Tim Elrod hasn’t been a crappie fisherman for decades like some anglers, but when he started picking up the sport a few years ago, the West Monroe angler was hooked. There are lots of places to hit for crappie this time of year, but he is a big believer in the Ouachita River. He fishes it 12 months a year trying to stay on the crappie, and this has become one of his favorite times to fish the lakes and creeks off the meandering river. He finds the most crappie in the ones with a little deeper water.

“There are a lot of lakes around where crappie congregate in bigger numbers and concentrate in deeper water this time of year. But I love fishing the river lakes,” he said. “I’m a minnow man. I love to take minnows and set up six to eight poles in a spider rig. This time of year, we fish the river lakes and creeks like White’s Lake, Moon Lake or even Coon and Frank Lapere Creeks. I guess my favorite areas are around Monroe or up around Alabama Landing.”

The advantage to fishing a spider rig this time of year is that the fish are staging in 6 to10 feet of water, he said. When they are that shallow, you can’t always find them consistently with electronics, so spider rigging lets you cover a lot of water quickly. You can also vary your depths on some poles and find out which depth the fish are holding. In deeper spots the electronics may work, but sometimes you just have to find river lake crappie the old fashioned way: Fish until you find them.

“The fish will stage in deeper water, but not too far from the cypress trees,” he said. “That’s where they are going to spawn when it warms up a bit. We like to find cypress trees closer to that deeper water, then back off from the trees and fish minnows. We use 15-pound hi-vis line, but tie on an 18-inch leader with a barrel swivel and a 1-ounce weight. Then use 8-pound line on that leader. These lakes are full of trash and we get hung up a lot, but that way if you break off, you just lose your hook and minnow and not the expensive bell weight.”

Elrod likes to use 2/0 hooks with large shiners, and fishes them on Jenko rods.

There are excellent public ramps up and down the Ouachita. Some of the larger ramps are in Columbia, Monroe, West Monroe, Sterlington and at the Alabama Landing near Haile. 

Elrod says there are good crappie lakes within a short boat ride of almost all of them. If you use the techniques he’s shared, you can catch fish. And this time of year, most all the river lakes are accessible from the main channel.