The water temperature on Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend has finally topped the 70-degree mark, according to guide Bill Fondren, and with that warming water temperature, crappie are beginning their transition from shallow to deep water.
“They started moving out of the shallows last week,” said Fondren, who runs guided crappie fishing trips on both lakes. “On Sam Rayburn, we’re catching them on the upper end of the lake around brush in about 8 to 11 feet of water. But on Toledo Bend, the most consistent action is over grass in 8 to 10 feet of water.”
Crappie are one of the most popular panfish on Earth, and they are about as tasty as a fish can get when fried and served with coleslaw and hush puppies. And it just so happens that Rayburn and T-Bend are two of the best crappie fishing lakes in the Lone Star state. Even at that, crappie can be a test to find and catch on any given day.
One sure fire way to catch crappie on T-Bend is to stroll tube jigs when they are in a post spawn mode like right now. The best depth to stroll jigs is in 8 to 12 feet of water, according to guide Jim Morris. Any deeper and it’s tough to keep small jigs in the strike zone. Any shallower and the trolling motor will spook them.
“Strolling has been the go-to tactic for taking crappie during late spring and early summer for years,” said Morris. “Strolling is nothing more than bump trolling jigs. What I’ve been doing is bump trolling tube jigs over roadbeds, grass and around the islands in 8 to 10 feet of water. I’ll usually rig the tubes on 1/8 to 1/16 ounce jig heads. You want them to be heavy enough to swim just over the tip of grass and over roadbeds. “
Crappie are among the most finicky fish you’ll ever pursue. And they will be hot on one color one hour, then another shade the next. Morris says a black/chartreuse or black/yellow combination is tough to beat on most days. But he’ll also keep a good supply of red/white and black/purple jigs on hand.
“When I’m bump trolling, I have each angler using a different color,” said Morris. “That way you can quickly figure out which color combination is going to work.”
Something else Morris advises is to use the trolling motor just enough to keep the jigs in the strike zone. Strolling, or bump trolling will keep the jigs moving up and down. Most of the bites will come as the jigs are on the fall.”
Fondren says his go-to crappie lure on Sam Rayburn is a 1/8-ounce Road Runner spinnerbait that is tipped with a 2-inch long Stanley Wedgetail Minnow. That lure combination is deadly on Rayburn crappie.
“We’re catching most of the crappie on Rayburn by fishing around willows and along the edges of grass in 8 to 10 feet of water,” says Fondren. “They are not on the deep brush just yet. Some of the best catches are on Road Runners fished along the edge of hydrilla and pepper grass.”
Fondren says that as the water temperature inches up toward 75 degrees a whole lot of crappie will move to deeper water. That’s when they will hold over brush piles throughout the hot summer months in 18 to 28 feet of water.
Fondren also says to keep in mind that he’s fishing with ultralight spinning tackle.
“I’m usually going to be fishing 8-pound test monofilament line,” says Fondren. “That’s a thin diameter line that won’t kill the action of the small jigs. Plus you can feel more of the soft bites from crappie.”
Bream, as in blue gills, long ears and goggle eyes, are still up shallow and on the beds. Morris says he’s catching quite a few of the prized and very tasty hand-sized ’gills while fishing live crickets.
One of my favorite things to do is to ease along a clear water shoreline on Toledo Bend and fish live crickets for big blue gills and other members of the perch family. When bream are on the beds, they will attack just about anything that comes near their spawning beds. And where you find one bed, there will likely be a lot more.
You can also fish small Beetle Spins and Road Runners along the shorelines in 3 to 5 feet of water and catch a lot of big bream for the next few weeks. Best colors are white or yellow when using Beetle Spin lures. A chartreuse Road Runner with a silver spinner is a very good choice.