When it comes to crappie fishing, Mississippi takes a backseat to no other.
Just look at Fishhound.com, a popular industry website. On its latest list of the Top 50 crappie lakes, the Magnolia State has the No. 1 hotspot, Grenada Lake, and two others in the Top 10, No. 5 Sardis Lake and No. 6 Barnett Reservoir.
It doesn’t stop there, either. There’s No. 11 Pickwick Lake, No. 13 Enid Lake, No. 17 Lake Washington and No. 19 Arkabutla Lake.
That’s seven out of the Top 20, over a third of the waters included.
Fishhound.com based its choices by surveying individuals in the fishing industry as well as many of the top crappie anglers in the country.
Mississippi is fortunate to have been so well represented in this report. But, then, isn’t this really something most crappie anglers in the Magnolia State know already?
Sure we do, and, apparently, so does the rest of the country.
If you check the license plates on vehicles and boat trailers in the parking lots of these lakes especially in the spring and fall fishing months, you would see plates from all over the United States. These lakes are that good and that well known.
So, what better time to capitalize on these lakes being named to the Top 10 in the country than now to do a review of them one more time. Could it be possible that there are crappie fishing people out there in our midst that are not familiar with these lakes and their white perch potential?
Before we start the specific lake reviews though, keep in mind that all three of these lakes are what we refer to as reservoirs and are the state’s largest.
Two of the three, Grenada and Sardis, are under the jurisdiction and control of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The third, Barnett Reservoir, is managed by a state agency, the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District.
They comprise three-fifths of the I-55 fishing corridor, along with Enid and Arkabuta, helping the highway live up to the nickname once given all interstate highways — Super Slabs.
Grenada Lake is only five miles east of I-55 from the City of Grenada on Mississippi Highway 8. The infrastructure of the lake includes 35,820 acres of water surface at normal water levels.
This reservoir has 12 boat ramps available, all concrete with asphalt overlay in very good condition. Adjacent parking areas are ample enough for numerous big trucks with trailers. Security should not be an issue either. The Corps has done this facility right, which is another reason it remains so popular.
Grenada Lake’s moniker “Home of the 3-Pound Crappie” is well deserved. Highly successful angler Ronnie Capps caught seven crappie on Grenada over three pounds each in five days of fishing. The heaviest one was a 3.66-pound whopper.
Favorite lures on Grenada include jigs in the main colors of pink or a black with chartreuse, with or without added minnow chasers. Silver shiner minnows work well, too, when the slabs are hungry and hitting hard.
Don’t go fishing on Grenada without some fresh minnows in the bucket.
“The most popular areas to drop a jig on Grenada Lake are the creeks flowing into the lake,” said B’n’M Poles Pro Team angler Steve Coleman of Tiptonville, Tenn. “The best ones go by the names of Redgrass, Wolf, Perry, and Turkey Creek. If I don’t hit slabs in one area, then I will move through the others. It is rare not to connect on crappie in these traditional hotspots.”
On the shore of Grenada Lake is Hugh White State Park with all the amenities one would expect of a quality state-operated facility. A lot of out-of-state fishermen will stay at the park to be close at hand to the fishing. You can contact the park for information or reservations at (662) 226-4934 or check out the state parks web site at www.mdwfp.com.
At 31,000 acres of water surface, Sardis is another large body of water. It sits nine miles east of the I-55 from Sardis. Coming from the north, take Mississippi Highway 315. From the south, take Mississippi Highway 35 east from Batesville.
Batesville has all the accommodations and support services needed for a fishing trip to Sardis Lake, which is an hour south of Memphis.
Sardis has a well-established history for producing good crappie slabs. It is a lake that is often reported to yield consistent limits of slabs. That may be why many anglers choose it over some other lakes in Mississippi.
I have heard, too, that waterfowl hunters in the fall also favor Sardis because of the fine Sardis Waterfowl area on the northeast end of the reservoir. It’s a safe bet that in the winter, duck hunters find time to drop a hook in some tree cover in a bit deeper water in the hopes of adding some slabs to the basket for a combo trip.
Like Grenada, Sardis also has a dozen boat ramps strategically located all around the lake for easy access to the water, and it has John W. Kyle State Park on its banks. Kyle has camping spots, cabins, lodge, boat rental, laundry facilities and more. Contact the park at (662) 487-1345.
Different from Grenada, crankbaits are the preferred lure for most anglers. Trolling small-bodied, deep-diving crankbaits near the mouths of the major creeks draining into the lake is a leading pattern.
The popular creeks include Hurricane, Toby Tubby, Clear, Greasy, and Blackwater. Crappie seem to like the flow of fresh water coming into the main body of the lake. Always keep that in mind when crappie fishing on a reservoir.
At 33.000 acres, Barnett Reservoir is another sizeable lake, but is easily manageable to fish once you get your bearings around the place.
Located about 10 miles north of Jackson, The Rez is easy to find from the Natchez Trace, Mississippi Highway 43 from Canton, or Mississippi Highway 471 off State Highway 25 from Flowood.
Sporting goods and tackle shops surround The Rez, and Flowood, Ridgeland and Madison have ample hotels and restaurants to suit your needs with no security issues noted.
Being a top recreation choice for the Metro Jackson area, the lake can be very busy on weekends, and despite having over 20 boat ramps available, the most popular ones can be hectic. Expect plenty of pontoon boats, jet skis, and powerboats in the area.
Fish during the week if you can, especially during the March/April spawn.
Unlike Sardis and Grenada, cover plans a huge part in finding crappie. The lake is full of it, from shallow stump flats and vegetation for spawning and standing timber and old sloughs and lakebeds. During the prespawn, hot crappie areas include the Pelahatchie Creek channel in Pelahatchie Bay, and the many sloughs along the old river bottom covered by the lake and the smaller pools, ponds, or lakes you can access off the main lake body.
“Look for visible structure that you can easily spot like the standing tree trunks and stumps in the area known as the Oil Well Woods Field just south of Tommy’s Trading Post on Highway 43, which has a dock and ramp situated right on the lake,” says Mark Cockrell of Brandon. “Ease into these structure areas watching depths and engine prop levels. You can hit stuff in these areas with the boat and prop, so go easy.
“Drop your jigs or minnows down in beside these stumps and trees. You can either just float around with the waves, or maintain boat control with your trolling motor moving along at a slow pace. If you hook a fish, then work that area thoroughly.”
Wind can dictate where to fish on any given day, and, thankfully, The Rez’s layout provides safe haven for most any wind. A south wind puts a lot of boats along the main dam in March (pre-spawn) and April (spawn). The riprap there attracts and holds fish. The Northshore Causeway roadbed and riprap offers the same situation on east/west winds.
Crappie anglers on Barnett use jigs with minnows in tow and also spider rigs with jigs. If the water is dingy use bright jigs. If it is clear, then try darker colored jigs including black.
Other crappie structure on Ross Barnett includes a lot of floating aquatic vegetation such as lily pads. You can fish shallow or deep, but work over the riprap cover and the ledges. You’ll find Barnett a pleasant lake to fish if you stay away from the skiers and jet craft.
Mississippi is proud to receive the recognition of having three prime lakes as being tops in the country for crappie fishing. Why not start planning to fish them this year to cash in on these recommendations?
Just stock up on oil for frying fish. You’re going to need it.