Some anglers seem to have a natural talent for catching certain kinds of fish. A lot of ink, prestige and cash are given to the casters who can wrangle in the biggest largemouth bass. At the professional level those guys even garner national sponsors providing boats, tackle, travel expenses, clothes and plenty of public relations. You'd think bass was the No. 1 freshwater fish in these parts.

Well, a lot of anglers think otherwise, and that includes one in particular. This fisherman hails from the North Brandon area, and is only a few miles from one of his favorite fishing spots - the Ross Barnett Reservoir. His name is Kerry French, and he is a crappie-catching slab slayer.

"I guess because I live so close to the Reservoir, it has become a favorite out of sheer proximity," he said. "Also I have spent so many hours and days on that waterway that I'm finally beginning to feel like I pretty well have it figured out in terms of crappie fishing - if that is ever possible.

"I usually put in either at Pelahatchie Bay or at the marina at Tommy's Trading Post near the Highway 43 bridge. From Tommy's, I can reach the Cane Creek area, which is littered with standing snag trees, stumps and a multitude of submerged cover.

"Sometimes this area can be dicey to navigate with a boat and motor. It's best to troll here taking your time bumping around the underwater logs and other debris. Work over every snag. It is not unusual to haul out three or four slabs in tight to this cover.

"Some of my other favorite areas for crappie include the causeway rocks out of Pelahatchie Bay. There are also the well-known and sometimes too-popular hotspots called the Oil Well, the Welfare Hole and Alligator Slough. If you can't find those on a localized fishing map, just ask around at the dock. In any event, as you travel up the river going north, be sure to fish every little cove you can boat into. Look for downed tree-top structure and submerged cover."

It has been widely reported that crappie are a highly light-sensitive fish. This is the reason, or so it is claimed, why crappie keep out of sight from open waters. They either stay in deeper water where light does not penetrate as well, or they hide out in heavy cover. That cover can either be submerged or semi-submerged.

"Crappie and snagging, hang-up cover go hand in hand," French said. "The list for the types of fishing structure preferred by crappie is fairly long, but in favor of those going after them the cover is fairly easy to find. They like natural and man-made brushpiles. A favored artificial cover is cedar trees or Christmas trees sunken in the lake with concrete blocks."

Look for the telltale signs of treetops sticking out of the water. Fresh cover will still be green on the tops. Crappie love to get up into the branches of this kind of cover, which can make fish retrieval a challenge sometimes. Be prepared to lose lots of baits.

"They hang out around both submerged stumps and old dead tree trunks or even live trees like willow or cypress," French said. "Flooded small timber can be terrific crappie territory. Crappie can be caught in a fury at times over rock piles and out from gravel beds that have sloughed off from high lake banks.

"Also when it comes to river and lake banks, take note of trees that might have recently toppled over into the water, perhaps having succumbed to erosion. The tops of these trees make exceptional crappie structure.

"I suppose if one equated the type of cover that cane-cutter swamp rabbits hide in then cover that with 10 feet of water, that would likely make ideal crappie fishery habitat.

"Naturally that's overstated, but my point is that crappie slabs are to be found in cover and sometimes pretty darn thick, nasty cover. But then that is what makes hauling a big black crappie out of chicken-wired, bird-nested treetops such fun. It's why I love crappie fishing so much.

"Asking a guy how he fishes for crappie is a little like asking how he hunts deer. It is not always a simple question. Everybody has their own way of doing these things regardless of the commonalities. I am a bit more methodical than most crappie anglers.

"First I like to troll. That is to say I move around all the time with my boat. Now if I hit a hotspot and drag out three, four or five slabs, I will hold in that general spot for a while. I might use my trolling motor to slowly cruise around in a big circle coming back by that same spot two or three times, giving it a little rest as I go around. This proves very effective.

"Next I probably overwork a section of crappie structure much more than the average crappie fisherman. I fish tight. I drop a shiner down in some submerged branches only for a short time. Then I pull it out to move it a foot over or so. This movement may attract the attention of a fish, but it also energizes the minnow into more action on the hook. I'll work a piece of structure up and down, all around then hit it again. This takes time, but it catches fish.

"Whenever I fish Ross Barnett on a good day, I'll get my limit. It may take a while and several crappie holes to do it, but I keep after it. To date, I have taken many slabs weighing 1½ to 2½ pounds. My largest to date that I have mounted at home tipped the scales at 3½ pounds. Now that's a slab.

"So, am I really a crappie fanatic? Well, I guess I am. Few things in life bring more simple joy to me than filling another stringer full of black crappie out of Ross Barnett Reservoir."