Lake Washington in the Mississippi Delta a couple hours south of Memphis offers incredible action to crappie anglers. The fish in the springtime are huge - legendary slabber that region greedily feed as they approach the early spring spawning season. Mike Jones’ Bait-N-Thangs tackle shop about 20 minutes south of Greenville, Mississippi, is directly across the lake from one of watery cypress jungles where crappie stage and spawn during the spring. The fish can reach 2 pounds in just 3 years, Jones said.
Lake Washington has gained rapid stature in the crappie fishing world, often ranked just behind Mississippi’s Grenada Lake when it comes to the nation’s top crappie destinations. The lake is a couple of hours south of Memphis along the Mississippi River. It is one of those oxbow lakes formed as the mighty river adjusted course over the centuries. Now cut off from the river, it is unique when it comes to fish habitat. Why? It is almost uniformly shallow. Only one section reaches 10–15 feet deep. Most of the lake consists of 5- to 8-foot flats. Houses and camps line the lake’s east side while the west features stately cypress forests standing in 1–4 feet of water.
We got to talk with and fish alongside several expert crappie anglers and pros right after a 10-day freeze finally left the area. Conditions were tough but fish eventually started coming into the boat.
Here, crappie fishing pro Brad Chappell shares some of his long-lining techniques. Chappell slowly trolls with his eight crappie rods of varying lengths rigged with double jig sets. He ties the jigs to the main line with lengthy loops, a technique he says ensures free-swimming lures and minimal entanglements.
Yazoo County, Miss. angler Will Hutto considers Lake Washington his home waters, He and his son Jesse James are successful anglers, with the teenager winning consecutive major youth tournaments. We go spider rigging and LiveScoping with Hutto and his son. Like most serious crappie anglers, Hutto uses long rods (10–16-footers) and Garmin “LiveScope” electronics to fish while “spider rigging” or trolling. Eight rods, sporting jigs of various colors and tipped with live minnows are arrayed at the front of the boat when spider rigging. The LiveScope transducer mounted on the trolling motor identifies fish in a cone that extends about 25 feet.
Next up was Arkansas guide and Pico Lure professional Greg Robinson. Pico Lure owner Mitch Glenn was also in the boat. We spider rigged and LiveScoped open water for a couple hours before Robinson decided to test the conventional wisdom and move from the deeper water back into the shallows near the cypress trees. We thought that fish would have moved to adjacent deeper water due to the low lake water temperatures, but the lake is so shallow that moving a quarter of a mile to gain an extra four feet of water depth probably wasn't worth it to the fish in terms of expending energy needed for the spawning event. It turns out the fish, present in the cypresses before the fish, must've stayed put during the freeze. Robinson explains his thoughts.
Below, Mitch Glenn discusses the nuances of color selection with it comes to jig fishing for crappie...they'll all catch fish -- but not all the time.
Glenn and Robinson also demonstrated how to expertly fillet a crappie, using electric and manual fillet knives provided for the expedition by Smith's Outdoor Products .
While the weather may have chilled the appetites of the lake’s crappie, it couldn’t dampen the wonderful hospitality of the people coordinating the camp, the guides, restaurants and innkeepers. I plan on returning!
Oh, and I stayed in a haunted plantation house. It appears I had an extremely close encounter with the spirit world. Here is an interview about my spooky evening at Belmont Plantation in Greenville.