Question: John, It’s been 100 degrees lately around your area of north Mississippi. Where can you go to find some relief from the heat and still catch a few fish?
Harrison: A lot of guys are trolling, pulling crank baits or pushing jigs to try to keep some air moving while they fish, but another good place to go is the river. On the Tombigbee around northern Mississippi where I do most of my river fishing,, there’ll be some laydowns along the bank. Many of these stick out over deep water and offer a current break for fish. Moving water is often a little cooler than what you’ll find out on a reservoir and the moving water will have a little more oxygen in it and that’s what crappie need when it’s this hot. If you’ve got 15 – 20 feet of water around a laydown, that’s a good place to jig for crappie.
Question: Rivers tend to be a little intimidating to anglers who don’t fish them much. Can you give us a rundown of a normal seasonal cycle for crappie that live in rivers year round?
Harrison: It’s not really that different from a big reservoir, where crappie live in river arms that have been impounded. During the really hot and really cold months, crappie will hold deeper along the edge of the river channels and they will congregate around some type of structure that breaks the current and also attracts baitfish. In the spring and fall, they will move out of the main river and work their way into smaller tributaries and shallower water. On the Tenn-Tom, crappie will move into sloughs, ditches, and creeks that connect to the main river. If those areas have deep enough water in them, some crappie will even live there year round.
Question: What type of structure do you fish when crappie are in the sloughs and ditches?
Harrison: Live cypress trees are good as are stumps and laydowns. If it’s a location where there are houses along the water, there might be some boat docks but I don’t typically look for these to hold many fish except during the spring when crappie are in the shallows looking to spawn.
Question: What tactic do you use for fishing for river crappie?
Harrison: It’s almost 100% jig fishing whether you’re in the main river or one of the offshoots. You might get away with trolling the deep end of a slough but you’ll get hung up a lot because there’s so much debris on the bottom of most rivers. I like a good 8 – 9 foot graphite jig pole to jig with. B’n’M has several of these in the Buck’s series and all of them are good for working a 1/16 ounce jig around visible shoreline structure or working a deep water stump field or stake bed.
Question: Any final tips for anglers looking to catch some river crappie this summer?
Harrison: Yea, tipping the jig with a minnow or niblet is good insurance if you can’t get fish to bite right away. With it being so hot during the day, the better bite will be early and late in the day. If you fish through the day, look for an area with some overhead tree cover that will shade and cool the water a bit. Keep an eye on your depthfinder for structure. I know a lot of guys who put out stakebeds in the river. They seem to fish better than brushpiles because you don’t get hung up so much. Some rivers will be better at times with water running through a lock or dam downstream and others it won’t make much difference. Either way, take along plenty of water and go catch some fish. There’s no reason to stop fishing, you just need to adapt a little bit.
To arrange a guided crappie fishing trip with John Harrison, give him a call at 662-983-5999.
Check out B’n’M’s complete lineup of graphite jig poles. The Buck’s Series offers several different styles of rods to meet your needs with lengths ranging from 8 – 12 feet, EVA foam or Portuguese cork handles and bottom mounted or mid handle reel seats. And all come with lightweight, sensitive yet strong graphite blanks. Check out our website at www.bnmpoles.com to order a catalog or find a dealer near you.