“Unfortunately, it is still slow up here,” said Jim Shanley, a veteran crappie guide on the north end of Toledo Bend. “I was thinking about coming down to your place and catching some redfish”. I knew that the deep water crappie fishing had been slow, but I called Jim Sunday afternoon in hopes that the recent cold fronts may have done the trick.

“There are a lot of factors involved that move the crappie into the river below the Chicken Coop area, but I think our biggest problem lies in the fact that our water temperature is just now getting down where it needed to be back in November,” pointed out Shanley. “I had a few good days in the creek channels, but I can’t call clients up for such an unpredictable bite.”

While it goes hand in hand, perhaps an even more important factor is the migration of the shad population. In a good year they concentrate in massive schools just outside the timber line on the main river channel. Crappie fishermen, as well as folks that love to vertical jig for bass, locate these schools of baitfish with their electronics and the catching part is simply a matter of fishing at the right depth!

The annual crappie run has been disappointing, but J.D. Longlois stopped by last week to say the yellow bass fishing on the south end of Toledo Bend has been on fire for the past month. “The best news of all,” said Longlois, “is that it will only get better this month. The only time they ever slow down is when either one of my boys drive up here to fish with me.”

J.D. still fishes for everything from crappie to bass depending on the time of year, but he has developed a real love affair with fishing for yellow bass, more commonly referred to as bar fish, in the winter.

“You can catch a bunch in a hurry once you locate them and fishermen don’t have to crowd one another in one small area like they do up at the Chicken Coop.”

“Once you locate them with your depthfinder you can catch them on most days. We have found them holding over deep structure all over the south end, but any tree line in close proximity to the river channel is a good place to start looking.”

While he keeps very few fish after the first few trips, he is quick to point out that these yellows are much larger than their smaller cousins that we catch here on the river. “We will keep moving even if we are catching a fish every time we lower a spoon if they are small, “ says J.D. “We also catch largemouths, white bass, and catfish up to 8 to 10 pounds mixed in with the yellows …”

As you would expect, consistently catching suspended yellow bass is not quite automatic, but J.D. kindly offered several tips that will shorten the learning process. Because you are generally jigging in water deeper than 25-feet, you need to pay attention to your depthfinder at all times.

“This year has been a little unusual thus far because we are catching them so deep,” states Longlois. “For the past couple of weeks, we have been catching most of our fish 40 to 45 feet deep over a sandbar. We stuck with a 1/2 ounce spoon for years, but I am now using a 3/4 ounce spoon because it gets down to the fish quicker.”

I was also surprised when he said that he fishes both a gold and a silver spoon as there are days when one works much better than the other. Perhaps his most important finding has been that even when jigging that deep, the fish just will not bite without a little wind.

“When the lake goes glassy flat,” says J.D., “we are out of business.

Yellow bass, especially those in the 3/4 lb. to 1 lb. range, make great table fare when cooked up with hush puppies and fries. “I think I am like most fishermen,” laughed Longlois. “I just want something to pull on the other end of my line and the fact that yellow bass are so good to eat is an added bonus.”

If you are tired of waiting on a crappie bite at the Chicken Coop that may or may not take place, you just might try your hand with the spoon and yellow bass. It is a much closer drive for Orange County folks and not only is it already going on … it is only going to get better!