Brad Chappell spotted a lone crappie on his live sonar and begin his stalk. When the master angler got within striking distance, he dropped a jig right down on top of the fish, stopping just short of hitting him on the head. Chappell let the jig sit motionless for a second and then slowly moved the jig.
The crappie struck the jig, Chappell set the hook and fought the crappie as it wallowed wildly trying to throw the hook. Alas, it was no match for this long-time crappie guide, and he quickly landed the two-pound crappie and dropped him into the livewell a few seconds later.
“We’ve been catching them on Ross Barnett Reservoir from 16 to 22-feet deep the last two to three weeks,” Chappell said. “They’re pretty lethargic, so you just about have to spoon feed them but if you get on one you can usually catch it. Some days it may take minnows to get bit and some days jigs, but we have been able to catch them regardless. On days when they are slower, they may take a minnow quicker, but they will usually bite my jigs.”
The crappie are pretty scattered over the lake and along the river from the dam to Highway 43 because the shad are scattered. Chappell stays on the move and relies on his electronics to find the crappie. On a recent trip he loaded the boat with slab sized crappie and had a great day along with his clients.
“There’s a lot of shad on the river channel so we fish above the shad balls which are 20 to 26-feet deep,” Chappell said. “We actually catch crappie above the shad balls and the key to catching them is to fish a Spider Rig or Livescope for a very slow presentation.”
Calm days seem to be best, but when the wind gets up, Chappell just upsizes his weights. On the calm days they use a ½-ounce weight above the jig or hook and on windy days he’ll go with a 1-ounce weight. He also uses at least 10-pound mono or larger and doesn’t use fluorocarbon during freezing weather because the fluorocarbon will actually freeze and snap easily.
“My best rig this time of year is a Bobby Garland Baby Shad jig with a Mud Dauber color,” Chappell said. “I’ve tried a lot of jigs, but the 2-inch Baby Shad jig seems to be the best this time of year. There’s just something they prefer about that size and color!”
Chappell is a long-time crappie guide, and he usually takes multiple people on his guide trips.
“I sit side-by-side with one of the anglers and watch the screen and maneuver the boat so that the angler can make a proper presentation to the fish and help them get the hang of it,” he said. “Sometimes one angler will catch a couple and then they’ll switch places, and the other angler will sit behind and watch or take pictures. Then they will switch out again.”
That makes for some exciting fishing, and you don’t sit idly by and get bored.
Chappell actually uses a 15-foot Denali Chappell Rod when he’s using the live sonar because it’s the perfect size and length of rod getting him just out front of the boat enough to reach the fish to give them the proper presentation.
“I like to drop that jig about 4- to 6-inches above the fish and keep it still for a second,” Chappell said. “After they see the jig, I’ll lift it a bit and they’ll either bite it or leave it alone. If they don’t strike it, I’ll move on to another fish that’s more aggressive and not waste any time. You can tell pretty quick if they’re going to bite the bait.
“This time of year the larger crappie will be loners and you will see smaller packs of three to five fish running together, but they are usually the smaller crappie, not the 2- to 3-pounders we are looking for. There’s a lot of pound and a half fish swimming around on Barnett right now, so you want to keep on the move.”
Less fishing pressure
Chappell usually starts fishing around 7:30 a.m. and fishes until 2:30. The days are shorter, but there’s less fishing pressure on the fish because a lot of folks are hunting and taking a break during the colder winter months.
Chappell recently guided Hank Williams, Jr. and his son-in-law on a productive trip to Ross Barnett and they caught a boatload of crappie. Williams has been fishing with Chappell about eight or nine years now and they have a ball catching crappie.
Typically, Chappell guides on Lake Washington and Eagle Lake during October, November, and February through April. He also guides on Grenada, Enid and Ross Barnett from May through September and on Ross Barnett when he’s at home during the winter months.
It doesn’t matter whether you want to fish by yourself or with a group, Chappell can put you on the fish and he’ll show you the most productive way to do that. For more information on fishing Ross Barnett contact Brad Chappell at 601-317-6681 or on Facebook at Brad Chappell Guide Service and on Instagram at bchappell268.