If catching slabs is your thing, March is the best month to fish for crappie on South Carolina’s Lake Russell, according to guide Wendell Wilson of Elberton, Ga.

“Crappie spawn sometime in March — some times early in the month, some times later in the month. The last couple of years, it’s been the last week in March,” Wilson said. “There will be some fish on the bank spawning and some always offshore at the same time.”

Before the spawn, crappie will stage just offshore, and once spawning begins, fish will hold offshore, waiting on the earlier spawners to move out before they move in, he explained. That sets up the perfect opportunity for fishermen, providing plenty of action on the bank and plenty away from the bank, but nearby.

“There are a couple different methods to catch them,” said Wilson (706-283-3336). “One of the most-popular is trolling 1/16-ounce curlytail jigs out in 10 to 15 feet of water along the creek channel. Another way that we like to fish once the fish commit to the bank is to use a 12-foot jig pole with a medium minnow and float and just dabble it around the brush near the bank.”

Trolling, Wilson said, works along the channels back in the creeks. Trolling speed should be about 1 mph, but before the fish start to spawn, anglers should troll deeper and slower.

“That speed will work the entire month of March,” he said. “The preferred jig color seem to change every year, but purple shiner and black/ chartreuse are always good, along with the green/yellow, John Deere jig.”

The jigging pole is rigged with 10- to 12-pound line, a No. 2 gold hook and a small Styrofoam bobber.

“Set the minnow from 10 inches to about 2 feet below the bobber and then just dabble it around any kind of wood cover along the bank — stumps, laydown trees and bushes. You should be fishing right up against the bank in 2 to 4 feet of water,” Wilson said.

“Both tactics will work most of the month of March. Generally, trolling is better for numbers, while the jig pole and minnow will catch fewer but more quality fish. On Russell you are usually looking at 12- to 14-inch fish, which will be 1 to 1½ pounds, but occasionally you can get one topping 2 pounds.