Crappie school is in session at Lake Claiborne

Wesley Miller, right, and Dan Turner landed an ice chest of big Claiborne “top” slabs on a recent outing.

This is the time of year when crappie can be found from the edges of deep creeks and humps all the way up to the cypress and flats around Lake Claiborne near Homer. But until the spawn is in full swing, and sometimes even later, there’s one “top” spot that anglers shouldn’t pass up.

“When crappie get stacked in the tops and the fallen timber this time of year down by the dam, you can still rack up and catch an ice chest full of crappie in the deep water,” said crappie expert Wesley Miller. “There’s a large area out here that has a lot of structure and the crappie tend to stay bunched up on that structure until they head to shallow water to spawn. You can catch them from 20-30 feet deep all the way into March.”

The thing about March is that you never know whether it will be 30 degrees or 70 degrees. The weather has an effect on them for sure, but one thing people tend to forget is that all the crappie don’t spawn at the same time. While some move up by Mardi Gras, others are more likely to move in closer to St. Patrick’s Day.

With March winds always an issue, it can be a challenge fishing in the wide-open spaces down in front of the spillway, but Miller said it’s worth the effort if you can do it safely. On calm days, it’s just a matter of finding the right spot.

“With good electronics, you can easily find the tops and spot the ones with fish on them,” he said. “Frankly, it’s hard to find tops without fish on them most of the time.”

Miller’s favorite bait

Miller mostly fishes vertically in the deep water, positioning his boat almost directly over the structure and dropping the bait down to the depth the fish are in.

His favorite bait is a hair jig, preferably one of the dozens of colors he ties himself. The most popular ones are brown or grey with black or pink jig heads. When you are on the fish, the bait doesn’t matter as much as getting it in front of the fish’s eyes. Shiners and plastic jigs also work.

There’s a bonus way to catch them, here, too, and it can be done by anybody. Often schools of crappie will roam all over the area. Generally these fish are a bit more shallow and are chasing schools of baitfish. When they are doing that, you can catch them spider rigging or by chasing the schools and casting jigs and spinners. And when they are on the move, they are aggressive feeders.

Claiborne also has a healthy population of hybrid bass and if you have one of them grab hold of your crappie bait, you’ll be in for a treat.

This pile of big crappie “tops” off a 48-quart cooler and the tasty fish are headed for a fish fry in the near future.

“I’m not a big fan of the hybrids because they compete with the crappie for the same cover and food, but if you hook into one, you’ll have a fight on your hands,” Miller said. “That fight will either last about 10 minutes on light gear if you land the fish…or about three seconds if you have your drag too tight, because they’ll pop your line and be gone.”

Keep your bait above the fish

Some of the shallower tops or sunken trees can also hold fish in transition. They actually hang there on the way to spawn and when moving back out from spawning, especially the big females. One thing Miller reminds people, especially in the deeper water, is to keep the bait above the fish. Crappie feed up and if it goes below them even six inches, they’ll never see the bait. You aren’t as likely to catch a two or three-pounder at Claiborne as you are at some other north Louisiana lakes, but the action is fast and furious when you get on the right spot.

“One good thing about Claiborne is they don’t just get pounded like on some lakes, so they are not as soft of a bite or as spooky under good conditions,” he said.

Miller guides on several north Louisiana lakes and you can get more information or book a trip through his Facebook page, Big Sasquatch Outdoors.

Claiborne is a manmade lake that covers 6,400 acres just south of Homer in Claiborne Parish. It was an excellent state park complete with tent, trailer and cabin camping plus an excellent boat dock and ramp area with plenty of parking. Additional ramps on the lake can be found at Port-Au-Prince area off Hwy. 146 and on the far north end off Hwy. 2 between Homer and Lisbon.

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About Kinny Haddox 492 Articles
Kinny Haddox has been writing magazine and newspaper articles about the outdoors in Louisiana for 45 years. He publishes a daily website, lakedarbonnelife.com and is a member of the Louisiana Chapter of the Outdoor Legends Hall of Fame. He and his wife, DiAnne, live in West Monroe.

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