This spring, Mother Nature threw the Ouachita River system a wicked curve ball, pushing floodwaters to near record highs in the meandering waterway. It’s taken a bit longer this year for the river to get right, but is getting there now.
And the crappie bite is right behind, hot on its trail.
“We have started catching some really good crappie on the Ouachita,” said noted fishing authority Bobby Phillips of West Monroe. “We are about six weeks later than normal, but the river lakes and sloughs are starting to produce.”
If you want to get in on the action, Phillips said in all his years fishing the river, one thing always remains consistent this time of year.
“The crappie are going to be more shallow than most people would believe,” he says. “Now that the river is dropping and its hot as blue blazes, the shad are going to be right near the top because that is where the oxygen is. Where the shad are, the crappie will follow, feeding right below them. We’ve been catching them two to four feet deep.”
There are thousands of acres of river and backwater lakes, sloughs and creeks. Another thing that remains constant this time of year is how to find those fish and crappie.
“A lot of the time, they’ll be right out in the middle of the lakes and sloughs. What you have to look for is the shad flicking on the top. When the water is slick calm, you can see them pretty easy,” he says. “Find the shad, rig up a spider rig and bait up. You’ll catch some. And right now, you can fish that spider rig fast. They’ll catch up to it. They’re hungry.”
While Phillips is normally a jig fisherman, he’s been fishing shiners along with the jigs the past week or so. The “minners” as Phillips calls them obviously look more realistic than any lure right now because, “hey, the are real,” but they are more expensive and hard to keep alive in the heat. He has also been catching on Bobby Garland Bluegrass and a red tip, blue body “Patriot” tube jig. Bobby puts a dap of chartreuse color on the tail of just about any jig he puts in the water these days.
As the river continues to fall and the current slows to a minimum, fish will move out in the tops in the river as well. He reminds fishermen to fish the tops on the outside first and work their way in shallower until you locate them. That way you won’t spook the fish if they are out deeper.