Heartlander Abroad: Lake Washington, MS
That’s right, I’m still giving fishing reports from 300 miles away, I’d give a local report but my momma always said that if I didn’t have anything nice to say I should say nothing at all! Actually, that’s not entirely true, we have a bit of good news in that our lakes are no longer froze solid! Furthermore, I saw a few pictures of anglers holding some big crappie from Wappapello Lake, so there is hope.
This trip was my 4th to Lake Washington, and I made arrangements to take my lovely wife with me. she’d never been there, but has heard me talk about it at great length, and I wanted her to experience my second favorite lake in the country after Reelfoot. Another bonus, at least I thought months ago when planning this, was that 300 miles south is generally much warmer in early March. “Generally” being the key word here.
We left a day early to beat Snowmageddon 2, and made almost the entire trip in a torrential downpour, which for any of you men who have driven in such conditions with your wife riding shotgun, you know is a good time. We made it to the lake in time for a Mississippi sunset, which was the last of Mother Natures pleasantries for a few days. The temperature plummeted, the sleet fell and packed, and we woke up to a skating rink that closed Mississippi for most of the day.
I whined last week about rescuing my boat from the igloo that had formed around it, and in doing so tore my boat cover to pieces. The inch of sleet that covered the ground also covered my boat, and half the day Friday was spent in the boat with a hammer busting the ice.
We swung by bait n thangs and picked up some minnows and headed out Friday afternoon. The fish were still lethargic from the cold shock and the bite was slow, but what did bite was very big, which is the case with this lake. It’s wild to go down there and catch these crappie, they are just freaks of nature. A 15-inch fish throughout most of the country will weigh 1.5 to 1.75-pounds, and down there they will be 2.25 to 2.5-pounds. A healthy, fat Reelfoot Lake crappie that is 16 inches will weigh between 1.9 and 2.2-pounds, and down there a 16-inch female will be between 2.75 and 3.5-pounds. They are shaped liked footballs, and meaner than a linebacker!
Most of the lake is from 5 to 8-feet deep, and has very little cover in it. These massive crappie just suspend randomly throughout the water column in the always murky water. Spider-rigging is the best way to target them, and if you have a side imaging depth finder you are at an advantage. Driving around and scanning the area is the best way to find fish this time of year. They are generally feeding actively and chasing shad, which stay in “balls” to protect themselves are easy to see on today’s electronics.
After finding crappie, there are two remaining obstacles, not spooking them and landing them after they bite. I use 8, 16-foot B’n’M BGJP’s, which is a long rod, but it keeps my baits as far away from my boat and trolling motor as I can handle. Another tool I employ is the Silent Stalker, which is a thick, vinyl material that straps tightly under the bow of my boat. It’s like putting a silencer on a rifle and has changed how I fish, check them out at thesilentstalker.com.
Landing the big, mean crappie in shallow water is the next obstacle, and a good spinning reel with a loose drag is key, along with a good net-man. These fish run hard and without a smooth drag you’ll end up pulling hooks loose and watching that trophy disappear!
A couple guys who have figured out how to catch and land big crappie are Eric Parris from Dexter, MO and his fishing partner Donnie Foster from Essex. They were at Lake Washington and won the Bait’n’Thangs “Big Momma” Tournament with a 2.32-pound slab!