If you don’t already know this about crappie fishing in Georgia, you should: chartreuse is almost always a good color choice, whether it’s the color of the head, body or tail of your jig or the color of the hook you use with a minnow.
Nearly everything else about catching one of freshwater’s tastiest fish may be up for debate. That’s why we went to a reliable source — the 178-member Georgia Slab Masters fishing club — in search of the best places and tips to help you catch more crappie this spring.
As water temps approach 60 degrees and signal the start of the crappie spawn, this is the time to get your chartreuse baits in order, said Georgia Slab Masters president Tony Outlaw, a 30-year veteran of crappie fishing in the Peach State. From now through May, you can find some of the best crappie fishing Georgia has to offer.
“We’re a bunch of folks who love to catch crappie, and we have some of the most knowledgeable fishermen anywhere,” Outlaw said. “If you’re looking for places to go crappie fishing, we’re a good place to start.
“We actually put some thought into our schedule. We schedule the best lakes at the best times. Our Web site [www.gaslabmasters.com] is a good, quick finder of where to go at the right time.”
With the help of Outlaw and other members of the club here are some Georgia lakes that should offer hot crappie action this spring.
WEST POINT LAKE
This 25,900-acre Chattahoochee River reservoir on the Georgia-Alabama line near LaGrange may be at its best for crappie fishing in March. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources reports that West Point has a healthy population of crappie, with average fish measuring 9 inches. The average weight is around 1/2 pound, but there are frequent catches of more than 2 pounds.
The lake is loaded with quality fish, Outlaw said, especially in the top end of the impoundment. He likes New River, Potato Creek and Yellow Jacket Creek in the spring. Beech, Stroud, Wehadkee and Whitewater creeks are also prime locations.
Trolling is normally the way to go in March on West Point, either “pushing” baits from the front of the boat or “pulling” baits from behind. A key is hitting the edges of submerged wood in 10- to 12-foot depths that are close to shallow water. Spider-rigging — the use of multiple rods while trolling — is a good way to cover more water.
In March as the water temperature reaches into the high 50s and low 60s, you can expect crappie to be in the shallows spawning or staging on deeper-water structure like stumps, logs and brush piles.
Outlaw didn’t compete in the Georgia Slab Masters event at West Point last March, when a seven-fish limit weighing 12.33 pounds won and the big fish weighed 2.46 pounds. Instead, he and a buddy just went “one-pole fishing. It was almost like bream fishing.”
They used a simple cork-and-jig rig, with a curly tail jig tied on about 3 feet below the float. Outlaw used a popular West Point color combination — chartreuse jighead, blue body, and chartreuse tail. That’s a chartreuse/blue/chartreuse combo in crappie-fishing vernacular. But when he saw his buddy out catch him two to one with an orange/blue/chartreuse jig, he made the switch.
The tactic was simple. Motor up lake into the New River, Potato Creek or Yellow Jacket Creek areas, cast the jig around wood in the creek channel in 10 to 12 feet of water and let the cork sit.
“You need to get close to the wood, and when you get there, let it be still. I caught 45 like that on Saturday [during the tournament],” Outlaw said. “It’s just another style that not many people use.”
There may not be anybody more in tune than Tracy Tompkins when it comes to crappie fishing in this 38,000-acre Chattahoochee River impoundment northeast of Atlanta. While better known for its spotted bass and striper fishing, Lanier more than holds its own for crappie anglers, where numbers are good and fish are common in the 1/2- to 3/4-pound range.
Tompkins, a full-time crappie guide on Lanier and a Georgia Slab Masters member, said crappie fishing is too often overlooked on the huge lake.
“It’s a lake you can catch them year-round,” said Tompkins, whose son Connor caught a 3.2-pounder last year. “You can catch 14- and 15-inch fish all the way to July in 10 feet of water. Lanier’s a very good crappie lake.”
One thing Thompkins likes to do is drift with a live minnow, hooked through the eyes. He starts with hard-to-find chartreuse No. 6 Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp hooks.
“A lot of people think that’s too small of a hook, but they hook the crappie in the roof of the mouth and you don’t lose fish.”
Thompkins targets water 4 to 12 feet deep and often pushes four rods out the front of the boat. He drifts very slowly — less than 1/4 mile per hour — and if the wind’s too strong to drift, he slowly motors into the wind. He rigs his bait with a 1/16-ounce bullet-style weight, a swivel and an 18-inch leader to the hook. He uses 10- to 12-foot poles on the front of the boat with 6-pound P-Line.
The best Lanier crappie fishing is way up lake, into both the Chattahoochee and Chestatee rivers. Look for areas with downed trees, stickups and other submerged structure. Find for 10 feet of water and fish your minnow or jig 4 feet deep.
Up the Chattahoochee, Thompkins goes all the way to the back of Wahoo Creek. On the Chestatee, where he said there’s lots of big fish, he hits the back of Yellow Creek.
“You can load up your boat [in Yellow Creek] all the way up to April,” he pointed out
Crappie fishing on Lanier also means shooting docks, and Lanier has plenty of choices. Tompkins has a bit of a twist to that, too. He pitches right up to the dock with a BB shot-weighted rig with a minnow and that small chartreuse hook.
“A lot of times they hit that minnow instead of a jig.”
He uses that same rig when crappie are spawning in skinnier water, except he hooks the minnow under the lip and through the nose. Pitch it right up to the bank and work it back like you would a plastic worm for bass.
When Tompkins uses jigs — he prefers hair jigs to soft-plasti
cs — he uses blue/chartreuse, June bug/chartreuse and “one color I just can’t tell you about.”
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