Scattered summertime reservoir crappie

Janet and Aimee from St. Louis, MO, booked a guided crappie fishing trip with Sardis Lake Fishing Guide Barton Outfitters in hopes of catching crappie bigger than they typically catch on Truman, their home lake in Missouri.

The big four flood control reservoirs (Arkabutla, Grenada, Enid, and Sardis Lake) water levels vary throughout the year as the Corps of Engineer attempts to maintain rule curve (a system that involves gradually raising and lowering the lake via discharge through gate controlled spillways to capture rains and mitigate downstream flooding.

By mid-September, all four lakes should be in the process of draining to reduce to winter pool. This means that fish will relate to creek channels, ditches, and other shallow to deep water travel corridors as they follow the water down. And so it is throughout North Mississippi except at Sardis Lake, where repairs to the spillway have delayed the fall drawdown. This lack of meaningful water level movements has scattered fish making them harder to pattern and catch as they are as likely to be on a 500 acre redundant flat as they are a piece of structure along a creek as they chase nomadic shad.

Fish lately have been holding in regions of the lake reliably for weeks on end, only to be uncatchable the next day. We managed to put together a good stringer of quality fish by staying agile. This can mean pushing instead of pulling crankbaits in order to be able to make tighter circles on fish, optimizing reset times on trolls by picking passes that keep your baits at objectives for longer periods of time, and by picking up casting rods when fish swim outside of the spread but still within view of the Livescope. What really helped put keepers in the boat more than anything, was our willingness to move as the fishing slowed down from spot to spot. Getting fresh looks on fresh fish is never a bad idea.

Except when fishing crankbaits, minnows supplemented every offering, from bare aberdeen hooks to jigs, road runners and beetle spins. Any color or size will catch fish, but at Sardis Lake recently, dark crankbaits have outperformed light colors, smaller jigs have outperformed larger, and on plastics and jigs, brighter colors and have outperformed neutral colors (orange and green seem to work best, but pink is never a bad choice).

Aaron Barton
Barton Outfitters
Guided Crappie Fishing on the Big Four

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