West Point Springtime Crappie
A springtime trip to Lake West Point with Bobby Wilson has anglers playing musical chairs trying to keep up with biting crappie.
It really was like playing musical chairs as a kid. There were three of us that kept circling the floor of a white, 23-foot Carolina Skiff. Each of us was eyeing the other, wondering which lucky angler would be positioned just right when the music stopped, or as was the case, which one would be standing by the first rod of the day when a crappie decided it was time for breakfast.
The stained water slapped against the side of the long, roomy boat. Skies were gray and the smell of recent rain still hung in the air.
Forty-five minutes after daylight was when the first rod of the day bent, and Michael Ballew of Tallapoosa grabbed it.
After a short battle Michael had a 1/2-lb. West Point crappie in the boat. Michael is a senior at Haralson County High School and an aspiring outdoor writer. He currently writes for HOWL magazine, the only high school hunting, fishing and outdoor magazine published in the state. I asked him to join me on a crappie-trolling trip at West Point.
Our guide for the day was a man that knows what to do when it comes to catching West Point fish — Bobby Wilson. Bobby has been putting his boat in the waters of West Point for 27 years. He’s a full-time guide and runs trips everyday for crappie, hybrids, and stripers.
“I catch crappie year round,” he said. “Some people think the only good time of year to catch crappie is right now, but I’m running guide trips out there in the heat of summer and the dead of winter and we’re catching fish.”
Bobby’s shipmate for the day was a fellow by the name of Dan Barge from Tyrone. Dan has 15-years experience on the water, and he now spends most of his days on the boat helping Bobby.
We put in at Highland Marina and took a chilly 15-minute ride up the Chattahoochee and turned left into Wolf Creek. Like much of West Point Lake, the banks of Wolf Creek are lined with beautiful hardwood trees, and catching a glimpse of a turkey or deer is not uncommon.
Bobby’s plan for the day was to troll shallow flats and look for pre-spawn crappie as they prepare to go on the bed. The next full moon will happen on March 28, and the one in April is scheduled to fall on the 26th. Crappie should bed heavily around those full moons, but Bobby said to expect some crappie to bed all during the month of April.
When it comes to trolling, Bobby doesn’t play around with a half dozen or 10 rods. He uses 15 rods at a time — five down each side and five out the back.
Bobby was a little surprised it took 45 long minutes before the first fish hit, but we were coming off a nasty rain, and a cold front was sweeping through the state.
“I like to start off trolling a wide variety of different-colored jigs to see what the fish want on that particular day,” Bobby said.
Bobby keeps a steady supply of Louis Crappie Jigs in the boat, and he’s got several packs of every single color. “You just never know what the fish will want, so we just keep a little bit of everything on board until we find out what they’ll hit.”
A half hour after the first fish we had a half-dozen more in the cooler, and we saw that most of the crappie had hit a black and green jig. Bobby and Dan did some retying, and in just a few minutes most of the jigs in the water were black and green. As you might have guessed, the time between strikes decreased and we started catching fish more quickly.
“As a general rule you can expect the fish to hit either a black and chartreuse or a chartreuse jig in muddy water,” Bobby said. “If it’s clear they like a blue jig, a white jig, a blue and white combo or a popsicle color. I’ll troll either 1/16- or 1/32-oz. jigs depending on how deep the fish are. A lot of times I’ll run two 1/16-oz. jigs together or a 1/16-oz. Hal-Fly on top of a 1/16-oz. jig. That’s a good way to double up.
“I troll jigs both with and without bobbers,” Bobby said. “One, it keeps the maze of fishing line a little more in order, and two, when you’re fishing these shallow flats and spawning areas it helps control your depth.”
If you’re going to fish for crappie on West Point this month, try Wolf Creek. It’s a good one and big enough for quite a few boats to troll around each other. When you motor into Wolf Creek you’ll see a small island out in the middle. On the east side of that island is a good place to cut your motor and start trolling. Troll west, past the island and all the way to the back of the creek.
You’ll find water from 3- to 4-feet deep on this large flat. Expect crappie to be on that flat and up toward the bank this month. Come back out and when you get back to the island you’ll see what looks like a small creek coming into Wolf Creek on the north side. Troll in there with your jigs. You’ll notice about a hundred yards down on the right is a small rip-rap bank. Bobby said rocky areas like that will hold bedding crappie.
Just when it looks like you’re going to run out of water, the small creek cuts to the left and opens up into a shallow bay. This is a great place to catch them, especially when crappie go on the beds. Many of the banks are lined with sand. We made a valiant effort to troll back there, but with recent rains there was too much debris in the water. Bobby says that most of the time crappie will not bite a jig if any trash is on the line.
As the noon hour approached, we had 20 crappie in the cooler, and most of these were slabs. The fish averaged 3/4- to 1-lb. apiece. The largest one we saw from Wolf Creek weighed 1-lb., 5-ozs.
Bobby had an itch to go try another area, one that he’d been catching fish at the day before. We came back out of Wolf Creek, headed back down the Chattahoochee, up into Yellowjacket Creek and finally cut the motor just south of the Hwy 27 bridge in Beech Creek.
There’s rip-rap on both sides of the Hwy 27 bridge, and there were several groups of people fishing around the banks with corks and minnows.
Bobby said there’s a long, narrow sandbar on the southwest bank if you were looking north at the bridge. It runs from the bridge left all the way until you hit an obvious red-clay bank. You can hit the sandbar with a Zebco from the bank or fish it from your boat. With the combination of sand and rocks, expect some crappie to be in this area this month. Bobby also pointed out that the east bank just south of the bridge is a a good one in April, and for those of you with a boat, the back of Beech Creek is excellent.
The best bank we found while we trolled Beech Creek was the eastern one above the bridge. There’s a ditch that runs that side and they’ll follow that ditch until they do one of two things — one, they’ll continue all the way to the back of Beech, or two they’ll pull right up on that bank and do their thing. We noticed several good brushpiles that had fallen in the water along that bank. We didn’t get bit that shallow, but I bet as temperatures warm you could.
“The water temperature still is 56 degrees,” Bobby said as I reeled in another fish from the ditch. “What I’m looking for is 68-degree water. That’s when things are the best they can be. We’ll have days when we catch 25 to 50 fish, 100 to 150 fish and sometimes as many as 300 fish in one day. When it’s 68 degrees, we’ll be catching 300.”
When the fish go on bed in April Bobby will still start his day trolling 15 rods, but he’ll take his foot off the trolling motor as soon as he finds an area where six or seven rods go down at once. “I’ll go back to that spot and cast a single jig with a bobber positioned 18- to 24-inches above it,” said Bobby. “I’ll just slowly reel it in, and that’s when they’ll hit it.”
Whether Bobby is trolling or casting, he’ll use either Ande or Stren 6- or 8-lb. line. He said he prefers the lighter tackle because the number of strikes are greater, and it’s just more fun on the lighter stuff.
Beech and Wolf creeks kept the four of us pretty busy. We ended up with 49 crappie, and most of these were slabs. I spoke to Bobby at presstime, and he’d just come off the lake with a client that caught 100 crappie in just a half-day trip. “We caught them in Beech Creek again,” he said.
Bobby mentioned a few other areas that are good in April. Look in the back of Wehadkee Creek. You can put in at Evansville Access off Hwy 244. Put your boat in the water and turn left. You’ll find plenty of stumps and rocks that will hold plenty of bedding fish.
In the back of Whitewater Creek is a sandy area where you’ll find these shallow bedders. Concentrate your efforts above Antioch Road. The closest access points will be Whitewater Access and Highland Marina.
The big creek just above Highland Marina is called Half Moon Creek. In there you’ll find something you won’t normally see much of on West Point — boat docks. With very few docks on the lake, the fish just seem to congregate heavily in areas where docks are present.
“These are floating boat docks and the crappie will get up under them,” said Bobby. The docks you’ll want to hit are above Whitaker Road.
It’s hard to do a West Point crappie-fishing story and not mention Yellowjacket Creek. Yes, it’s always good, so look for some big spawners to show up there as well. Just look in the back. You can launch at Clark or Sunny Point access.
One thing that Bobby really enjoys doing is taking kids fishing. Bobby is a full-time fishing guide and has to make money, but he runs a special deal for any kids that come on board and fish with him.
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