Crappie fishing on Lake Marion was slowed a bit by the recent extreme cold weather, but as usual, some fishermen figured out how to catch them. Typical for early March, some big crappie are being caught in shallow water in the upper end of the lake.

Matthew Outlaw of St. Matthews fishes the upper end of Lake Marion consistently and, despite the water temperature plummeting, he has recently developed a strong pattern for big fish.

“The fish are in a good shallow-water pattern now, and despite the cold weather and dropping water temperatures we’re catching some big crappie consistently in water less than 5 feet deep,” Outlaw said. “The key is working slow and having plenty of patience to find the fish. When we get on them, we’re catching some slabs.”

Outlaw parlayed his strong pattern into a major victory last weekend, winning the Crappie Masters Santee Cooper crappie tournament, a national qualifying event. Fishing with partner Wesley Phibbs, Outllaw caught a limit that averaged nearly 2 pounds per fish.

“The pattern we’re on is one where we were fishing in the Stump Hole area of Lake Marion, but back in the woods,” Outlaw said. “We’re tight-lining in the thick clusters of cypress trees, and the presentation has been very slow. The best thing about it is, we’re catching a lot of quality fish. The action is not fast-paced because of the dropping water temperatures, but the big fish are there and will bite.”

Outlaw said he was slow-trolling in and around the heavy cover of the cypress trees using his Hummingbird graph to help spot underwater cover and fish.

“I’m fishing multiple 16-foot B ‘n’ M poles and a ¼-ounce Rockport Rattler jighead with white and chartreuse Midsouth tube jigs, said Outlaw, who fished 10-pound Vicious line because of the heavy cover around the cypress trees. “I’m maneuvering the boat in about 5 feet of water but the lures are actually catching the crappie slightly shallower, in water ranging from 2 to 4 ½ feet deep. There’s plenty of crappie in the shallows right now; the fish are not on an aggressive bite as they normally are at this time of year because of the cold, but that’s changing now.

“By staying patient and working plenty of cover in that pattern, big fish can be caught in good numbers,” Outlaw said. “Since last weekend, the water has begun to warm, and the bite should even improve quickly to where it would normally be during early to mid-March. I look for this fishing to get really strong over the next couple of weeks with warming water.”