Brush tops in oxbows hold plenty of slabs
It’s game time, time to test out your game plan, get your best gear ready for some competition and be on the top of your game to take on the crappie of Red River south. And right now, they seem like ready and willing to go.
“Fishing has been good, and it should get better,” said veteran fisherman Jerry Mitchell, who believes the best way to be on the top of your game is to be on a brush top loaded with crappie in one of the deeper oxbows or flooded areas off the main river.
“This time of year, we spend most of our time fishing tops that we’ve put out or finding brush piles and letdowns that hold crappie,” he said. “We’ll spend some time scanning the tops with our electronics, and when we find a top with fish, that’s where we stop.”
Mitchell has a unique approach for fishing the Red River tops that allows him to catch more fish without spooking them. He starts out by backing off and casting his bait over the top, letting it sink down to the depth of water where he’s spotted fish. That is usually around 8 to 10 feet deep this time of year in about 12 to 20 feet of water.
“By casting back past the tops, you can get bites without spooking the rest of the fish,” he said. “We’ll keep doing that until it slows down, then get right above the top and try to catch a few more.”
Mitchell also has a tip about the bait to use this time of year. He likes to go small and use light line.
“Shiners and jigs will both work,” he said. “We usually start out with shiners but also mix in the jigs. I use the smallest shiners I can find, and I also use 1/32-ounce jigs. The smaller bait just falls more naturally, and I think we get more hits because of that. I also use only 4-pound test line. I believe the bigger line scares off a lot of fish. One thing about the light line, though. Make sure you set your drag loose enough where a big one won’t make a run and break it.”
Jerry’s favorite Red River jigs this time of year are brighter colors like chartreuse, red and white. Those seem to produce the best for him.
Preparing for winter
What turns on the crappie this time of year?
“It’s just cooler, and they become more active,” he said. “The baitfish start moving around, they start moving around, and they are storing up for the winter when it gets really cold.”
Mitchell and his fishing partners stay off the main river for several reasons. Rainfall can make the water too off-colored for crappie, and the current is a deterrent. Crappie don’t like current, and so the more-stable water off the river seems to be the best bet in December.
The Red River south area runs from Shreveport to Natchitoches, and it offers good fishing along the entire stretch. If you aren’t familiar with the river system, it’s a good idea to study a map, pick out one or two of the river lakes and find some deep water. Every area doesn’t hold fish, and every top doesn’t hold fish, but you can fish by trial-and-error or use your electronics to find the spots that are holding fish.
When you do, you can fill up your ice chest with tasty slabs from a pound up to 2 pounds, he said.