Low and Slow with John Harrison

Low and Slow with John Harrison

December 05, 2022

Low and Slow with John Harrison

By Phillip Gentry

Two things you can count on if you are a crappie angler looking to cash in on some early winter-time slab action is dropping water levels and light-biting fish.

Most impoundments, whether they are federally owned or not, have as one of their requirements, to meet federal inspection guidelines, the drawing down of the lake level in winter as a measure of flood control for the coming spring. That means during the latter months of the year, you can expect to find drastically changing water levels.

Grenada Lake crappie guide John Harrison not only understands these changes but looks forward to crappie fishing flood control reservoirs during the winter when the plug is pulled and nearly all the water drains out.  

The winter drawdown on flood control lakes will eventually push all the baitfish and crappie to the deep water in front of the dam.

According to Harrison, getting to the fish during the winter drawdown is most of the battle. Before he targets the fish, he must figure out how to get to the water. Dropping water levels due to winter drawdown makes many conventional boat launch areas inaccessible.

“I’m obviously fishing out of a smaller boat than I normally use during the spring, summer, and fall,” he said. “When that water starts dropping, it pulls the crappie out of the flat areas and draws everything into the lower areas – eventually, everything winds up in the main lake basin out in front of the dam.

Harrison said this year in particular, many of the boat launches on Grenada are simply unusable, which often has him heading out to Enid or Sardis when he’s going fishing. Regardless of which lake he’s on, the general behavior pattern is about the same.

The sensitivity of B’n’M’s graphite jig poles really shines when the bite gets extremely light.

  “A lot of fish will go straight out in front of the dam,” he said. “But here’s what you need to understand about crappie this time of year – they’re hungry and they know they need to stock up before it gets real cold. During the early part of the winter crappie will gorge themselves on shad and they’ll either follow the bait up current or they’ll stick with them out in the big open areas in front of the dam when the water goes down.”

Harrison equates this type of winter crappie fishing to fishing in a barrel. There’s not really much room for them to go, but he’s quick to point out the fishing is not as easy as it may sound.

“Crappie are feeding and they’re suspending up in the water column to try to absorb some sunlight and stay in the warmer water, but they’re spooky and when you get a bite you may not even recognize it,” he said.

Like many crappie anglers, he’s going to rely on forward facing sonar to make sure he’s targeting the right areas and right species of fish, but he has put away his trolling poles.

The Capps and Coleman double hook minnow rigs are the bait of choice, fishing in light weights with small minnows is the best way to target winter crappie.

“A lot of my clients don’t want to fool with Livescope and watching a screen all day,” he said. “They want to watch poles, so that’s what we do.”

Harrison said of all the times the sensitivity of your fishing rod comes into play, this is the most extreme. His presentation is standard double hook minnow rigs with straight live minnows. Whether crappie are up in the column or laying near the bottom makes no different to the weight he’s using on the rig. It’s either 3/8 oz or at most ½ ounce.

“Crappie will bite the minnow, then if they feel that weight, they’ll drop it,” he said. “Up in the boat, all you might see is just a quiver in the line and a slight tickle of the rod. That’s why these B’n’M BGJP’s (Buck Graphite Jig Poles) are so important. If you don’t have that sensitivity in the rod, you won’t see the bite – period.”

The final piece is to move the boat along at a snail’s pace - .2 to .3 mph is as fast as you want to go. Crappie will not chase a bait but want it to just drift along in front of their nose.

“I also use small baits,” he said. “One-to-two-inch minnows are best.”


John Harrison of JH Guide Service, fishing all of the Mississippi Corps Lakes, can be reached by phone at (662) 983-5999.


Wherever fishing takes you, B’n’M has been there. Check out our website at




Also in Weekly Tips and Techniques

Finessing Pre-spawn Crappie with Kent Driscoll
Finessing Pre-spawn Crappie with Kent Driscoll

April 08, 2024

Pre-spawn crappie are typically aggressive biters, but there are times when some finesse is required.

Read More

Playing The Odds with David Jones
Playing The Odds with David Jones

March 04, 2024

B’n’M pro-staffer and Green River Lake crappie fishing guide David Jones said playing the odds is a great way to catch crappie any time of year.

Read More

Early Season Flatheads with Joey Pounders
Early Season Flatheads with Joey Pounders

February 09, 2024

B’n’M Catfish pro-staffer Joey Pounders said moving water during the late winter is his favorite time to target flathead catfish.

Read More

Join the B'n'M Fishing Club to earn points for every purchase, plus stay informed about the latest deals and specials.

Net Orders Checkout

Item Price Qty Total
Subtotal $0.00

Shipping Address

Shipping Methods