Grenada Lake in Mississippi is known for big crappie, but it is an open lake and the wind can play havoc with the fishing if you don’t know how to handle it. I was there to fish with Brandon Fulgham, a local guide with plenty of experience with the wind on Grenada.
Like a lot of other anglers, Fulgham does not like dead slick calm water. “I think when you get dead calm, no wind at all, I think the fish can see you better and hear you better. They hear your trolling motor, they hear a live well running, and they hear any boat noise better when it’s calm. I like a little ripple on the water, it kind of disguise things, covers you up. It doesn’t make the water seem like a big mirror reflecting everything.”
Our plan for the day was to spider rig the flats for some big Grenada crappie. We were fishing his 22-foot Ranger boat. “I love a Ranger boat to fish for crappie, stated Fulgham. It is heavy and it sets low to the water. It doesn’t make your poles bounce up and down real hard like some boats do. When you get waves that make your poles go up and down, up and down, it makes it hard to catch fish. Those baits are just jumping up and down in the water column too hard. That’s why I fish out of the Ranger, the stability of it, the weight of it.”
It did not take long to realize we would have to contend with the wind. “We have a NE wind today and the lake has a little roll to it,” commented Fulgham. “I never like calm, because of the noise, but with too much wind gives you waves sloshing on the hull, especially on aluminum boats. Wave slap will spook the crappie away from your poles.”
Given that the hull noise was not good, and the drift speed was too high, Fulgham explained his solution. “With windy conditions I deploy a 72 inch Minn Kota drift sock out the back of the boat and drift with the wind. The drift sock should bring our speed down to around .2 or .3 mph.”
Before deploying the drift sock Fulgham positions the boat so the wind will take him over the area he wants to fish. “When you have high wind, position the boat so you will drift with the wind over the flat that you think is holding bait and crappie. Put out the drift sock and let the wind be your power. We won’t be running anything, just letting the wind push us along.”
As Fulgham lined up the boat for the drift he explained that we would be fishing the edge of a suspended ridge. “They have the gates open so we are fishing a draw down. When they pull a lot of water there is a lot of current in the lake. The water temp fell off from the high 80s to mid 70s and the fish are suspended up in the water column.”
He prepared his 16 foot Ozark Rods with double minnow rigs in planning for the drift. The rods would be placed in Tite-Lok Rod Holders. “We are fishing in Oct, so it is a fall bite pattern. It is not much different fishing now than in the spring. In the springtime, depending on the water temp we would probably be in 2 to 4 foot of water.”
Fulgham commented that new people that come to Grenada are amazed at the changing water levels. “The water level in the lake right now is about 205 in the spring it will be at 190. All this area where we are fishing would be dry. Especially up the river, it would be a wall of stumps. The fish congregate around the stumps and single pole fishermen can jig around those stumps. However, I have lived on this lake all my life and the best fishing to me is to find suspended fish out on the flats in open water.”
An occasional glance at the sonar indicated that we were fishing anywhere from 10 to 15 feet deep and the crappie were suspending at 4 to 5 feet deep. “The crappies are not up in the real shallow water yet,” explained Fulgham. “They are staying out here in the current. It is not a lot of current but it is enough to make the fish move up the lake. Crappie always feed looking up, so we are pushing the minnow rigs over the top of the fish.”
Fulgham says a lot of anglers hold to the myth that to find crappie you have to find wood. “That is not true at all. Crappie, especially in the summer and fall, will get out here in the middle of nothing. Where ever the shad are is where the crappie will be. There won’t be a stick, a stump or nothing around and they will suspend in 4 or 5 feet deep water and gorge themselves.”
He advises new crappie anglers to get a good sonar unit and get out on the water. “They should inspect these river ledges and flats, marking fish to see how deep they are. Adjust the depth of the baits to a distance just above the marked fish according to the sonar and just spend some time. The fish will come.”
With two Humminbird 1199 installed, one up front and one the console, Fulgham doesn’t miss much. “I use the side imaging a lot. That is what I got the Humminbird for. I can run through here with that side imaging set at 50 feet and actually see the fish setting there, suspended. Brush piles and other structure are also easy to spot. That thing is absolutely incredible.”
Shad are a big part of the formula for success on Grenada. “When these fish are out here suspended I use my sonar to find them. Just idle and look. You will see big balls of shad on the screen. This lake is full of shad. You find those schools of shad and you will see fish underneath them. That is the key to Grenada, finding the shad.”
The bite was slow, but Fulgham was not quick to move. “I like to give a spot and a strategy two or three hours to see what’s happening. Today, I know there are fish in here. You just have to be patient. The water has gotten a little dingy. It wasn’t this color yesterday. It may have something to do with our slow bite.”
Fulgham says watching your poles will tell you the kind of bite you are going to have. “Sometimes crappie are biting and sometimes they aren’t. Occasionally you get out here and they just absolutely slam it aggressively. They really are biting; they hit it hard and take off with it. Other times the pole just barely inches down in the water, not an aggressive bite at all. That is a sign to me that the fish really didn’t want to eat it, but it came by and he grabbed it. Crappies are predator fish so naturally they grab the bait when it comes by but they don’t always want it because they are hungry. That’s the difference between feeding and not feeding.”
The moon phase can affect the bite too, according to Fulgham. “You can make em’ bite, but you have to do everything just right. Sometimes if they don’t want to eat they just don’t want to eat. I’ve seen times when they burn it up at daylight and at 9 am you cant get a bite. At 11: o’clock they start hammering it again. I think it has a lot to do with the moon phase. It affects all outdoors activity.”
Fulgham’s experience on Grenada has made him a patient angler and wind warrior. He knows what works and he sticks with it, even when it’s gusty. By the end of the day we had caught several nice Grenada crappie and we did not run all over the lake to do it. “The patience thing at Grenada is always based on what kind of day it is. When you have front conditions like we do today the fish aren’t as active and ya’ just have to slow down and almost spoon feed them.”
Fulgham competes in Bass Pro Shops Crappie Masters Tournament Trail as well as other tournaments. He is sponsored by Tite-Loc Rod Holders, Ozark Rods, Minn Kota and Humminbird.
Note: For more information on a full service crappie trip on Grenada visit GranadaLakeCharters.com. They have package pricing that includes a packed lunch and drinks during fishing trip, tackle, bait, equipment, supper, lodging in a beautiful cabin, and cleaning and freezing of your catch. The cabin has a balcony to enjoy your coffee, full kitchen, comfortable beds, big screen TV and even Wi-Fi. It is a sweet deal!