Post-spawn crappie, and on the double

MDWFP fisheries director Ron Garavelli knew the post-spawn crappie bite was good enough to use a tandem jig rig to catch them two at a time Monday (April 29) in a Madison County lake.

Catching them two at a time possible when they’re that thick

Little icons littered the bottom gray line of the depthfinder, an indication that a lot of fish were suspended just off the top of a hump adjacent to the creek channel of the 250-acre lake.

“Got to be the crappie,” Sidney Montgomery said. “This is just like the spot we caught them on this morning, a shallow spot about 8 feet deep on top surrounded by 12 to 14 feet on all sides. My guess is that we’ll catch them as fast as we can cast.”

One livewell of Montgomery’s boat was already full of crappie, fish that were destined for a dinner party that night as per his wife’s request. He said it had at least 50 that he and a partner had caught that morning.

“They were still biting, and I had a few hours, so I called you guys to come get you some,” he said, talking to me and Ron Garavelli, fisheries director of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. We were glad to oblige and Garavelli’s ice chest sat open on the back deck ready to be filled.

He would not be disappointed.

Montgomery and I fished 1/8-ounce jig heads with two-inch bright chartreuse curl-tail grubs. We needed the big and bright jigs to offset the stained waters of the subdivision lake where construction was ongoing on different banks. We got bites on every cast and that usually led to a catch.

But, on the back deck, Garavelli was a step ahead of us. He was using a different setup, a tandem rig with two jigs much like those old double-rigs thrown at schooling speckled trout in the Gulf.

The bottom held a slightly heavier jig with a white grub. The top jig was a smaller, lighter version with a blue head and a yellow grub.

“Is he trying to hook them two at a time?” Montgomery said, laughing.

Not only was he trying to, he was.

“The difficult thing is getting them both to the boat without losing one,” Garavelli said. “I’ve had a lot of double hook-ups, but I’ve only been able to get a few to the boat. The key is working it real slow after getting the first bite and hook-up. The second one will hit it pretty quick if he’s going to.”

Over two hours, we must have caught 100 crappie from the terribly-over-populated private subdivision lake. Only about half were big enough to make the travelling squad home to the deep fryer.

“I think one of the reasons I keep losing one of the doubles is that at least one of them is so small that the tissue around its mouth is so thin that when the two fish pull apart, it rips the hook out of one,” Garavelli said.

We lost many of ours, too, but at the rate we were catching them it didn’t matter. The ice chest was soon full and barely had room for ice.

Garavelli successfully landed several doubles, but he failed on the most exciting moment of the day.

After he set the hook on a crappie, he waited a second for another bite but failed to get it and started reeling it in. The crappie came to the surface and fought against the pull on its lips.

About 20 feet from the boat, there was a huge splash and about a four-pound bass came flying out of the lake in an attempt to get the small crappie on Garavelli’s top hook.

A second later, Garavelli’s ultra-light rod bent almost double and the small spinning reel screamed as the drag started giving line.

The bass had found and inhaled the second jig.

“Can you believe that?” Garavelli said, trying to boat the two fish.

But just as fast — and loud — as the episode started, it ended when the bass jumped again and tore the second jig off the line.

“I think he wanted to eat that crappie, missed it and then found the jig,” Garavelli said, as he re-rigged a second jig on his line.

When asked why he was going back to two jigs, he grinned and laughed.

“Well, heck yeah, and I can’t believe you haven’t done it,” Garavelli said. “This is too much fun.”

It was our second trip to the lake in six weeks, and both times we were able to fill an ice chest with fish. The first time was pre-spawn and we caught the fish on similar structure, but closer to the shallow spawning flats along the bank.

“This time, if you look at the females, they are thin,” Montgomery said. “They have dropped their eggs and are moving back out to the deeper water where they stay all summer. I think they stop on these humps to eat.”

The male crappie were still darker than normal, but not nearly as black as they get during the spawn.

“They still have some of that hormone in them that turns them black for the spawn,” Garavelli said. “They will eventually return to normal color.”

We could have caught more fish using smaller jigs and simply vertically jigging under the boat as we slowly drifted.

“But this is lots more fun,” Montgomery said, “and I bet it is something that will work in any crappie lake after the spawn. Wonder why people don’t try it.”

“Who said they aren’t,” Garavelli said. “You don’t think I showed up with two jigs tied on by accident do you?”



Got a fishing story to share, contact Bobby Cleveland at Selected stories will be told on and may be printed in our print edition.

About Bobby Cleveland 1342 Articles
Bobby Cleveland has covered sports in Mississippi for over 40 years. A native of Hattiesburg and graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi, Cleveland lives on Ross Barnett Reservoir near Jackson with his wife Pam.

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