Hot crappie action on Okatibbee Lake

Pulling up to a shallow ledge adjacent to a red clay bank, Joe Giles made a cast with his spinning rod and reel and quickly hooked up with a crappie. In a couple of minutes Giles landed the fish and put out his anchor.

“During the early part of March the lake was really low, more like winter pool level,” Giles said. “When the water is low this time of year the water warms fast and the crappie head to the shallows and stop at submerged creek channels, stump fields and clay banks near deep water.”

Giles employs a jig and spinner combo when the fish are active. In this case, he was using a Bass Pro Elite series spinning combo with braided line. He tied a jig onto the main line about 12-inches above a beetle spin type jig and spinner combo. Before he casts the jig and spinner combo, he will use pliers and bend the hooks out slightly and then bend them back. By doing this he can easily pull the jig off of a stump or object under the water and then just straighten the hook back again. Anglers will save a lot of time retying and save money too.

“I’ll pull up to an area where they usually spawn and start fishing with the jig and spinner combo and fish until I get a bite,” he said. “Usually where there is one there is a limit If you find them. But X marks the spot. You have to be precise and hit the exact area to stay on them in open water or you will lose your bearings. I anchor down so there is no doubt about their location.”

An early limit

I joined Giles on this trip and we both had a limit of crappie by 7:30 a.m. However, some were smaller, so we kept fishing and culling the small ones. As the bite slowed a bit we switched to Giles’ pre-spawn cold weather rig — a jig and cork.

Our boat was in 4 to 6 feet of water, and we were casting up onto the shallow flat that went from 2 to 4 feet.

“After you find the structure and determine the depth of it and the fish, you can put that cork in the proper place to keep the jig just above the stump or structure,” Giles said. “If you know the fish are tight to the stump or top then cast that jig just past it and work it to the stump in a jerk-stop, jerk-stop retrieve and let it sit motionless when it gets to the spot. If that cork disappears or bobbles simply set the hook and bring the fish in.”

Joe Giles displays a crappie caught at Okatibbee Lake recently. (Photo by Mike Giles)

Giles cast the jig and cork rig just past the stump and let it stop a second.

“Wham!” A feisty white perch nailed the jig, and the fight was on. In fact, the bigger females were moving up and biting right on the stumps. For the next 30 minutes we caught and released bigger crappie as we culled down to our 30 fish limit apiece.

In two hours we caught over 80 crappie and never moved the boat, culling down to 60 fish!

More recently the water rose over 5 feet in 24 hours and the lake went from being shallow to slightly above normal summer pool and the crappie moved to the flooded brush and grass fields.

A single jig pole

While many crappie had already spawned, many had not and they headed to the shallows to spawn and feed. If you have never caught crappie with a single jig pole in your hand, then you have missed out.

There’s nothing much better than dropping a jig down beside grass, stickups or brush on light line. When the crappie thumps it, you can be sure he’s eating and it’s like a bass hitting a plastic worm.

“I like to fish a single jig on a 12-foot jig pole,” Giles said. “I’ll head to the shallows and start at the deepest point of visible structure, grass or buck brush and fish my way towards the shallow water. You can usually determine where they are at that day and extrapolate it around the lake. Okatibbee is a flood control lake, so the fish continually move depending upon the water level. If it’s falling, they tend to hang along the edge. If it’s stable, they’ll go really shallow finding the warmest water available to spawn in.”

Giles found an area that was full of crappie in the grass, and he caught a pretty good mess as the water started stabilizing.

Jig and cork rig in grass

Ken Murphy has fished Okatibbee Lake since the early days and he loves to fish for crappie when the lake is higher like it is right now.

“I like to take a jig and cork rig on a jig pole and find out how deep they are,” Murphy said. “If the crappie are tight to the grass and biting it won’t take long to find out what depth they want it. Twelve to 14 inches is a good starting point to place your cork above the jig if you are fishing in water less than 3 feet deep. I’ll put that rig along the outer edges and work the holes and pockets of the grass or brush.”

After Murphy determines the level the perch are at, then he will simply keep dropping the jig down by as many grass patches as he can find and he’ll usually catch a limit pretty quick. On more than one occasion Murphy has caught a limit f crappie while anglers around him struggle to get bit.

Hot jig colors

With the stained water that has been on Okatibbee the last month, black and chartreuse and orange and yellow jigs have been hot. Black and hot pink has also been a popular color combo.

Attractant: Thump Gel makes a fish attractant that is put onto the lure or grub and it will add flavor to the lure that both attracts the bites and makes them hold on longer. I have used that throughout February and March and caught more fish than others with me.

About Michael O. Giles 406 Articles
Mike Giles of Meridian has been hunting and fishing Mississippi since 1965. He is an award-winning wildlife photographer, writer, seminar speaker and guide.

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