On any given summer day you could find Kyle Jones in the back of a Red River oxbow slinging in slab crappie. Growing up on the river, Jones learned all the secrets to catching these river fish all year long. The Red River is a constantly changing fishery, and can be difficult for new fisherman to learn. The currents, water levels, bottom structure, and water clarity are constantly changing. Luckily, Jones was more than happy to share some of his best secrets to his summer success.
Once the daily temperatures start to rise into the high 90’s, crappie on the Red suspend on the edges of the creek channels in the oxbow lakes. This allows the fish to easily move to shallower water at night to feed. Jones concentrates his efforts on brush around these drop offs.
“If you can find standing timber or brush piles on the edge of drop offs or the edge of creek channels; they have been loaded with fish,” Jones said. “If you can find some brush any of these river lakes will produce for you.”
A good tip for finding brush is to look for bends in the creek channel where the current will cause brush to accumulate.
The constantly changing water levels and clarity can cause issues for anglers. Jones uses Garmin LiveScope technology to use these variables to his advantage. When the water is muddy it allows Jones to sneak up on the fish. This keeps him from spooking fish as easily because they can’t see the boat. Normally muddy water makes it harder for crappie to see the bait, but the LiveScope allows Jones to put the jig right on the fish’s nose.
“The water level constantly changes throughout the year and that can make fishing a challenge,” he said. “I like to fish in muddy water now that I have LiveScope. The fish can’t see you as good and you can get closer to them when they are suspended. The drawback to that is that you have to put the jig right in their face for them to bite; with LiveScope you can do that.”
Jones uses a 12-foot Todd Huckabee Slab Swinger and 20-pound braid to get his fish in the boat. The longer rod moves the bait further away from the boat without being too heavy to hold all day. The braid allows more aggressive fishing around brush.
“I use braid because if you get a fish hung up in brush or if you get your jig hung you can usually get it out without losing your jig,” Jones said.
The type of bait can make a big difference in catching summer crappie. Jones uses artificial bait to avoid the problems of keeping live bait alive in the heat. Hair jigs and plastic body jigs can both produce in the sweltering heat.
“The fish have been slamming my jigs,” Jones said. “I generally use hand tied jigs made by Rob Johnson at Mudhole’s Crappie Crazy Jigs. If I’m using soft plastics I use Bone Head Tackle. I can’t tell you the last time I bought live bait.”
The Red River can be challenging to fish, but it can pay off for anglers willing to put in the time to learn.
“I like fishing the Red River because it is a constantly changing fishery,” Jones said. “One day you are fishing in 8-feet of water and two days later the same spot may be 10-feet of water. I grew up on the river and it has always been my first love.”
Follow these tips and you will be well on your way to catching river slabs.
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