just for crappie fishing. These poles can really reach out into the structure, and are perfect for setting out multiple poles."

Another angler, Steve Coleman, explained what worked for him.

"The morning before we fished, I tried out a number of different baits, and finally settled on a pretty standard weighted crappie type jig hook onto which I slipped a plastic skirt tube in chartreuse color," he said. "Then I hooked on a silver minnow up through its lower jaw so it would live longer, look more natural and maintain live action. Man, this worked from the get-go. It was the final selection we used to catch all those slabs in the afternoon."

Of course, there are a bazillion crappie jigs, and other baits for white perch that can prove just as successful. The usual trick, though, is finding the right one that fish will bite on that day under the water conditions at that time and place. Most fishermen carry a pretty comprehensive stock of crappie baits, jig and skirt colors, and in various configurations, often switching them out after a short trial until just the right combination starts to produce fish.

Tactics and hotspots

"In the spring, especially March and April, the crappie normally seem to be holding out in shallow water with plenty of fishing structure," Reed said. "The underwater habitat could be submerged trees, manmade cover like the many weighted cedar trees placed in Enid Lake, grassy bottoms, holes, stumps or ditch depressions. This is where modern sonar can pick up bottom landscapes as well as fish silhouettes for picking out prime fishing areas."

On a big lake like Enid, the best place to start looking for crappie always seems to be up into the cove areas or around visible structure protruding above the water line. These are good places to start. As mentioned, Enid has a lot of cedar trees showing out of the water in many areas. These were placed by fisheries managers to provide cover for crappie and other fish.

"We started out in water depths of only a couple feet, but most of the fish were caught in water more shallow than that," Coleman said. "I found a grass field not 200 yards off the shoreline at Billy's Creek on the south side of the lake. There is also a trough running through the area holding crappie as well."

This grass area proved to be the big winner on the day we fished. It produced the fishing action noted in the opening. At one time, I had two poles under my armpit, both with fish on, and one in the other hand.

Coleman had his hands full, too. He was taking fish off the hook and putting on new shiners as fast as he could. When the action finally slowed a bit, I would go behind the seats to pick up all the flopping slabs to put them in the cooler. That happened more than once.

Another good place to fish on Enid is around the edges of the dam. It may sound unfair to other anglers, but fish where other people fish. Boats are always hanging out around the dam, especially along the cover on the shallow south end. Fish from cover to cover, moving around until you hit a hotspot. Work it over good, and then move on. That's crappie fishing at its best.

Enid Reservoir is indeed a crappie factory. This has been proven year after year. All one has to do is to check out all the out-of-state license plates on the trucks and boat trailers crowded in the boat-ramp parking lots. Those folks wouldn't come all the way to Mississippi to crappie fish unless the lake was one of the best in the country. In this case, Enid Lake may just be the best.