Scott Vance scanned his LCR and maneuvered along the submerged creek channel in Okatibbee Lake about 15 miles west of Meridian, working jigs tipped with crappie niblets in 9 feet of water.
Suddenly, a rod surged downward and a magnum-sized crappie struck hard.
Vance, of Collinsville, set the hook and started the fish towards the boat. The massive crappie fought like a lunker bass, thrashing from side to side in a valiant effort to rid itself of the stinging hook. Vance finally wore the fish down just long enough to net it and put it in the boat.
“That was the largest crappie I caught on Okatibbee last year and he went 2 pounds, 3 ounces,” said Vance. Though that wouldn’t be unusual by Sardis and Grenada Lakes standards, it was a bona fide monster for Okatibbee Lake, a much smaller flood control project.
Vance usually spends a couple weeks or more at the world famous Grenada Lake fishery fishing for pre-spawn crappie, but is able to fish the 3,800-acre Okatibbee just a few miles from his home.
“Last year I caught five that weighed over two pounds during the spring at Okatibbee Lake,” Vance said. “I hadn’t done that in a long time, but I think it’s a result of taking the 10-inch minimum off of the crappie at Okatibbee. The lake was overpopulated with small fish so it has really helped the crappie fishing by taking out a lot of the smaller ones.”
Vance likes to fish for pre-spawn and spawning crappie, but he takes a slight different approach than the traditional shallow water crappie angler.
“I like to fish the drop offs near the spawning areas and I’ll usually work the creek channels in 9 to 10 feet depths and push jigs tipped with minnows, or crappie nibbles while working from stump to stump,” Vance said. “My fishing partner, Steve Jordan, caught many bass on the lake’s submerged stumps and creek channels and won many tournaments back in his younger years and now we’ve put that knowledge of the lake’s bottom to use crappie fishing.
“I’ve got an aerial map of the lake taken when it was drained down real low the last time, and we’ll use that along with GPS coordinates of the creek channels and stumps when searching for crappie.”
In fact, Vance targets pre-spawn and spawning crappie that stage on the submerged creek drop-off areas along stumps and even on stumps.
“The larger crappie will spawn deeper, so I never go shallower than 7 to 8 feet deep,” said Vance. “And we’ll catch them 3 to 5 feet deep over the stump beds and sometimes even catch spawning crappie in 9 feet of water. I’ve caught spawning perch off of stumps 9 feet deep and they’ll have eggs running out of them when I bring them in.
“Most of the folks will head to the shallowest water that they can find, but we’ll work the creek channels and ledges and catch a lot of pre-spawn fish that are staging while other fish are spawning. There’s always a transition during March and the fish are in all stages of spawning, both pre- and post-spawn and we’re hitting areas that aren’t beat to death.”