Your best bet for catching a 3-pound crappie is at Grenada Lake this month. Here’s an expert’s advice on where to find them and how to catch them.
Grenada Lake. To anyone who has ever dreamed of catching a monster crappie, the name speaks for itself. Day in and day out, Grenada Lake probably produces more trophy-sized crappie than any other fishery in the country. Fish over 3 pounds are so common at Grenada that the local tourism board has nicknamed the lake “The Home of the 3-Pound Crappie.” Grenada’s fertile waters and intensely managed fishery have become a nationwide success story.
To increase the chances of catching a wall-hanging crappie, add the month of March to the equation. March means big fish time, when roe-laden females are at their heaviest of the year and invade the shallow waters of Grenada Lake to spawn.
Our guide this month as we collect 10 hotspots for catching that trophy crappie is Calhoun City guide John Harrison. While providing Mississippi Sportsman with some of his favorite crappie fishing spots, Harrison had some advice on locating fish.
“Grenada is a shallow, flood-control lake, water levels are never stationary on Grenada,” he said. “More than any other factor, water levels determine where you will find crappie. Bear in mind that a spawning crappie will go as far as water levels will let him.”
In light of this advice, Harrison stressed that the first four spots in the listing would require a water level of 217 to fish and would be most productive during the typical spring levels of 217 to 221. He suggested that anglers concentrate on underwater structure such as stumps and deadfalls on the creek channels leading to these areas if water levels were less than 217 and to boat or wade farther inland into the shallow flooded cover in times of higher water.
1. Red Grass Islands – East N33 48.528/W89 37.841
Spot No. 1 is named for Redgrass Creek that flows off the Yalobusha arm of Grenada some 500 yards to the north. This location marks one of the many islands located on either side of a ditch that runs south of the creek. Pay particular attention to the live cypress trees and ironwood bushes that will be flooded when the water rises in the spring.
“The males will be up in those bushes building nests in the tangle of roots while the females will hold off in the ditch right on the first drop off closest to the nest,” said Harrison.
Harrison only uses two tactics when fishing these islands, which are scattered across the southern bank of the Yalobusha. The first is a single pole tactic, jigging the bases of the trees, from the front of his boat. The second tactic is identical, only instead of fishing from the boat, he dons a pair of waders and wades through the area.
2. Red Grass Islands – Northeast N 33 48.707/W 89 37.882
The ditch that separates this island point from spot No. 1 makes it impossible to wade from one location to the other. This little pocket on the backside of the island is thick with cypress trees and live laydowns. Typically, Harrison will boat from one area to the next, tie up the boat and wade fish the entire area before moving to the next spot.
“My favorite time to wade is the second week of March when the water temperatures begin to warm into the high 50’s,” he said.
During the spring spawn, crappie will push the edge of the water levels as the waters rise from spring rains. Many anglers claim they have seen crappie roll over on their sides to get across shallow ridges for the flooded water on the other side so don’t rule out any water as too shallow.
Chest waders are preferred over hip waders for wading in broken terrain or if the water depths are unknown. An 8 or 9 foot moderately stiff fishing rod is a must for wade fishing to reach back into the denser areas. Rods with good backbone help maneuver hefty fish out of heavy cover.
3. Red Grass Islands – North N33 48.469 /W 89 38.624
Hot spot No. 3 is separated from spots 1 and 2 by a wide, shallow bay that is fed by an intermittent stream. Despite bordering wetlands to the south and east, this location comprises good hard bottom that Harrison indicates makes for ideal wade fishing.
“Having good hard bottom is necessary so you don’t bog down,” he said. “That allows you to work around each tree and jig it thoroughly.”
Typical of the other islands, the root systems under each tree are likely to hold 12 to 15 crappie in each tree. Harrison suggests not getting in a hurry. Crappie may be densely packed. You may not get a bite in one spot but moving the jig a couple of feet in any direction may elicit a vicious strike from a bedding crappie.
4. Old Grenada Hwy 8 N 33 48.387/W 89 38.948
Hot spot No. 4 is the old paved road that used to run to Grenada before the lake was impounded. Harrison claims that when the water is right, you can spend an entire day wading down the road and fishing one side, then turn and wade back fishing the other side.
“That asphalt holds heat,” he said, “and it’s broke up in places big enough for crappie to back into and spawn. Trash washes up against the road bed so that gives you warmer water, structure, and a defined drop-off that will hold tons of fish.”
On occasion while wading down the old road, Harrison will flip the jig out and let it swing out over the drop-off where big females will hold while waiting for the nest to be completed by the males.
5. Red Grass Islands – West N 33 49.034/W 89 39.695
Moving further west down the Yalobusha arm, the last of what Harrison refers to as the Redgrass Islands are located on a large rounded point near the intersection of Redgrass Creek and the main Yalobusha channel. Because the water in this area tends to be a little deeper than points further east, Harrison prefers to stay in the boat to fish the visible cover. Owing in part to the deeper water, the trees tend to be spread further apart which makes it easier to access by boat. He also opts for a longer rod than his 9-foot wading rod.
“I use an ultra light jig pole when I’m in the boat,” he said. “The pole is 11 feet long and gives me better reach than the shorter rod I use when wade fishing.”
Harrison’s bait of choice, regardless of whether he’s boating or wading is a 3-inch Mister Twister Sassy Shad in chartreuse and black. This bait is fished on an orange 1/8 ounce jighead.
“Big fish want big baits,” said Harrison. “That Sassy shad may look like a mouthful but you look at the mouth on one of these big white crappie and you’ll see that bait will easily fit in there.”
6. Pecan Orchard Hollow — N33 49.579/W89 37.787
Across the lake on the northern bank of the Yalobusha, hotspot No. 6 consists of two ditches that intersect and run back into an old pecan orchard. One ditch comes in from the north and the other comes in from the northeast. Ditches and channels play almost as important a role in spawning for crappie as the spawning structure itself.
“Fish move into here out of the river by following these ditches,” said Harrison. “During the pre-spawn in February, you can slow troll in these ditches and catch fish staging. In high water, you’ll find the females holding along the channel while the males are on the beds.”
Based on water levels, Harrison will choose to either wade or fish from the boat in accordance to how high the water is on the standing structure.
“The old pecan orchard back in the hollow will flood if the water gets high enough, but there are plenty of cypress trees and ironwood bushes that have grown up between here and there,” he said. “This hollow is like a natural funnel and crappie will run it all the way to the back.”
7. Upper Rattlesnake — N33 49.625/W 89 38.179
Deeper water along the north bank of the Yalobusha make hotspot No. 7 a good spot for trolling for crappie because of all the cover along the bank. Harrison says the water typically runs 6 to 8 feet deep but urges anglers let lines out no more than 3 to 4 feet deep to keep from hanging in the brush. He suggests trolling along parallel to the outside edges of the green bushes.
If water levels get to 217 msl or better, Harrison says Upper Rattlesnake, so named because “someone at sometime in the past must have seen a rattlesnake in there,” is also a good wading location.
“It’s thick, you’ll have to push your way back into the bushes but if the water’s back there, the crappie will be back there too,” he said.
8. Lower Rattlesnake — N33 49.663/W89 38.372
The exact coordinates for hotspot No. 8, Lower Rattlesnake, put you on the creek channel that runs from the main river back up into the woods. Major structure in the form of stakebeds put out by local anglers is prevalent in the creek channel. Harrison advises anglers to pick up the channel edge wherever the water level is and slow troll double minnow rigs along it during late February and into early March. Hotspots 8-10 lie chronologically going west down the north bank of the Yalobusha moving toward the main lake.
“The further you move down the Yalobusha, the longer it takes the water to warm up to spawning temperature,” said Harrison. “The benefit of this is that when you find the right water temperature, you can follow it down the lake as time goes by and stay in the good fishing.”
Once the spawn gets underway, Harrison will choose to either wade fish or single pole jig the trees in the very back of the creek.
9. Choctaw Landing — N33 49.633/W89 38.835
Public access to Grenada Lake can be a problem in low water conditions. Choctaw Landing nearly always has water at all stages because it’s been dredged out to the river. The Landing makes the list as hotspot No. 9, not because of the access, but because of the fish holding potential of the two cuts on either side of the landing, most of which gets bypassed by anglers who put in there.
“One week last spring, I caught my limit seven days in a row without ever having to crank the big motor,” said Harrison. “I started trolling right off the trailer and worked my way back into each cut. It took me less than an hour and a half to fill the limit every day I fished here.”
Harrison wasn’t exactly sure of the mass appeal of the two small cuts near the landing but stated there was a rocky hump in the cut to the right side as you leave the ramp that was a magnet for spawning crappie.
“I don’t know why it held so many, but those males were like fleas all over that hump,” he said.
10. Carver’s Point — N33 50.298/W89 40.769
Like the two spots at Rattlesnake and Choctaw Landing, the No. 10 hotspot makes for good trolling during the pre-spawn under normal seasonal water levels and becomes a spawning back-up spot during low water. Carver’s Point is well known for the number of stump fields in the area. The average water depth typically ranges from 6 -10 feet deep. In Harrison’s eyes that makes it prime trolling grounds.
“Put your poles out to fish 6 to 8 feet deep, right off the bottom,” he said.
Out in front of the old abandoned boat ramp at Carver’s Point is a forest of standing timber. It runs from the ramp to the end of the point. While he wouldn’t point to the exact stump, Harrison has a special affinity for one of the old trees in the dead forest.
“I’ve caught a lot of 3-pound crappie out of Grenada over the years,” he said. “But one of those old trees is the only single piece of structure I’ve ever caught more than one 3-pound fish off of.”
Guide John Harrison can be contacted at 662-983-5999 or view his on-line fishing reports on Crappie 101 at http://crappie101.com/crappie/john-harrison-guide-service