Crappie coach

Two of Garvin’s brightly colored Bobby Garland crappie jigs. Don’t forget to add a minnow on the hook as well for summer crappie.

Garvin heads below the spillway for Bayou D’Arbonne action

Bayou D’Arbonne is a small river-like system that starts out in Union Parish, just outside of Farmerville below the D’Arbonne Lake spillway and travels approximately 27 miles, where it spills into the Ouachita River north of West Monroe. It is made of the bayou, dozens of small tributaries, huge stump-filled flats and small river lakes.

But the main bayou, especially right below the spillway, is the hotspot this time of year.

In August, Bayou D’Arbonne water levels are affected by two variables, D’Arbonne Lake and the Ouachita River. Since rainfall is minimal this time of year, the gates to the spillway usually aren’t open and the river is at or below pool stage for the most part. So the water level in the bayou is stable and clearer than normal.

Bayou D’Arbonne is one of Todd Garvin’s places to fish in August.

Garvin, of Monroe, is entering his second season as head coach of the Ouachita Parish High School football program. Garvin has found success at everything he coaches, from winning a share of the 2-5A district championship in his debut campaign, to coaching an elite nationally ranked youth baseball team. His success doesn’t stop there. He finds it on the water as well, where he competes with crappie.

More is better

As a husband and father to four boys, it’s hard for Garvin to find time to fish, but when he does, you will find him just off Spillway Road in Farmerville, launching his boat into the bayou below the spillway.

“I grew up single pole fishing for crappie, so the spider rig is something I had to learn,” Garvin said. Spider rigging is an excellent way to locate and catch crappie in the bayou.

“I use eight poles when spider rigging fished 8 to 10 feet deep in roughly 20 feet of water.”

Since there’s not much structure below the spillway, Garvin focuses on suspended crappie around the edges of the creek bends.

“I like to fish a Bobby Garland jig in a combination of three colors — pink, chartreuse, and blue,” he said. “My favorite jig head is a Rockport Rattler in the 1/8-ounce model in a bright color as well.

Chunky crappie like this bring fishermen below the spillway during the summertime.

“With my busy schedule, I’m limited to how often I get to fish, so I want to capitalize when I can and the spider rig allows me to do that.”

Garvin said the most important detail to mention about this method is live bait.

“I tip my jigs with a shiner,” he said. “I have found that when I use that larger profile bait, I tend to catch larger crappie and less trash fish.”

Keep moving

Garvin also pointed out that technology has helped fishermen like himself be better at keeping live bait during these hot summer months.

“It’s all about covering water,” he said. “The crappie are schooled up and on the move following baitfish, so I set my trolling motor on low, around the 1 mph range, and start fishing.

“I catch the majority of my crappie from daylight to mid-morning using the spider rig approach.”

When the bite slows down, Garvin will migrate down the bayou and start single pole fishing fallen treetops and lay downs.

“When the sun gets high in the sky, the crappie will hold tight around the structure and I’ll start picking them off one by one with a jig pole in hand,” he said.

Even though the big lake above the spillway gets most of the recognition in north Louisiana, Bayou D’Arbonne ranks high among locals looking to fill up their freezer in August before the start of hunting season.

Besides the launch below the spillway on the east side of the bayou, there is also an improved ramp at Holland’s Bluff below Rocky Branch where you can reach the upper ends of the bayou and a public ramp off White’s Ferry Road near where the bayou runs into the river.

About Tim Johnston 5 Articles
Tim Johnston, a lifelong Louisiana resident, has been an avid outdoorsman for over 30 years. He lives in West Monroe with his wife Emmy and their three kids.

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