Colton and Dale booked a guided crappie fishing trip with Barton Outfitters in Oxford, Miss., in early February of this year. Gusty, cold pre-spawn conditions resulted in a goose egg for the duo who left shivering but undeterred.
Despite not catching a fish, Colton was eager to learn about how fish are caught on Sardis during each of Mississippi’s four distinct seasons.
On that particular day, in the dead of winter, dropping jigs or minnows on top of brush piles and fish’s heads using Livescope should have produced both strikes and numbers, but wind kept the crew from being able to stay on top of objectives, let alone present baits.
Their guide, Texas native but seven-year Oxford resident Aaron Barton wore out the phrase “it only gets better from here” that day but made good on his promise to summons the crew later in the year when a convergence of conditions all but guaranteed a more comfortable, successful crappie fishing trip.
For Barton, all signs pointed to go when scattered crappie that had been reliably caught recently in the upper end of the lake around timber near the old river run were drawn into geographically tighter schools (same numbers of fish in smaller areas) closer to and in the actual channel itself, triggered by the delayed* opening of the spillway gates, combined with calm unseasonably cool conditions.
(*Typically the North Mississippi Reservoirs begin fall draw down Aug. 1, reaching winter pool by Dec. 1. Enid, Arkabutla, and Grenada lake followed that annual pattern, Sardis didn’t begin draw down until Sept. 14 due to repairs performed by the Corps of Engineers on the Spillway.)
The father and son duo started at daylight and caught fish non-stop on the upper third of the reservoir until deftly ignored responsibilities gave way to a mid-afternoon surrender, first targeting suspended fish 4-6 feet deep and later deeper fish in 10-16 feet deep in deeper water.
Bright and dark colored crankbaits performed equally well. Fast trolled minnows outperformed all offerings, but predominantly a minnow with a mix of other baits (ie crankbaits, spinners, jigs) outperformed straight minnows.
Winds light and mostly out of east northeast.