Keith Lusher 03.07.23
Crappie fisherman seldom agree with each other when it comes to lures or technique. But one thing they do agree on is the simple fact that the key to finding crappie is to find structure. Submerged brush piles, fallen trees, underwater root-balls have long been a target for sac-a-lait fishermen everywhere. However, there is a type of structure that often gets overlooked. I recently made a fishing trip with veteran crappie angler Tim Bye of Folsom, La where it wasn’t wood we targeting, but lilies. Our trip began on the Tchefuncte River which is south of interstate 12 in Covington, La. Bye turned into a dead-end canal that was clogged full of Pennywort lilies comparable to the dollar weed that grows in years across the south.
I started by dropping my jig down along the edge of the lilies. Bye pointed to the center of the grass mat. “The fish are right in there,” he’s said, as he glared at his Garmin LiveScope Screen. Bye lowered his trolling, turned it on high, then picked it up as the boat pushed into the lilies. He then proceeded to reach over the side of the boat and clear out a hole in the grass about two feet away. He glanced at his electronics screen then slowly lowered his Bobby Garland tube-jig down, when his arm shot up as if a triggered was pulled. The water trembled underneath the lilies and I witnessed a 14-inch crappie erupt out of the 6-inch hole. The fish shot up and over the side of the boat and flopped on the floorboard.
As Bye unhooked his fish and put it in the live-well, I lowered my jig down and waited for a thump. A few seconds went by but I didn’t feel anything. Bye told me to lower it down another foot. I lowered it down and felt a thump. My reaction, while not as quick as Bye’s, was quick enough to snag the fish and send him flying out of the hole, over the gunwale, and into the boat.
“The tricky thing about fishing these mats is it looks shallow underneath, but in reality, sometimes there’s 20 feet of water under these lilies,” he said. After caching three fish from under the mat, we motored farther into the cut and found another set of lilies. After the same routine we managed another three fish all measuring over 10 inches.
We continued fishing every grass mat we came across picking up a few fish at every one. “The river is loaded with crappie right now and they’re under these lilies but most guys don’t want to mess with them,” he said. At the end of the day we kept 15 crappie for the fryer and, being from the south, I experienced the closest thing to ice fishing that I’ll ever experience. Some fish we pulled out of holes in the grass were less than a foot away from the side of the boat. Bye recommends giving these mats a try during the upcoming spawn. “Those fish like structure — period — and these mats provide plenty of cover for big slabs in the shallows,” he said.