, Port Arthur, Texas

February 16, 2013

Chester Moore column: Targeting Rayburn crappie

Chester Moore
The Port Arthur News


    Without a doubt, Rayburn is the most overlooked crappie fishery in East Texas. That is because it is mainly known for its awesome largemouth bass production and for hosting national tournaments.

    This month crappie bite picks up with fair to good action in the major feeder creeks on the south end of the reservoir that have close access to deeper water. The crappie will begin moving up from the main lake toward main lake points and into the mouth of creek holding tight to brush and grasslines.

    The most common and arguably the most productive is with live shiners fished on a free line. Well, it is almost a free line rig. Instead of a simple hook and shiner, the preferred rig is a hook and shiner finished off with a 1/16-ounce weight which will allow the bait to get down a little quicker and into the lair of some of the bigger fish.

    Crappie are notorious for only biting in a very specific depth. For example, if they are hanging in 12 feet of water and your bait only gets down to 10, there is a good chance you will not be bit. And if you do, it will likely be from a small straggler. The big crappie did not get that way by being easy pickings, so you will want to focus your efforts in a very focused, determined fashion to get the big slabs. If you catch a couple of big slabs on shiners but are being hammered by smaller fish, consider switching over to little tube jigs.

    Tube jigs are highly popular in other states but have not really caught on in Texas as proven crappie getters, but the small two-inch tube jigs in colors like chartreuse and Arkansas shiner are excellent for thick slab crappie.

    As winter segues to spring, the crappie move up far shallower. Some anglers will think the fish have “disappeared” once they go shallow. That is because they are not targeting the fish in the grass.

    On warm afternoons, you will see fish hitting the surface and sending tiny minnows and shad scurrying for cover. In many instances, crappie are the culprits. Small chartreuse or chartreuse/white and red/white Roadrunners and Beetle Spins will catch these fish when fished on the edges of the grass with a medium retrieve.

    If a cold front pushes the fish back, some of the fish will stay in the grass but move out into the grass beds in deeper water.Sometimes you can see these on a good depth finder.

    The crappie will feed in and out of the cover of grass, so trolling a small spinner along the edges can help you catch these elusive fish. Use your trolling motor for best action or your big motor adjusted just past idle.

    With our extreme fluctuations in weather, the crappie at Rayburn can be doing any or all of the above but as the weather continues to warm look for more action in the shallows. From around the first of March into mid April we should have solid crappie action for anglers who like to pursue them in locations other than main lake planted brush.

(To contact Chester Moore, e-mail him at You can hear him on "Moore Outdoors" on Newstalk AM 560 KLVI or online at