Okatibbee Lake on fire

This crappie was caught on a jig and cork combo using a B’n’M TCB rod and Bass Pro reel combo. (Photo by Mike Giles)

Crappie are gobbling up jigs and minnows now

Arriving at a shallow flat on Okatibbee Lake, we started working jig and cork rigs and it didn’t take long to see that the crappie were biting. Ken Murphy cast out near a submerged stump and promptly got bit.

Wham! Murphy drove the hook deep into the mouth of our first white perch of the day. I saw the spot, so I quickly followed up with a shot on the other side of the stump and another crappie nailed my jig as well. We were working a shallow stump filled flat in three to five feet of water with a ditch that wound through the flat.

Crappie have come to this pre-spawn flat for more than 40 years when the water is at winter pool level or below. It’s like clockwork. They start moving in during February and depending on the current weather conditions may start spawning between mid-February through mid-March. This year it seems that they started biting about the third week in February and were only interrupted by brutal cold and stormy weather temporarily.

But now, in mid-March, they’re on fire once again. Anglers only have to get in the 3 to 4 feet deep range and find wood cover and start fishing.

My grandfather J. P. Nolen taught me how to crappie fish with jigs and we caught fish from Ross Barnett Reservoir’s main lake and spillway areas. An average day would include a limit of 1 ½-pound crappie and we relished cleaning and eating them as they were about as good as you can get around these parts.

No special gear

The thing I like the best about crappie fishing this time of year is that you can catch crappie and lots of them on just the basic equipment. You can use a cane pole and cork, or a B’n’M Crappie pole with minnows or jigs, or a jig and minnow on it and catch fish.

“If the water is low like it has been at Okatibbee, then find any brush or stumps in the shallow flats along the ditches and creek channels,” Murphy said. “I prefer a jig and cork rig so that I can find the depth they like it and also to keep from getting hung up on the stumps all the time. If you have the jig right about the stumps, then you can retrieve it over them, and the crappie will strike.”

After catching about 25 crappie we moved to another shallow water area of the lake and caught a few crappie off of rocks. The fish were holding on top of the submerged rock pile and would strike when you popped a jig by them.

On this day they were hitting any color combination that had a chartreuse tail. We caught them on black and chartreuse, white and chartreuse, and on Pico grubs in orange and chartreuse. We cast in the exact same spot, and they hit all three. If you could find one, then you’d usually catch another if you could hit the spot.

Loading the boat

Our final stop on the late afternoon fishing trip was to a drop off near a clay bank. We’d cast up onto the point and let it go to the bottom. With the jig on the clay bottom the cork laid flat, but as soon as we jerked it off the ledge the cork would stand up and that’s where the hits usually came. Simply let it sit a minute and if they didn’t hit it then, we’d twitch it and usually get a bite.

We finished our limit and called it a day.

If you’re looking to catch a few crappie for fun or for eating, then head to Okatibbee Lake this month. You can catch perch in 9-11 feet depths along the ditches, as well as in 4-5 feet of water fishing over stumps, brush, shallow drops and on rip rap rocks. Start shallow and work deeper until you find wood structure and you’ll likely catch a few and possibly load the boat. But if you catch one, be sure to drop a marker, or anchor and start fishing right there because you might just find the mother lode, but you’ll never know it until you keep fishing the exact spot.

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About Michael O. Giles 377 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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