Poverty Point Rocks

This young lake delivers the goods to crappie anglers who focus on the hard structure.

We all like to think our success in fishing is due to great technical skill and vast knowledge of the aquatic species, but to be truthful, luck has often played a large role in my outdoor career.

For example, one purely chance encounter on Poverty Point Reservoir near Delhi led to some of the best fishing trips I’ve ever had.

One day several years ago, I was completely skunked on a crappie expedition during the late spawn. I had tried all my favorite spots from brushy bank lines to submerged timber with hardly a fish in the livewell.

Just as I was about ready to call it a day, two strangers in a jonboat puttered slowly by. After the obligatory how-ya-doin’ nod and shaking my head to his “Having any luck?” salutation, one of the men advised, “Try real shallow right up on the banks around the rocks. They’re biting pretty good there.”

I gave them a thank-you wave, and eased over to a line of crushed rocks that had been placed along the bank around a boat dock. Stripping about 18 inches of line off my jigging reel, I dropped the black/chartreuse tube jig into the water, and slowly trolled along the rocks just out from the bank.

Almost immediately, I felt the sharp thump of a good fish, and a nice, chunky crappie thrashed on top of the water as I hauled the pole in hand over hand so I could lip snatch him.

The fish were scattered, but over the next couple of hours, I repeated the process about a dozen times, and vowed to remember the rocks when next year’s spawn rolled around.

Poverty Point is a fairly new lake, and almost devoid of visible structure. The land was cleared for years before funding was finally appropriated to finish the project, but along the shoreline, there are stretches of rocks protecting the bank from erosion. Some are large rip rap rocks along the dam and road beds, and some are smaller crushed stones used to protect the yards of houses built on the lake’s coves. During the spring, these rocks hold a variety of fish in large numbers.

Monroe’s Bob Mitcham, who is retired from the fishing tackle wholesale business, pokes around the rocks every year in search of spawning crappie.

“Knowing when to start fishing the rocks is a good deal of trial and error,” he admitted. “Some crappie start moving up to the rocks as early as January if the water temperature breaks 50.

“They’re usually not on the bank at that time, but they stay suspended just off the rocks in 3 to 5 feet of water. In my experience, they don’t actually move up on the bank until just before the spawn starts, when the water temperature reaches the mid-50s.”

Once they make the move, however, Poverty Point crappie will remain on the rocks well into April.

Mitcham says both types of rocks hold crappie.

“Anywhere you find rocks is good,” he said. “The small, crushed rocks around people’s houses are excellent, but so are the big chunk rocks that line the road beds. Those big rocks go farther out into the water than people think. They will extend out 8 to 10 feet beyond what you can see underwater.”

These rocks can be found all around the lake, but Mitcham prefers the east side.

“I usually fish the pockets that have the old Bayou Macon channels but just because I’m more familiar with them,” he said. “Other good places are the rocks around the North Marina pocket, the line of rocks that form the entire northern lake shore and the pocket on the northeast side that holds what locals call the ‘Jungle.’

“I’ve also heard people wearing them out all along the west side on the rocks in the various pockets that are just off Highway 17.”

As for bait, Mitcham is a jig man.

“I like the 2-inch tube jigs best,” he said. “If using the Road Runner jigheads, I have found the solid plastic bodies are best. Solid-body jigs like the Yum jig are good because they stay on the hook better than the hollow body ones.”

When the crappie are spawning along the rocks, they often will hit almost any color, and it sometimes just boils down to a matter of choice. I prefer the black/chartreuse or pumpkinseed tube jigs with a chartreuse Road Runner head.

Mitcham, on the other hand, likes to use the Yum jig in the emerald green with a chartreuse tail. And, of course, shiners tossed up next to the rocks with a slip cork can be good, too. In fact, on those days when the crappie are just plain finicky, shiners will often beat out jigs.

For an added attraction, Mitcham puts crappie nibbles on his jig.

“Any color is good as long as it’s chartreuse,” he advised. “I’ve also found the solid color nibbles are best because they are harder and tend to stay on the hook better. The nibbles with speckles don’t hold up as well, and they tend to get on you, the boat, and everything else.

“I like to use them in my bait pump, and shoot them into a hollow body jig when I’m tight lining. They will bleed out for a really long time.”

When I’m fishing the rocks for spawning crappie, I use a 12-foot pole with 12-18 inches of line, and simply drag the jig along parallel to the bank about 4 feet out.

Mitcham, however, has great success with a different method.

“My preferred way is to use an ultralight spinning rig to toss the Road Runner jig up against the rocks,” he said. “When I establish a pattern of how far out they are from the bank and at what depth, I can start fishing parallel to the bank and concentrate on the water that holds them. I retrieve it just as slow as I can, and then slow it down some more.

“Once a buddy was with me, and he was using a heavier reel that had a faster retrieve ratio. He caught 12 without me catching anything. The crappie were out from the bank suspended high in the water column, just a couple feet below the surface. My heavier Road Runner was running under the fish, so I switched to a simple tube jig, and soon outfished him.”

Crappie are not the only fish that hang out around the rocks. Bass fishing can also be excellent. Late one afternoon last spring, I was working a rock line next to Terry Huff’s house looking for crappie while he was grilling supper on his dock. Between flipping steaks, Huff would take his casting rig and toss a weighted jig up against the rocks.

I wasn’t paying much attention until I heard a loud splash, and looked around in time to see a large bass completely clear the water. Huff had his hands full trying to keep it out of the pilings while making his way off the dock. Finally, he made it to the bank and lifted the fish from the water. After admiring the big female and posing for a photograph, he gently eased her back into the lake.

This was not the first big bass Huff had caught off the rocks. Fishing Poverty Point’s rocky shore is also a spring tradition for him.

“I wait until the water temperature hits about 60 before I start fishing the rocks,” he said. “That usually happens in mid or late March.”

For baits, Huff keeps it simple.

“I like a white spinnerbait, and I like a Bandit crankbait,” he said. “The Bandit in Tennessee shad color is real good on this lake, and I prefer using the 100 series because you can work the shallow water around the rocks better with it than the 200 series.”

One of the good things about fishing the rocks is that you don’t have to have an intimate knowledge of the lake to find fish.

“When fishing for bass, anywhere you find the big rocks around the main lake is good,” Huff said. “Those big rocks along the road beds are much better than the small gravelly shorelines around the houses because the bass will spawn around the large rocks. Just find the rocks and start fishing.

“I usually cast up to the bank and then bring the bait back to deeper water. You can also get in close and fish parallel to the rocks, but I don’t normally do that because those rocks jut out farther than you think. If you’re in a big boat, you can ding it up pretty good if you happen to drift up on a submerged one.”

How big are the bass that hold on the rocks? Huff claims real big.

“Last spring, I caught one that went 9 pounds, and in April, I measured and released one that went 10.8 pounds,” he said. “A guy caught it on a white spinnerbait, and it’s still there. We measured it so he could get a fiberglass replica, and then he released it back in the lake.”

Although I usually concentrate on the crappie, I always keep a casting rod handy loaded with a Bandit Tennessee shad crankbait. Over the years, I have learned several stretches of rock hold some very good springtime bass, and I alternate between jigging for crappie and casting for bass.

Two memorable days occurred on the east side of the lake in two of the coves that have the old Bayou Macon channel. Casting next to some crushed rocks near one house, I hooked a 2-pound white bass that gave me quite a tussle. A second cast had the same result, as did a third. I sat in one spot for about 15 minutes and repeatedly pulled nice white bass out of one 10-foot stretch of bank line, and then left them biting to go find some crappie.

I stopped at the spot on two more trips over the next week, and caught the white bass again.

On another outing, I tossed my Bandit crankbait up next to the big rocks along the road on the lake’s east side, and hooked a heavy fish. After I wrestled with it for awhile, the 5- or 6-pound bass jumped right next to the boat and threw the lure.

Muttering under my breath, I kept fishing down the rocks and hooked another large one about 50 yards away. Once again, however, the big bass jumped and threw the lure. That particular stretch of rocks has always produced nice bass in the springtime, but I have never landed one of the lake’s trophy fish.

Casting and jigging are not the only ways to enjoy fishing Poverty Point’s rocks. On one rather foggy morning when I was horsing large crappie out of the shallows, I noticed a man slowly trolling down the rocks casting a fly rod. After watching him catch a couple of small bass, I eased up to his boat and struck up a conversation because I, too, enjoy flipping the occasional fly.

Curtis Harrington also lives on the lake and regularly fly fishes the rocks for bass and bream.

“I get tired of jerking white perch on jigs, and can’t wait until the bream start hitting so I can use the fly rod,” he said. “I have two rods fixed up for bass and bream, a 6-weight for the bass and a 4-weight for the bream.

“First, I go down the rocks using the bass plug, and then turn around and come back using the bream plug.”

Harrington’s standard colors for bass poppers are black/chartreuse, and he uses black, chartreuse and orange for bream.

On this particular morning, he told me, “I tried the chartreuse popper first, but it was no good so I put on a black popper and caught five bass between 7 and 8 a.m.

“But yesterday after a rain I did real good on the chartreuse, and caught a bass that probably went nearly 5 pounds. He was just over 20 inches long. It took me 10 minutes to land him.”

Before I departed, Harrington imparted some advice on fly fishing.

“Over the years, I’ve learned a special technique to catch more fish,” he said. “If you want to be successful with flies, don’t use the rod to work the fly or set the hook. Use the fly line. I think when you use the rod, you jerk it out of their mouths, but if you use the line, you can set the hook right through their brain.”

I’ve also found a fly rod and popping bugs can even catch crappie. My brother Larry is a fly fisherman, and he met me at the lake one afternoon to try his hand at bream and bass while I worked the rocks for crappie. When we were in the very back of one cove, something gulped down his popping bug right up next to the rocks, and tugged furiously on his light 2-weight rod. When he finally worked the fish in close to the boat, we both were surprised to see it was a nice crappie. Over the next hour, Larry caught two more on his topwater bug, plus numerous bream.

The best year I have ever had fishing for crappie was the one after my chance encounter with the helpful strangers. That spring, I caught and released 66 and 77 crappie on two successive trips, and had several trips with 30 or more.

Once I had them patterned, I told my good friend Jim Brister about it, and we made a couple of successful trips together.

Within a few months, Jim was diagnosed with kidney cancer, and went through a trying ordeal of radiation and chemotherapy. Last spring when the crappie began to move up on the rocks, I called Jim and asked if he felt up to making a run to Poverty Point with me. He had been looking forward to such a trip, but I really didn’t know if he would be up for it considering his poor health. To my surprise, he eagerly agreed to make a short afternoon trip.

We pulled up to our first line of crushed rocks on the lake’s east side, and Jim rigged a pumpkinseed tube jig while I put on my dependable chartreuse Road Runner head with black/chartreuse jig.

At the time, I had never used the pumpkinseed color, and really didn’t expect Jim to do very well sitting in the back of the boat. Within a minute of reaching the first stretch of rocks, however, I heard him grunt.

“There’s one,” he said.

He wrestled in a nice crappie, her belly bulging with eggs, and threw it in the livewell. Within the next hundred feet, he added two more without me getting a single bump. Needless to say, I quickly switched colors, and we wound up with 34 by dark.

Driving home, Jim said the chemo had been very hard.

“But you know,” he said after a short pause, “if I hadn’t gone through it, I might have missed out on this trip. And this has been great! You just can’t beat being outdoors on a gorgeous spring day when the fish are biting.”

It was the last fishing trip Jim and I ever made together. His health quickly deteriorated, and he passed away a few months later. I lost my fishing buddy and one of the best Christian men I’ve ever known, but I take pleasure in knowing he was able to enjoy one more outstanding day fishing Poverty Point’s rocks.

About Terry L. Jones 99 Articles
A native of Winn Parish, Terry L. Jones has enjoyed hunting and fishing North Louisiana’s woods and water for 50 years. He lives in West Monroe with his wife, Carol.

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