Bayou Crappie Fishing with Andre Smith
By Phillip Gentry
In the heat of summer, being down on the bayou in Louisiana might not be the most temperate place on Earth, but if your goal is to fill up an ice chest with some nice slab crappie, which you’ll probably hear referred to as sac-a-lait, there are worse places you could be.
B’n’M pro staffer Andre Smith, whose hometown is Schriever, Louisiana, lives smack dab in the middle of bayou country. Smith’s home lake is Lake Verret, a 14,000-acre natural lake that’s part of the Atchafalaya River Basin. Verret is a shallow lake with less than 10 feet of water across the entire expanse.
“This lake is 99% black crappie,” said Smith. “Black crappie love timber, so to catch them in this lake, you need to look for old cypress stumps and laydowns out in the lake. Woody cover is not hard to find here.”
Smith’s bait choices range from Bobby Garland’s Baby Shad baits to some hand tied hair jigs he makes in his spare time.
Verret has narrow points on each end and moderate width in the middle of the lake. Rather than being deepest in the middle of the lake, deeper water depths, meaning 6 to 8 feet, can be found both offshore and in places where one of the smaller bayous enters the lake.
If you are not familiar with the lake, the best way to find these deeper areas is using a good underwater topo map or updated map card on your chart plotter.
During the summer, Smith looks for crappie to orient to wood cover on the drops into these deeper runs. Most of the time the crappie will hold a foot or less above the cover or in the case of a good laydown, may be suspended in the cover.
“Like nearly everyone who crappie fishes these days, I’m going to drop the Livescope when I decide on a ledge to fish,” he said. “The difference is with the shallow water and all the cover; I’m going to set my maximum distance at only 30 feet. You can’t bump it out too far or you won’t be able to see the fish clearly.”
Figuring out whether crappie want the bait moving or sitting still is a daily challenge when fishing in the Louisiana bayou.
Smith’s rod of choice for pitching crappie jigs to cover-holding crappie is an 11-foot Buck’s Graphite Jig Pole. With 10-pound fluorocarbon line, he pitches 1/16-ounce jigs to the fish and starts the daily task of figuring out how the want the bait to be presented for them to bite. He said it is common for fish to do a lot of bait sniffing, as witnessed on the Livescope screen, charging up to the bait and sniffing it before deciding whether or not to take the bait.
“Some fish won’t hit a jig unless it’s moving, swinging down from where it landed. Other fish will not hit a jig if it’s moving at all. They want to look at it for a minute or two before deciding to ease up and suck it in,” he said.
Smith said the black crappie that call Verret home also behave differently that you might expect depending on whether he is fishing on a sunny day or a cloudy day.
“It’s backwards, but these crappie will suspend a foot on top of structure when it’s sunny and they’ll be down in in on a cloudy day,” he said. “If the stump is 3 feet high off the bottom in 6 feet of water, they’ll be right on top of the stump or no more than a foot above it.”
Black crappie in the 14-inch range and pushing two pounds are fairly common on Lake Verret.
Being part of a tidal system, and another departure from what you might expect, Smith said the best fishing comes on falling water levels at Verret. The tidal rise may vary only an inch or so daily and in fact, southerly wind direction will often move more water than the tide, but as a general rule, when the gauges on the nearby Mississippi River show the water is dropping in the river, he can always expect the fishing on Verret to be better.
Jig choices are split between a Bobby Garland Baby Shad on a 1/16 oz jighead with a #4 hook and a hand tied hatchet head hair jig that Smith ties. In either case, he has found that shades of blue and white or blue and chartreuse perform the best in Verrett’s lightly stained, greenish tinted water.
“My top picks are a Blue Ice or Bluegrass Baby Shad in the Bobby Garland baits and a blue and white or blue and chartreuse hair jig,” he said.
Smith said anglers can expect to catch pretty good numbers of black crappie from Verrett in the summer with the average fish in the 10 – 12-inch range weighing a pound and a quarter and a good fish falling near the 14-inch mark and weighing in over a pound and a half.
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