Come for the fishing, stay for the camaraderie

The heaviest fish ever weighed at an MCC event was put on the scales a couple of seasons ago by 11-year-old Layne Carpenter of Flora. That Grenada Lake slab weighed 3.92 pounds.

Crappie anglers connect and compete through club

The Magnolia Crappie Club just completed our 2015-16 tournament season, and, brother, let me tell you, we had a BIG year.

Although we are primarily a fishing-for-fun, non-profit fishing club, we do keep score — and we fished for big bucks at our annual state championship tournament held on Grenada Lake in June.

When a handful of us started MCC 25 years ago, we just wanted to fish in a competitive environment where we kept score and create a stage so we could brag about our fishing prowess every now and then.

After almost a quarter of a century of crappie fishing tournaments, we set some club records this past season.

We had 176 members — a record. Our February tournament at Lake Washington brought us a record turnout for a “regular” tournament of 60 boats. And, we fished for almost $50,000 at our state championship tournament — another record.

We also paid out a record amount for overall points, with more than $8,000 split by the 34 teams that qualified for our post-season.

We think that MCC is the oldest and largest local crappie club in the country. Certainly, there are a bunch of other crappie clubs in other states, and they model themselves after MCC, for the most part.

And, there are a couple of professional crappie tournament circuits that hold tournaments in Mississippi every year. Mississippi is a favorite of these out-of-staters because we have the best crappie fishing in the country.

I’ve been involved since Day 1, and this past season was really one of our best ever.

I’m looking forward to the 2016-17 season that will open in September. We will have basically one event a month from September through May.

Check the club’s website for the tournament schedule –

Tournament scores

What does it take to win a crappie tournament? Specifically, your best seven fish must weigh more than the other 40 or 50 teams’ best seven in the tournament.

I’ve included a table showing the winning scores from MCC’s last season. I think it’s interesting to see the differences in weights from one lake to the next. You can see where the real slabs live.

Summertime fishing

Do you know what really defines summertime fishing for me? The shad pattern.

Yep, that’s right: The shad act differently during the summertime.

At my home lake, Ross Barnett Reservoir, the summertime pattern for our shad is right out in the middle of the lake, where huge schools of shad gather.

Man, I’m talking acres and acres of solid shad. We have hybrid stripes and, recently, sea run strippers stocked in Barnett just to control the shad population.

And, where there’s shad, there’s crappie and the occasional pesky striped bass.

So go to your lake this summer and look for the shad. It’s really just that simple.

Our Mississippi waters develop a thermocline every summer. Figure out where yours is and fish above the thermocline.

At Barnett, on most summer days the thermocline is somewhere around 12 feet deep. The only thing you’ll catch deeper than 12 feet is a slick-ass catfish.

At Lake Washington, the thermocline can be as shallow as 3 feet in hot weather. At Grenada I’ve caught “deep” summertime fish at 17 to 20 feet.

If you’ve got a good fish finder, turn up the sensitivity and it’ll show a line or a shadow where the thermocline lies. Fish above it close to or in the shad schools.

And shade can be the key to catching crappie on some lakes. Eagle Lake concentrates its fish under all those private piers over there.

At Barnett, some fishermen love to drop jigs on the shady side of a deep-water stump, and it’s not uncommon to catch multiple slabs out of the same shade.

Take plenty of water, go early and be back under the shade tree before noon. And, for goodness sakes, take a kid fishing this summer.

Leave the damned phone in the truck.

Fishing the right depths

Fishing at the right depth is always a variable we have to figure out when we go crappie fishing — I don’t care what time of the year it is or what lake you’re fishing.

Personal experience tells me crappie prefer deep water, especially in the coldest months. The problem is that “deep” is a relative term and will vary greatly from one lake to another.

Let me make it simple for you.

What is the depth of the deepest water in your favorite lake? Divide that deepest depth by three, and think of this piece of the crappie puzzle in thirds.

So if the deepest part of your favorite lake is 15 feet, “deep” on your lake is from 10 to 15 feet and is the place to start this time of the year.

There have been some exceptions to the “deep” rule on days of dense morning fog or heavy overcast skies. These lower-light days have produced big crappie at depths in the top third of the water column.

So if my original “deep” advice doesn’t work, get off it and try the top third instead of the bottom third of the water column. I’ll tell you what: Use more than one jig pole or drift pole and vary the depths.

Let the fish tell you how deep to fish.

Shoot, what do I know?

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