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John's Journal... Entry 245, Day 3


The Spawn

A few years ago I discovered a warm-water discharge feeding out of a factory that ran down a small stream not more than 10- or 15-yards wide. This stream dumped into a major reservoir. During late February and early March, I found that the big female spawners would come up this small, narrow creek to lay their eggs in the warm water at least a week or two and sometimes three weeks before the other crappie in the lake spawned. I fished a small bobber with a 1/32-ounce jig suspended about 2 feet under the bobber. I cast out into the current and let the cork wash around a small peninsula of land and into the eddy pool formed on the back side of the peninsula. For two to three weeks, I consistently caught 1-1/2- to 2-pound crappie from this eddy pool formed by the peninsula in the small creek.

Sneak During The Spawn:
During the spring of the year when crappie begin to run the banks, the dogwoods bloom and the turkeys gobble, I like to go to Portland Landing near Selma, Alabama, and hunt turkeys. On one of my earliest visits to the loge, Joe Champion, the lodge manager at Portland, would come in each afternoon with an ice chest full of big crappie. I got Champion to go into the woods with me one day after I finished turkey hunting to show me his techniques. There was just one: he likes to sneak up on them. Champion fished a small embayment off the Alabama River. Just out from the bank lay stumps and stick-ups within easy reach of boat-bound crappie fishermen. But Champion fished these same stumps and stick-ups from the bank. He would walk down to the bank, fighting thick brushes and briars to reach the edge of the water, then swim a 1/16- or a 1/32-ounce jig on the back sides of the wood structure standing in the water. Although other fishermen fished this same slough from their boats, rarely did they ever out fish Champion.

Use Bass Baits For Crappie (Spawn):
One day, my buddy Phillip Criss, a fishing guide from McCalla, Alabama, asked me to come over and look at a box full of bass he'd just caught. He had six largemouth bass, weighing more than 5-pounds each in the box. After I'd taken all the bass out of the box and looked at them, in the bottom of the cooler, I spotted three crappie that weighed between 1- and 3-pounds each. When I asked Criss to reveal his hot spot, he quickly told me, "There's a slough off the main river where you can catch all the crappie that size you want to take." When I asked what he'd caught the crappie on, he explained, "The same thing I catch the bass on-a 1-1/2-ounce, double-spin, white spinner bait with a white trailer. If a crappie's not big enough to take a spinner bait, then I don't really care about catching that fish."

I knew if Criss had taken those size crappie on a spinner bait, I should catch plenty of crappie with smaller jigs. The next weekend I had my two graphite poles, bobbers and 1/32-ounce jigs in the same boat with Criss. We went to the small bay where he'd caught the big fish. Apparently big crappie used the grass bed that came out about 8 feet from the bank as a spawning ground. The big fish hammered our baits regularly. When I later asked a fisheries biologist friend of mine why we'd caught big crappie 6- to 8-feet away from the bank on a clean bottom, he explained, "Big spawning crappie may not stay on the banks for more than an hour or two. Once they've laid their first batch of eggs, they'll move back into open water close to the spawning area and wait until it's time to spawn once more. Crappie often go to the banks to spawn three or four times during the spring run. Many times you're more likely to catch the big spawners further out in open water, close to the spawning area, than you will in the shallows when they're laying their eggs. The most-consistent place to catch a big female spawning crappie during the spawn is not in the shallow-water spawning areas, because that's where crappie spend most of their time."

Tomorrow: Fish Deep With Tiny Jigs (Postspawn)



Check back each day this week for more about 10 WAYS TO CATCH THE BIGGEST CRAPPIE OF YOUR LIFE ...

Day 1 - Two Tips for Big Crappie
Day 2 - Fish The Floods (Prespawn)
Day 3 - The Spawn
Day 4 - Fish Deep With Tiny Jigs (Postspawn)
Day 5 - Fish Hidden Spots: How To Catch Big Crappie Anytime

John's Journal