Billy Russell dropped a jig beside a cypress tree, and a hungry crappie sucked it in, and a split-second later Russell set the hook, and the first crappie of the day was in the boat. Russell had just made his first turkey hunting trip with me in 38 years, and we left the woods with a gobbler in hand and went straight to an old Delta cypress slough.
It seemed appropriate that we were back fishing together after my turkey hunting career had begun after a “chance” meeting with Russell while fishing at a lake near Collinsville back in 1980.
Since turkey season was in full swing, Russell invited me to hunt and fish, and we set the date and experienced some of the “Delta outdoors heaven on earth” — and that’s not an exaggeration.
Russell cut his teeth on calling turkeys and shooting big bucks, but he had never been crappie fishing with jigs, and that had just changed with his first crappie of the day, but it wasn’t his last. As we worked the stumps, trees and brush I soon found a pattern that kept producing strikes the rest of the afternoon. One fish does not a pattern make, but several fish caught on one type of structure produces a pattern.
This pattern started with crappie bites, but it actually developed into a bass and crappie pattern.
After catching a few crappie here and there I soon realized that most of our crappie were coming off of newly sprouted cypress trees that had live greenery growing. The larger trees and dead structure produced random bites and fish, but the green bushes and trees were like money in the bank. If you dropped a jig by one of those, you’d get bit in short order.
On more than one occasion, Russell dropped his jig by a bush and got bit, and I’d dance a jig by a cypress knee and get a bite, too. There’s nothing quite as exciting as both anglers catching a fish at the same time. The action just got better and better as the crappie were hitting our 1/8-ounce jigs tipped with Crappie Magic grubs in black and chartreuse and blue and chartreuse with increasing regularity.
These perch weren’t just nipping at the lures, they were smashing them and swallowing them deep, making for good hooksets. Hook removers were needed to extract the jigs from deep in the throats of the crappie.
Lunker bass, too
We were catching crappie with regularity and enjoying the day when a monster bass struck Russell’s jig and began fighting wildly before spitting the hook out. Russell could hardly believe what happened, but he wasn’t prepared for catching a lunker bass on a crappie pole.
We continued catching crappie and releasing them into our “supper well”. After a few minutes, it was business as usual.
Ka-Whoosh! Another lunker bass smashed the jig and thrashed wildly on the surface as Russell set the hook on him. This time the bass was hooked very well.
I coached Russell on some of the finer points of working the bass by utilizing the long pole and its strength and flexibility to wear the fish down. As it turned out, you would have thought he was an expert in the finer art of landing lunker bass on crappie poles with 6-pound line.
Russell did lose one other bass on the pole but gained valuable experience. With a little help and guidance from his guide, Russell wore the next bass down, and I lipped him with my bare hands. Throughout the afternoon, bass kept striking the Bass Pro Jig and Crappie Magic grub. Though we didn’t have a net in the boat, we did know what to do and how to work as a team.
Suddenly, another bass smashed his green and chartreuse jig and almost tore the rod form Russell’s grip. The bass thrashed across the water’s surface and tail walked almost all the way to the boat. Russell worked him back and forth, in figure eights and side to side as he finally wore the lunker down and led him to me, whereupon I grabbed him with both hands and brought him into the boat.
The 6-pound bass was a trophy indeed and was caught on 6-pound line with a crappie jig no less. There’s nothing much better than spending a day on a Delta cypress slough catching bass and crappie with a lifelong friend and turkey hunting mentor — except maybe killing a gobbler in the morning and catching fish in the afternoon. But the hunt is a story for another day. Carpe diem, Billy Russell!
Call Mike Giles at 601-917-3898 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.