West Point Crappie With Joey Mines
Joey has been fishing this border lake for 38 years. He still averages 275 days on West Point, and he still has his own outdoor TV show.
John Trussell | April 5, 2021
West Point fishing guide Joey Mines says that crappie anglers are some of the kindest and most friendly people in the world. He should know since he has been guiding them to crappie for 38 years and averages 275 days a year fishing for them on West Point. That’s a lot of crappie fishing!
Joey is a universally recognized guide, not only on West Point, but in the USA with many years of fishing guide experience to his credit. Joey graduated from Clemson University with a degree in business, but little did he know at the time it was going to be in the fishing business. He started a popular outdoor sports store in LaGrange and about the same time started his guide service on West Point.
Soon the growth of guiding and a new outdoor TV show, “Outdoors with Joey Mines,” became a full-time job, so the store was phased out. Joey had one of the first outdoor shows on the Turner Broadcasting System, then in 1990 moved to “Walk TV,” a Christian-based network headquartered in South Carolina. The show reaches 187 million people in the USA through 263 stations, including 21 stations in Georgia and Alabama. To date, Joey has produced more than 1,600 episodes, many of which are available on YouTube.
Joey has continued to expand his fishing knowledge, and some friends might even say he has now earned his Ph.D. degree from Lake West Point University. That Ph.D. might stand for “Prepared always, Heading to the lake and Destined to fish!”
Joey loves to take family and business groups fishing because they appreciate the opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors, and the COVID crisis has given folks a new perspective on what is important in life. Fishing is simply fun and a great activity to share with friends and family, and fish in the boat are viewed as a bonus.
However, Joey always catches fish, even though some days are more productive than others. Crappie are the most prolific fish in the lake, and Joey knows how to find them. He uses a roomy Angler Qwest pontoon boat made by www.apexmarinesales.com and a Minn Kota Terrova trolling motor with i-Pilot to keep the boat on the fish with GPS technology.
Joey has been working on a hard-earned plan on how to find and catch crappie in West Point for many years. Most of the trees that were submerged many years ago when the lake was built in 1962 have long ago rotted into the lake, thus any kind of structure is lacking in much of the lake. He knew that if he was going to be a successful crappie fishing guide, he was going to have to be able to find crappie on a consistent basis. To remedy that problem, Joey has been building a series of submerged treetop structures to attract and hold crappie. Those fish attractor sites that he has now built number 180 across a wide area of the lake. Yep, that is a lot of sites. He says that even though they are all well planned, about one-fourth of them really never produce good fishing, for reasons only known to the fish.
Joey has enlisted the help of his son Will and good friend Dennis McBride to aid in building those fish attractor sites. Usually during the winter months, Joey will cut down fresh oak, red cedar and wax myrtle trees and haul them to his sites on a large pontoon boat. Then they are weighted down with large concrete blocks and dropped on his established fish attractor sites, so the sites get bigger and better over the years. For obvious reasons, Joey can’t share his fish attractor sites, but he does say the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains a good string of fish attractor sites that are definitely worth checking out.
It does not take a special permit to build fish attractor sites on West Point, but the corps website does suggest that you contact them if you are planning a large site. Because of the large amount of work involved to build fish attractor sites, few anglers go to the trouble of building them. However, the corps maintains 28 fish attractor sites that are marked with marker buoys that provide good crappie and other species fishing.
According to Ben Williams, supervisory reservoir specialist with the corps, those sites are normally refurbished on a regular basis and are listed on a map and GPS coordinates on their website at https://www.sam.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Recreation/West-Point-Lake. Once on the website, click on fishing, then click the plus sign and the map and GPS information will pop up.
On March 8, I teamed up with Joey to fish several spots to determine what the crappie were doing. The water was 59 degrees, and the crappie were scattered in the mid depths up the feeder creeks getting ready to spawn. Few fish were on the brushpiles, but with some patience, we were able to locate crappie 12 feet down on Joey’s Lowrance Elite graph. We broke out 14-foot-long B’n’M poles and fished them from the front of the boat pushing minnows a few feet off the bottom to entice what turned out to be a steady bite.
Joey prefers live minnows over jigs because he says it’s hard to beat the real McCoy. However, Joey says that if the crappie are in a good feeding mood, they’ll hit the jigs almost as well as a minnow.
You can’t go wrong with Jiffy Jigs at www.jiffyjigs.com or the original Hal Fly that is now made by Big Bite Baits at https://bigbitebaits.com/product/hal-fly.
Joey Mines likes JJ16 color Jiggy Jig, which is a red head, green body and yellow tail. The “Mark Collins” Jiffy Jig color is very productive on West Point. It has a blue head, blue-sparkled body and a light blue tail.
Joey also likes any strong combination of white or chartreuse on a jig that imitates a minnow, like the white/pearl/white from Big Bite Baits. He also recommends that anglers sweeten their jigs with a live minnow to improve the chances of a strike. In April when crappie are generally shallow, he likes a 1/16-oz. jig.
If the crappie were holding closer to the bottom, Joey would have rigged up a drop-shot rig, which would have put the 3/8-oz. weight on the bottom of the line. Then he would come up the line 18 inches and tie on another 18-inch line rigged out with hook and minnow. This rig would put the minnow just off the bottom, dangling in front of the crappie. This rig is Joey’s favorite in late winter and early spring.
We rigged the minnows, hooked through both eye sockets, about 18 inches below a 3/8-oz. barrel weight with thin No. 2 or 4 size hooks. We drifted very slowly at about 0.5 mph in small circles over the area where the crappie were clustered. We ended up with about 40 hand-sized crappie, the largest about 1 1/2 pounds.
The next day, March 9, we headed out of Highland Marina with a group of five anglers headed up by Dave Seagle, a retired UPS supervisor, along with his son Ken, an electrical engineer, and granddaughter McKenna from Anchorage, Alaska.
Dave is also part of the rabbit hunting brigade from the Martha Bowman Methodist Church in Macon. Bill Bethune, a retired World Book supervisor and active timber manager, is the ramrod of the Rabbit Brigade with his large group of beagles, but with the rabbit season over, it was time to go fishing. Joining the group was Ron Thompson, a retired engineer with the Atlanta Gas Light Company, rabbit hunter and all-around sportsman. I was blessed to share the boat with these fine people.
We started off at the location where we got the most bites the day before, but the crappie bites were sporadic, and they wanted to suck on the minnows. We were looking for some true commitment and a strong cork sinking. The fish played hard to get, but we still caught several nice crappie. Joey decided we could do better elsewhere, so we pulled up stakes and moved to several sites in Yellow Jacket Creek and caught some crappie from every location, slowly drifting minnows.
After catching some crappie around one of Joey’s brushpiles in Yellow Jacket Creek, we were slowly moving to another fish attractor site when Joey noticed a wad of crappie schooling near the bottom on a shallow flat. Joey said crappie can be unpredictable, and they move around a lot, so you have to watch your electronics closely all the time. Sure enough, we all started to see action on our lines, and we caught about 30 crappie from that one location. The crappie seemed to favor the rod of young 17-year-old McKenna Seagle in the back corner of the boat, and she turned out to be the most productive angler of the day. She beat out her dad and grandfather, but I think they didn’t mind one bit. In fact, they were fairly proud of her efforts.
If you head over to West Point in early April, Joey offers these crappie fishing tips. Good news travels fast, so if you start out at Highland Marina or any other boat ramp, keep your ears to the ground and see what other anglers are saying about where the crappie are biting, as the spawn will be in full swing. While on the lake, look for groups of boats trolling for crappie as successful anglers tend to wad up in good locations. Don’t be afraid to ask your fellow anglers where the crappie are located and what they are biting, as most crappie anglers love to share information.
Joey suggests that anglers put long poles on the front of the boat as crappie can be very spooky, especially in shallow water, so be as quiet as possible. The bites can be very slight, so look for a gentle tug on the line and not a deep rod bend.
During the spawn, crappie can often be located in 3 to 5 feet of water, all around the 525 miles of shoreline. Putting a minnow or jig below a cork to keep it off the bottom is a simple but effective strategy. To help see the line and watch for bites, Joey recommends yellow or chartreuse 8-lb. line. He prefers small to medium minnows for the most hits, and large minnows are usually avoided.
His favorite crappie fishing creeks are Yellow Jacket, Beech and Wehadkee, but he will often venture around into small feeder creeks looking for concentrations of crappie. He says that crappie are where you find them, so be equipped with good electronics and know how to use them.
By mid-April, the crappie will start moving into submerged structures like fallen trees and brushpiles and will remain there through the summer. Joey suggests that anglers slowly troll around the creeks and mid-depth areas, looking for brushpiles that can hold crappie.
Crappie is traditionally a springtime activity, but he guides through the summer with very good success. Contact Joey Mines at 706.402.3607, [email protected] or www.joeymines.com.
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