For the serious crappie angler, there is nothing like reaching down and lipping a 2-pounder or better with your fingers.
And this experience is relished even more when you know that such a fish was fooled to your hook with a tiny piece of plastic.
Maurice Jackson of Zwolle, Louisiana is certainly fortunate to have done this on many more than just a handful of occasions.
After all, the 67-year-old angler just happens to live and guide on the largest man-made, freshwater reservoir in the south – Toledo Bend on the Louisiana/Texas border.
As in other large southern reservoirs, Toledo Bend’s crappie can be taken year-round – even during the dog-days of the summer as well as on the chilliest days of the winter.
Spring and fall jig tactics
“I will use jigs mainly in the spring and fall,” Jackson said. “The fish are active and feeding aggressively, and jigs can be used to quickly get a limit of these fish into the cooler.”
In April of this past spring, Jackson and a few clients were fishing on the southern section of the lake near the Housen area.
“We were fishing over some shallow grass, just casting and winding on light spinning equipment,” he said.
The waters were stained, and Jackson was casting Mr. Twister’s 2-inch, Tri-Alive Hot Curly Tail jigs in the black/pearl/chartreuse silver flake color on 1/32-ounce jigheads.
“On this one patch of grass, the crappie were stacked up in good sizes and numbers,” Jackson said. And with Toledo Bend’s generous 25-crappie-per-day limit, each angler had their hands full of constant crappie action for a couple of hours.
For Toledo Bend’s spring and fall crappie, Jackson will chiefly cast Mr. Twister plastics in the shallows, and these include Tri-Alive Hot Curly Tails, VIE Shiners and Tri-Color Mini Tubes. He also enjoys throwing Road Runners when fishing shallow and fast for crappie.
As for colors, Jackson will let the water quality dictate his offering whereas he will use darker color combinations during times of stained or dark conditions. When waters are clear, his artificial jigs will match closely the color of the small prey in the area. Lighter colors will then prevail.
When casting and winding, Jackson’s tackle is light and simple consisting of a 6 ½-foot light spinning rod and spinning reel spooled with 8-pound Stren monofilament or 20-pound braid.
“When using a float during shallow water fishing here, I will use a 1/64-ounce jighead instead of the 1/32-ounce size,” he said. The angler will also chunk and slowly wind his offerings under that float especially when Toledo Bend crappie are suspending right above the submerged grass beds.
Deep water jigging tactics
Beginning in May and lasting until the middle of the fall, Toledo Bend crappie will school tight to deep, submerged structure in strategic locations along the winding river channel.
Jackson as well as other anglers will begin targeting crappie in natural and man-made structures anglers refer to as sunken “tops” and “brushpiles” set in 25- to 30-feet of water.
Throughout the summer, schools of crappie will use this structure and suspend in various depths within these brushpiles for cover, a comfortable thermocline and to occasionally forage on baitfish also using these structures.
“I will have 110 tops set out in 15- to 25-feet of water at any given time along the channel,” Jackson said. “I will also reset them every year and make sure that they are brushed fully with green foliage.”
The angler finds that vertically dropping jigs in these structures for crappie will work better in the early summer.
The guide will change up his tackle a bit as he will user longer and a bit more sensitive rods which include 10-foot Shakespeare Crappie Hunter rods equipped with B’n’M reels.
On any given day in the summer, Jackson will locate his sunken tops where baitfish are moving by using his Lowrance. Once he is confident that crappie will be there, he will drop marker buoys near the tops.
“As the waters warm up in the summer, I will catch more crappie in structure by twitching jigs and working them much more slowly than I do in the spring and fall,” Jackson said.
Jackson will use Mr. Twister’s Tri-Alive Hot Curly Tail jigs and the VIE Shiner in fishing in the early summer with jigs.
In the summer’s hottest months of July and August on Toledo Bend, Jackson will rely chiefly on fishing live shiners in these deep tops for coolers full of crappie for he and his clients.
The quality of the crappie has been outstanding when fishing the tops in the summers of the last two years. It is not uncommon to take several hefty crappie – some well over 2 pounds on some occasions.
Maurice Jackson is still catching some gorgeous crappie on select brush piles on Toledo Bend. He is a veteran guide on the lake, and the angler also made a Bassmaster Classic appearance in 1983.
You can contact Maurice for fishing rates and information at 318-645-6863 or 318-617-4887.
For more information regarding Mr. Twister crappie and panfish jigs, visit their website at www.mistertwister.com.