Long Lining Winter Oxbows with Brad Chappell
For most of the year, B’n’M prostaffer Brad Chappell operates a successful crappie fishing guide business on one of the most famous lakes in the state of Mississippi, Ross Barnett Reservoir. If you don’t recognize Chappell’s face, then chances are pretty good you’d recognize his voice. He’s also the host and creator of The Crappie Connection podcast and YouTube channel.
At times, Chappell strays away from Ross Barnett Reservoir and fishes some of the lesser-known oxbow lakes that line the Mississippi Delta region. One such period is during the dead of winter when crappie at The Rez make themselves scarce. Chappell is a huge fan of long lining for crappie, and has found that even during the cold of winter, he can catch a mess of crappie by long lining oxbow lakes.
Chappell said he starts off trolling fast then slows his trolling speed when targeting winter crappie.
“Long lining during the winter on these oxbows is not that different from long lining during the spring and summer on any lake,” he said. “In the winter crappie will suspend on the lower, deeper ends of oxbows and that’s what it takes to catch them long lining. There’s almost no structure, no real break lines, they just get out in the deepest water and hang.”
Chappell sets up 8 B’n’M Pro-Staff Trolling rods from the transom and rear gunnel areas of his Ranger boat and pulls double sets of jigs on each line. His presentation is not just random. There’s some method to his madness for winter fishing.
“The jigs are homemade pony heads. I’ll pull two 1/8 oz jigs with hammered willow lead blades on 6-pound monofilament line. The idea is to match the profile of the bait that the crappie are feeding on,” he said.
A solid color jig body gives the impression of a larger bait to dormant, suspended crappie.
As mentioned, Chappell concentrates his efforts on the lower end of the oxbow, but a note here about oxbows – he doesn’t care if they are closed off oxbows or open ended, meaning connected to a larger river system, so long as the open end doesn’t push current in the lake. Current tends to mess up suspending fish, so he looks for lakes with no current.
His bait of choice is a Bobby Garland Stroll’r jig body. He believes jig color is important in that he wants a solid color through the entire bait, no chartreuse, pink, or black tails.
“Crappie are eating small gizzard shad so a solid color body, my favorites are Eclipse, Monkey Milk, and Blue Chrome, gives the bait a bigger profile,” he said.
With water temps as low as 42 – 45 degrees, Chappell has learned to slow down when he’s long lining this time of year. He needs to go fast enough that the fish will hook themselves when they take a bait, but the speeds are 1.0 – 1.2 miles per hour, a reduction from the 1.5 or 1.8 speeds in warmer water.
Chappell said long lining for winter crappie takes a little adjustment, but can be extremely productive.
“It’s 100 percent reaction bite,” said Chappell. “The fish are loosely schooled and suspended over an area that might be a mile long. They’re almost like sleeping dogs. When you pull those jigs through the area it’s like rolling a ball in front of a dog. His inclination is to dart out and grab it and that’s how you get bites.”
The guide admits that he still uses his real-time forward-facing sonar, even when he’s trolling from the rear of the boat. The live sonar lets him see what the fish ahead of the boat are doing, where they are suspended, and give him clues that help him adjust his trolling direction and speed to overtake suspended crappie.
“What I’ve found is fish might be 10 feet deep over 25 – 28 feet of water, but they’ll drop down when the boat goes over and then rise back up about the time the baits get to them. You wouldn’t know that if you couldn’t see them first so you’d be fishing over the top of them by just watching the rear sonar unit.”
Brad Chappell can be reached by phone at (601) 317-6681 or through his website at bradchappellguideservice.com
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