The weather crappie fishermen have been waiting for is finally in the long-range forecast for next week, and that has them ready to dance a jig.

Or, a jig tipped with a minnow.

They know the warmer weather will trigger the spawn, sending crappie to shallow structure where they will vulnerable to a well-placed lure at the end of a jig pole.

"Once we start seeing those 80-degree days with mid-50 nights, that will flip the switch and it will be on," said Rabbit Rogers, one of the state's most-respected crappie fishermen who has been fishing hard on Barnett Reservoir. "We've had such up-and-down weather the past few weeks that we're a little behind. Just last week we had three nights with freezing temperatures.

"I'm catching a lot of fish, and the bite has been good, but this week I'm still catching fish deep. Before this latest cold front arrived (Tuesday night, Wednesday morning), I was catching them 11 and 12 feet deep in deeper water along the river. I've heard that some fish are being caught shallow, but, no, we're still way ahead of the peak."

Similar reports are coming from most of the state's other top crappie fishing holes - the Tenn-Tom Waterway pools and the four North Mississippi flood control lakes.

"They are just starting to stack up good in the mouths of backwater spawning areas off the main river," said John Wallace of Starkville, who has fished both the Columbus and Aberdeen pools of the Tenn-Tom.  "At Aberdeen, we found some male crappie shallow around timber, but it wasn't worth the time. We fished back out until we found better numbers, and that was in 5 to 8 feet of water in the mouths of coves and on points.

"We found the same kind of results the next day at Columbus. They want to go shallow, but with the water temperatures starting in the mid to upper 50s in the morning, they won't commit."

As far north as the Bay Springs pool, the results are the same.

"I've got a buddy from Tupelo who fishes about three days a week up there and he's still fishing 10 feet deep and deeper on the points and in the mouths to coves," Wallace said. "He also caught some males on secondary points inside the coves but the majority and better fish were still out."

Over at the four Corps of Engineer lakes along I-55 - Grenada, Enid, Sardis and Arkabutla, fishermen are following the same script.

"Still deep, but not as much as a couple of weeks ago," said Phil Hearn of Grenada. "At Grenada Lake, the best fishing is still out in front of the top spawning areas like Redgrass, Turkey Creek and South Graysport. I'm catching fish in water depths of anywhere from 6 to 15 feet, but the fish are shallow, like 3 or 5 feet. I've seen it like this before, but it's been years.

"The fish want to be in shallow water, and even though it's still too cool to be on the banks, they are shallow in deep water. You have to adjust a bit to catch them. Instead of a trolling motor, I've let the wind push me and I've trolled jigs shallow and caught good fish."

The exception to the "pre-spawn" pattern has been at a few of the oxbow lakes in the Delta, but only those disconnected from the river. Eagle Lake, Lake Washington and Bee Lake are three producing good spawning numbers. But even at those lakes fishermen are expecting the approaching warm weather to help.

Willie Brown of Vicksburg caught spawners this week at Eagle, both ahead of and during the cold front.

"My buddy and I got the limit three days, and we never fished water deeper than 3 feet," Brown said. "We caught them in Buck Chute last weekend and we saw some waders in there getting some, too. We let them have that and moved out and fished that end of the lake back behind the pads and on the Louisiana bank and we had us some fun. We even caught some out at Float Row, but the banks were better."

As good as it was, Brown knows it can be even more fun and productive.

"If we get that 80-degree weather they're promising next week, it will be crazy good," he said.