Most people think of Geist Reservoir as being the playground for Indiana’s rich and famous. But in 2010 it made headlines when Tim Goen and his father accidentally caught a massive 18” crappie in a cast net while trying to catch shad near the Olio Road Bridge. They released the crappie alive, but not before snapping a few quick photos. The photos quickly made their way around social media as rumors flew about their authenticity. Goen stepped forward and quelled the uproar of it being a new state record. According to Goen, the weight of the crappie was four and a half pounds, massive by anyone’s standards, but not enough to break the state record.
The two good points to remember? The crappie was real, and it’s still likely swimming in Geist.
Geist, like most lakes in Indiana, is an impoundment, meaning that Fall Creek was dammed and the land upstream flooded to create the lake. With that being the case, the old meandering stream bed and adjoining flood plain make up the key geological features. Crappie, like most fish, relate to structure. The key to finding the structure is a good depth finder. Find the structure, find the fish.
Geist Reservoir, unlike many other central Indiana lakes, is ringed with docks, rip-rap, seawalls, coves, and other structure perfect for crappie, so it is a very “target-rich” lake, and casual fisherman may become overwhelmed by all the places to fish.
Of course the big question is, how can we find Geist monster crappie? For that answer we went to Greg Phillips, custom bait manufacturer and co-owner of Spider Rigin Jigs. He gave us five of his secret hotspots.
Phillips generally starts his day from the launch ramp at the same bridge that Goen caught his huge crappie at, just off Olio Road.
Heading west, he and his partner, Steve Wallace, follow the creek channel to where it swings across the lake. As is crosses mid-lake they jig-fish the sunken brush and other structure that is located there. On active days, the fish are loosely relating to the brush, on tough days after a front moves through they may burrow down deep.
As Phillips continues west, he and Wallace hit the marina docks just to the north as they pass the Fall Creek Bridge and causeway. The outer rows of slips are very close to the creek channel and provide the perfect combination of deep water and docks for fish to relate too. “There’s always fish there from the middle of spring to the end of summer,” Phillips explained. “Especially around the deeper docks in the 12’ to 14’ range.” Phillips and Wallace prefer to use a slip bobber rig in that area, using their own brand of crappie jigs.
Phillips and Wallace tournament crappie fish so are always looking for better ways to put pounds in the live well. Like many crappie fishermen, they double-stack their jigs to increase their offering to the fish and quickly key in on what color, size, and depth the day calls for.
What they couldn’t find was a perfect upper jighead that hung rigged correctly, so they designed and produced their own. When other crappie pros saw their creations, they realized the value in the way the jighead presented the grub or minnow more naturally. Lately, Spider Rigin Jigs’ following started growing by leaps and bounds.
While jigging or spider rigging on Geist Reservoir, Phillips uses chartreuse or white 1/16 or 1/8 ounce jig heads. But when things get tough, they fall back on their secret weapon, their green jighead with an orange tail.
Heading west from the marina, Phillips and Wallace make it a point to fish the funnel or pinch point where Fall Creek Road crosses a short causeway and bridge over an inlet. Since the inlet is on the northern side of the lake and shallower, it warms faster in the spring. Water just a few degrees warmer is all it takes to attract fish during the pre-spawn and spawning period.
Phillips prefers to not hover over what he considers to be a “fish highway”. Instead, he’ll stay off to one side or the other and casts out into the narrow channel with crappie spinners. “It’s a real hot spot,” Phillips told us.
While shallow, the area north of the causeway can be very productive. “In the heart of the springtime, there’s so many fish back there, it’s unbelievable!” Phillips laughed. “It’s a fantastic spot when the fish are spawning.”
Heading along the north shore towards the dam is a saw tooth row of inlets and docks. The breakline into deeper water is rapid and pronounced, especially in a short section where the creek channel dives for the shore and then veers away a few hundred yards later. Fish that relate to the docks and points find rapid sanctuary in the deep waters just a flick of a tail away. Phillips and Wallace often troll the breakline using their own Spider Rigin crappie spinners 30-40 feet behind their boat, which allows them to dive down 6 or 7 feet. Phillips feels black, red, white, orange, and chartreuse are good colors for Geist. A common practice is to use dark colors for overcast days, and light colors for bright days. Muddy water after heavy rains calls for high visibility jig heads like chartreuse.
Almost immediately after leaving Hotspot 4, the creek channel heads straight for the southern shoreline, then turns towards the dam. In doing so, it runs right past a long point, crosses the mouth of a large bay, and hits the shoreline again. The two places where the creek channel runs close to the shoreline make great areas to spider rig. The rapid breakline to deep water can be a patrol area for larger fish looking to ambush smaller baitfish. Phillips and Wallace like to slowly cover the breakline with spider rigging, moving at just 0.8-0.9 mph. Some crappie fisherman call the technique legalized seining because they can effectively cover so much water.
Along with searching the docks along the breakline, Phillips and Wallace also head southeast into the large bay, following the rows of docks while watching their depth finder. It is well known that many dock owners like to sink man-made structure close by so that they can have their own private honey hole.
As with any lake, key in on places where multiple types of structure converge, such as sunken timber on points, a hard bend in a creek channel, fallen trees next to creek channels, and so on. Just remember ninety percent of the fish are in ten percent of the water, and that’s near structure.
At normal pool Geist Reservoir is 1,900 acres. It is a private lake and the weekday launch fee is $15. Weekends and holidays are $30, but if you’re off the water by 11 am, you get $15 back.
If you would like to try Spider Rigin Jigs and stock up on other crappie supplies, head to The Outdoorsman Sport Shop on State Road 135 in Greenwood. Readers interested in contacting Spider Rigin Jigs can find them on Facebook.