Lake Russell is known for its natural setting of standing timber and underwater cover, and right now, that cover is the prime spawning grounds for crappie; Piedmont resident Ronnie McKee said crappie fishing is wide open.

McKee is catching his dinner by long-line trolling in the backs of the creeks. He said most anglers shudder at the thought of trolling in Lake Russell because of all the cover but explained that covering a lot of water is a great way to catch a lot of fish during the spawn – IF you know where and how to do it.

“Russell is unique because of all the timber standing,” McKee said. “Crappie have so many places where they can stage on this lake. The (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) left most of the trees standing, cleared off the backs of the creeks and then filled the lake. If you can find a spot in the back of the creeks that’s treeless or identify the 60- to 80-foot paths between the trees, you can long-line those and really catch some nice fish.”

For long-lining in the backs of places like Pickens, Coldwater, Beaverdam, Vans and Little Vans creeks on the Georgia side and cuts and coves off the Rocky River on the South Carolina side, McKee will utilize up to eight rods from the stern of his boat. Using 6-pound high-visibility line, he pulls 1/16-ounce hair and chenille jigs, all of which he ties himself, at speeds of approximately .7 to 1.0 mph.

At these speeds, he estimates the jigs swim about eight feet deep, so targeting 10- to 15-foot flats will put his baits right in the wheelhouse of spawning crappie.

“I’m going to target the 10- to 15-foot flats,” he said. “In that depth zone, you’re going to find crappie spawning on stumps and logs and other cover that lying on the bottom.  That means I’m going to try to get my jigs down to around eight feet. With the spawn going on now after this last week of warm weather, the males are going to start guarding their beds. If you’re fishing a jig, say, eight feet deep in 10 feet of water, they’re going to get bit.”