Category Archives: Crappie Fishing

What Is Dropshotting for Crappie?

Get The Drop On Crappies – Dropshotting for crappie

Crappie caught dropshotting

Crappie caught dropshotting

Drop shot rigging not just for bass anymore

Drop shot rigging is a staple presentation of serious bass fans from coast to coast. But it remains a largely overlooked option for anglers pursuing other species of gamefish, including crappies.

That’s unfortunate, because in the right situations, drop shotting can yield banner catches, and even outfish textbook strategies.

“Drop shotting is a great choice whenever the fish are relatively close to bottom and you want to cover water a little faster, or with more precision, than you can with slip bobbers or vertical jigging,” says veteran fishing guide and lifelong panfish fanatic Scott Glorvigen.

Case in point: the late summer to early fall crappie migration.

“When crappies abandon withering shoreline weedbeds and head toward the main basin where they’ll spend the winter, they often follow bars and points that serve as travel corridors on their way out to deeper water,” he explains.

Drop shot rigs excel at presenting a tantalizing softbait or minnow at or just above the level of fish, and allow anglers to customize the speed of retrieve and amount of animation, without fear of the rig falling to bottom or drifting out of the strike zone.

Glorvigen admits his fall panfish epiphany came while chasing bass on a north-central Minnesota lake.

“I was drop shotting bass with a 6-inch worm on a long finger bar leading from a shoreline saddle straight into the basin,” he recalls. “I was catching bass, but noticed on my sonar there were a lot of crappies and bluegills mixed in with them.”

Glorvigen credits the ultra-sensitive readings from his Lowrance Elite 9 CHIRP electronics for revealing the difference between bass and panfish.

“I was also catching the occasional crappie here and there, which told me that drop shotting might be a winning presentation in this scenario,” he adds.

To tempt more crappies into biting, he traded the bass-sized worm for a more panfish-appropriate, 3-inch Impulse Angleworm from Northland Fishing Tackle.

Small crappie dropshot baits

Small crappie dropshot baits

Panfish-sized softbaits excel on drop shot rigs.

He also down-sized the business end of the setup to a size 4 VMC Spinshot Drop-Shot Hook. “The Spinshot hook is great for drop shotting because it spins around, allowing the bait to move freely, without causing line twist,” he says.

After threading on the worm so the tail remained free for maximum gyrations, he added a live crappie minnow for extra attraction.

“The plastic bait’s constant movement and water displacement makes it easy for crappies to find it, even in stained water, and the minnow is icing on the cake,” he explains. “Plus, if the minnow comes off halfway through the retrieve, I still have a chance to catch fish because the plastic is still in place.”

Glorvigen’s rigging also included a 7-foot, medium-light Lew’s spinning outfit spooled with 10-pound-test Northland Bionic Braid mainline and an 8-pound-test monofilament leader tethered to the hook’s lower line tie.

“The setup works great for crappies, and can still handle the occasional big bass that grabs the bait,” he says.

Leader length was tailored to how high crappies were above bottom. “On structure, the fish were close to bottom and an 18-inch leader worked the best,” he says. “But when they occasionally moved off to suspend over deeper water, leader lengths up to 36 inches produced fish.”

Glorvigen compulsively keeps sinker weight as light as possible when drop shotting panfish, and this was no exception. “It’s important to use the lightest weight you can get away with, so you can feel the fish but they can’t feel the sinker,” he explains.

Glorvigen says pencil-style weights ranging from 1/8- to 3/16-ounce were perfect in the 11- to 19-foot depths he was working.

Once rigged up, he’d cast out, let the sinker settle, and then tighten the line for a direct connection that allowed him to detect bottom as well as subtle bites.

“You can move the rig across by reeling, drifting or using your trolling motor to slowly cover key areas,” he notes.

No matter which means of propulsion you choose, Glorvigen recommends toning down the amount of action you give the bait.

“If the bait jumps around too fast, it’s hard for them to hit it,” he cautions. “I’ve had the best luck with a more subtle approach than what I’d use when bass fishing. Simply shaking and gently twitching the worm is enough. If you get too aggressive, the number of fish drops off dramatically.”

High-quality sonar and GPS can help you find and catch fall crappies.

Find crappie on depthfinder

Find crappie on depthfinder

Glorvigen notes that a good GPS chartplotter is a big help in mapping out structural thoroughfares and waypointing key areas that hold the most fish.

“Custom mapping systems like Lowrance’s Insight Genesis, which allow you to map structure in fine detail, can really help you get the lay of the land and learn why the crappies are attracted to certain areas over others,” he adds.

While the fall crappie transition is a great time to throw drop shot rigs, Glorvigen says there are plenty of other times it pays to keep an open mind on the water.

“Anglers get stuck in our ways and pigeonholed into certain presentations,” he says. “But it’s always good to experiment, adjust, and pay attention to what the fish are trying to tell you, all the way from early spring to last ice.”

Check out this video for more of Scott’s drop shot tricks.

CONTACT INFORMATION
Glorvigen & Glorvigen LLC – 29 County Road 63, Grand Rapids, MN 55744
sglorvigen@wired2fish.com – 218-301-9072

How Can I Catch Crappie On Lake Lanier?

Slab Crappie Time On Lanier

Lake Lanier is a 38,000 acre Corps of Engineers lake just north east of Atlanta. Since Atlanta draws much of its water supply from the lake, it has been in the news a lot the past year because of low water levels. It is also one of the most popular recreation lakes in the US.

Mention fishing at Lake Lanier and people immediately think of spotted bass and stripers. But the lake has an excellent population of crappie and a few fishermen have learned how to catch them. You can often catch 100 crappie a day at Lanier this spring and 200 fish days are possible.

Todd Goade lives in Buford and loves all kinds of fishing. Last year he finished third in the point standings on the Bulldog BFL Trail. He enjoys tournament fishing and when he is not fishing the BFL or another bass fishing trail he often will be catching crappie at Lanier.

Last spring he teamed up with Alan Gee to place second in the Crappie, USA tournament on Lanier. Todd and Alan fished the pro division and weighed in a seven crappie limit that weighed 9.83 pounds. Although they caught over 200 crappie that day, they did not catch the big fish that would have increased their weight. Catching and culling through 200 crappie is a fun way to spend a day on the lake.

There are several reasons Todd likes crappie fishing at Lanier. It is more relaxing than bass fishing so it is a nice change-up. The tackle is simple and easy to use. Crappie are excellent table fare and are hard to beat no matter how you cook them. And you can catch a lot of fish. Who wouldn’t like feeling a fish at the end of your line every few minutes.

Todd says there are a lot of pound to pound and a half crappie in Lanier but two pounders are hard to find. The Crappie, USA tournament results from last March bear this out. There were only five crappie brought to the scales weighing over two pounds and big fish for the day was a 2.31 pound fish. But who can complain about catching crappie that weigh over a pound each? And that is scale weight, not “guesstimate” weight.

Todd has learned how to catch Lanier’s crappie and the way he does it will work for you. Shooting docks with jigs is the way he likes to catch them. You will need a boat, light spinning rod and reel loaded with 4# test line and a couple of cards of Hal Flies.

“In April it seems like every crappie in Lanier is under a dock,” Todd said. Since there are so many docks on the lake and so many crappie under them, targeting docks is definitely the way to go. And you can catch crappie under docks all year, not just in the spring.

Little River and Wahoo Creek are the areas Todd usually fishes, especially early in the spring. It is good year round but the water warms first further up the lake and those areas turn on first. Later in the spring the docks down the lake will be better as the water warms there. There is a little more color in the water further up and that causes it to warm faster.

Water with a little stain in it is good. Todd likes to be able to see his jig down a foot or two but no more. Stained water warms seems to make the fish hit a little better since they don’t get as good a look at the jig. You can catch fish from extremely clear water but a little stain will help you catch more. Muddy water is tougher, too, so try to find stained water.

Any dock on Lanier can hold crappie. Todd says you should start fishing an area and keep records and notes of where you catch good fish. He will often hit a bunch of docks in the morning then return to the ones where he caught fish later in the day.

Early in March the crappie are likely to be holding on deeper docks toward bigger water. Docks with at least 17 feet of water under them are best. As the spawning urge takes hold when the water starts to warm the crappie will move back into the docks in coves and pockets and will be under docks with as little as six or seven feet of water.

“The dogwoods bloom and the crappie spawn is the old saying,” Todd told me. When the water temperature is 62 to 64 degrees I expect most of the crappie to be back in pockets in shallow water spawning. But not all spawn at the same time. They move back in waves so you can find some fish in different depths most of the time.

By late April after spawning the fish will move back out, holding on the same docks they used as they moved in. And some docks will be “honey holes” and hold crappie better than others. Sometimes you can pick these docks out by looking at them but you usually have to fish to find them.

Covered docks are best and the more stuff overhead the better, according to Todd. Pontoon boats are especially good. Older docks seem to be better. A boathouse with a pontoon or boat lift under it can be excellent. Brush piles under and around the docks sweeten them, too.

Todd seldom fishes an open slip in a boat dock. Crappie want something over there heads and an empty slip is way too bright. If there is a brush pile under the slip it might be worth hitting but usually he just goes to the next slip where a boat or lift offers lots of cover over the fish.

Seeing green algae growing on boats, dock floats, posts and boat lifts means the dock is likely to be better. Baitfish feed on the algae and are attracted to docks with it. Crappie eat the baitfish so they are more likely to be under docks where there is a lot of food for them.

To shoot a jig under a dock you need a five to five and a half foot spinning rod with a light tip. Todd likes an All American 5.5 foot rod and teams it with a small Pflueger President reel. The reel needs a smooth drag and the small spool helps the line come off faster.

The line is very important and Todd chooses 4# test Trilene Fluorocarbon Professional Grade. This line is tough for its size, invisible in the water and works well on his spinning reel. A limp line is necessary for small reels and thin line helps the light jigs sink better.

Todd uses Hal Flies for all his crappie fishing. He likes the 1/24 ounce jig best and he starts with a white or white and chartreuse jig. One with some pink in it is good in clear water, too. Many colors work well and some jigs with reds and yellows attract bites, especially if there is a little color to the water.

Hal Flies have feather tails and Todd bites off a little of the end of them, making them just a bit shorter. He says he is not positive this helps him get more hits but he does it anyway. It is worth trying, especially if the fishing is tough. You never know what might help.

Quietly approach a dock you want to shoot and get in close. Your boat will usually be just a few feet from your target. Kneeling or even sitting on the boat deck helps you get on the right level to shoot under the dock. A quiet trolling motor is best and Todd often uses his hand to move the foot control to position the boat. If you are in the back of the boat you can often just sit on the deck and stay in the right position for shooting the dock.

Boat position can be critical. Sometimes fish seem to want the lure moving in a certain direction, especially if they are holding on a brush pile right in front of the dock. Experiment with different angles and let the fish tell you what they want.

The bigger crappie usually hold in the hardest area of the dock to get your jig into. A narrow opening between dock floats and a boat lift float or pontoon float may mean you have to hit a six inch wide, four inch high hole, and you need your jig to go as far back as possible. Remember, the more stuff overhead the more likely the crappie are to be there, and the further back and darker the spot the more likely bigger crappie are to be holding.

Open the bail on your reel and drop your jig down to the last guide above the reel. Grab the head of the jig between thumb and trigger finger with your free hand. While holding the line at the reel with your finger, pull the tip of the rod down to make it bow. Aim the rod at the opening you want to hit and release the jig. As it flies toward the target, release the line at the reel.

It takes some practice to do this but is easier than it sounds. You will go high and hit the dock or go low and hit the water too soon but a little practice will have you putting your jig in spots impossible to reach any other way. Sometimes your jig will skip on the water and you can get it even further back, especially if there is not much clearance between the water and the top of the gap you are shooting.

When your jig hit’s the water flip your bail shut and count the jig down. A 1/24 ounce jig on 4# line will sink about a foot a second. Todd says he counts “One Mississippi, Two Mississippi” to keep a consistent space on his count. You need to know the depth your jig is at when you start getting bites.

Start by counting down to six and then slowly reel your jig back. No action is needed on the retrieve. Actually, jiggling your rod tip may hurt the chances of a bite. If you have ever watched a small minnow swim along it does not move much, it just glides along. That is what you want your jig to do.

Try a few shots with a six count then try eight, ten and even 12 counts. Watch your line carefully at all times. If it jumps as the jig sinks, set the hook and reel in the fish. Just remember where it was on the strike and start using that count. Crappie usually hold at about the same depth on most docks.

When Todd fishes with a partner they try different counts with one reeling in at six and the other at ten then both changing. That way they can cover different depths quickly. They will also try different colors. Once the fish tell them what depth they are holding and which color they like best both will concentrate on those keys.

Another trick Todd uses is to let his jig fall an few inches just when it passes the end of the float or edge of the boat he is fishing. Sometimes a crappie will follow the jig and that little drop will trigger a hit.

As you reel in watch your line, too. If it jumps or if you just feel it get heavy, set the hook. Don’t use a break-their-jaw hook set, just sweep the rod tip and the light wire hook in the jig will go into the soft mouth of the crappie.

Play the fish slowly and carefully to the boat. Crappie aren’t called “paper mouth” for nothing. It is easy to pull a hook out of a big fish, even with four pound line. And you don’t want to break the light line.

Often you will shoot over a bar or part of the dock under water. When you hook a crappie with your line over something, go to it with the boat and get it. You can not pull a decent fish over anything with such light line.

Some people worry about getting a hook in their finger while shooting a dock. Todd says that has never happened to him. Holding the jig by the head turns the hook up and away from your fingers so it will not hook you when you release it. And it won’t come flying back at you if you try to pull it loose if it gets hung. Four pound line will almost always break before that happens.

Todd will shoot his jig into openings on a small dock seven or eight times then move on. He tries a few shots at different depths but says crappie usually hit pretty quickly if they are there. There is no need to waste a lot of time if you are not getting bit. But if you do catch one fish you are likely to catch several.

Don’t hesitate to go back to docks where you caught fish earlier. Crappie will often move in and out around the dock and will be easier to catch at different times. And Todd says watch your depth finder. You will often see a school of crappie near a dock, or brush out from it. When you spot either back off and work your jig through that area at different depths.

Schools of crappie often look like balls of baitfish on your depth finder they are so close together. Baitfish may be present, too, and that is a good sign. Always keep an eye on what is under the front of your boat.

Bass boats are fine for shooting docks but their high decks are a drawback. A lower, smaller boat allows you to get down to the water level easier and make better shots under docks. If you are in a small boat just put in near where you want to fish since Lanier can get so rough.

If you want to try your luck in a crappie tournament, Crappie USA has a tournament on Lanier on March 15, 2008 and West Point on March 29, 2008. There is also a tournament on Weiss on March 8, 2008 and Hartwell on April 5, 2008. You can enter the Amateur Division for a $75 per team fee or choose the Semi-Pro Division at a higher cost. Cash prizes are paid in each division but are higher in the Semi-Pro side.

Crappie, USA was formed in 1996 and purchased the “Crappiethon” tournament trail. They hold 45 tournaments in 20 states each year. Each region has at least six spring and two fall tournaments. The Georgia tournament last fall was on Oconee.

To fish in their tournaments you must join their American Crappie Association organization for a cost of $25 per year. You can get more information about Crappie, USA and their tournaments at http://www.crappieusa.com/

How Can I Catch More Crappie This Spring?

Catch More Cold-Water Crappies this Spring

By Dr. Jason Halfen, www.thetechnologicalangler.com
from The Fishing Wire

Nice spring crappie

Nice spring crappie

The author with a brace of cold water slab crappies

As winter fades slowly into spring, crappies and other panfish begin a predictable transition from thermally stable, deep water basins toward warming shallows where the food web of the lake is beginning to bloom. This general movement may take a number of weeks, and can be easily interrupted by unstable spring weather. However, in general terms, during the weeks after ice cover leaves the lake (or water temperatures begin to rebound from wintertime lows), crappies are on the move with shallow water as their ultimate destination. This is a movement that will eventually lead to spawning, but reproduction is not driving this initial transition; feeding is!

Many anglers will impulsively head to the shorelines and back ends of soft-bottomed bays as soon as surface temperatures begin to increase. While some panfish may be found in these waters, the vast majority of the population, and nearly all of the quality fish, are most likely to be located in transition areas between the deep water basins and shallow spawning grounds. They will remain here until the shallows become consistently warm.

My most important tool for locating cold water crappies is my Humminbird ONIX system equipped with Side Imaging. I will patrol transition areas between deep water basins and shallow feeding (and eventually spawning) grounds until I locate large numbers of fish. I am specifically looking for large collections of white “spots” against an otherwise darker background; these represent schools of crappies that are in transition from deep to shallow water.

Side imaging shows crappie

Side imaging shows crappie

The Side Imaging feature of my ONIX10ci SI system reveals schools of cold water crappies.

Technology can help you catch crappie

Technology can help you catch crappie

The Minn Kota i-Pilot Link system illustrates saved Spot Lock locations with Anchor icons on my ONIX display.

For example, in this screen capture from my ONIX10ci SI system, there are two groups of crappies (circled in yellow) in deep water (10-18 feet), as well as a large group of crappies on the right side image, patrolling a deep weed edge (circled in red). Notice that the shoreline is nowhere in sight; these are transitioning crappies that have not yet reached the shallows. Side Imaging is such a powerful tool for finding fish that I will not stop to try to catch fish until I identify those fish using Side Imaging.

Precise boat control is important for staying on top of these groups of transitioning crappies. I make extensive use of the Minn-Kota iPilot Link Spot Lock feature when targeting cold water crappies. When crappies are actively feeding in a specific area, like the deep weed edge illustrated above, I use the Spot Lock feature to hold my boat in position near the school, so I can focus all of my attention on presenting baits and catching fish. If I lose contact with the school, or if the biters turn from slab crappies to “Tiny Tims”, I will reposition the boat by 10-20 feet along the weed edge until I make contact with the school again.

You can see an example of this Spot Lock/reposition cycle in this screen capture from my ONIX system, as I adjust my boat’s position along the weed edge. Remember, the fish are here to feed, and much like a herd of cattle, they will graze in one area until the food source is exhausted. Then, they will be on the move again – it’s your job to stay with them.

A classic technique for targeting cold water crappies is to dangle a lively minnow above their heads, suspended from a bobber. Allow me to encourage you to try something different this spring: fish exclusively with subtle soft plastics rigged on light jigheads. I rely on the Ratso from Custom Jigs and Spins to put spring and early summer crappies (as well as bluegills and perch) in my boat. The subtle action of the Ratso’s tail is an outstanding trigger for cold water panfish, and the small profile is an excellent mimic for the insect larvae and other invertebrates that constitute the primary forage in these warming waters of early spring.

Take a kid crappie fishing

Take a kid crappie fishing

Share spring crappies with a youngster, and gain a fishing partner for life!

Cold water crappie fishing offers some of the most consistent and reliable opportunities of the year to catch fish. Take advantage of this period to share the outdoors and your love of fishing with a young person. If you invest a little time and effort to find fish with Side Imaging, and position your boat for effective bait presentation using the i-Pilot system, your young guest will reap the benefits of your efforts and reward you with smiles, laughter, and maybe even your first fish fry of the season. So shed those winter coats and enjoy some spring crappie fishing with a youngster today!

Dr. Jason Halfen owns and operates “The Technological Angler”, a media company dedicated to helping anglers learn to use their onboard technology to find and catch more fish. Their first full-length instructional video production, “The Technological Angler, Volume 1: Success with Side Imaging”, was the winner of the 2014 AGLOW awards-in-craft competition in the TV-fishing division.

“The Technological Angler, Volume 2: Integrated Technology” teaches anglers to harness the power of 2D sonar, Side Imaging, Down Imaging, 360 Imaging and the i-Pilot Link system, to find and catch more fish.

March Madness and Fishing

March Madness is here, but that means something totally different for fishermen. To us it means crappie are in the shallows spawning, bass are moving shallow and are much more active and being on the water can be downright comfortable after the miserable cold winter. And catching will be good for at least the next two months.

You can fill your limit of 30 crappie quickly most days by dabbling a minnow or jig around shoreline bushes or other wood cover. They can also be caught by trolling shallow stump flats and drop-offs. This is a great time to fill your freezer with these good tasting fish.

Bass are about as easy to catch as they get. You can catch them on crankbaits, spinnerbaits, worms and jigs. Go about half way back in a cove or small creek and start casting to any wood or rock cover in fairly shallow water and you will catch fish.

Stripers and hybrids are feeding better, too. They start running up rivers in area lakes and also congregate near the dam. They can be caught by trolling or jigging spoons or jigs over deep water, and you can often find gulls diving on fish feeding on or near the surface.

The fishing reports from Georgia lakes I post on my site each week reflect this good fishing. All say fishing is good right now, and they offer a variety of tips on what to fish on that specific lake, where to fish and what to expect. They will say the fishing is good until at least early June.

And my favorite way to fish is about to get right. I love to cast a topwater plug, and as soon as the water temperature hits 55 degrees I will start using a popper or buzzbait. It will be even better when the temperature goes above 60 degrees, but you may be surprised at the strikes you can get when it is still a little colder.

Yesterday the Flint River and Spalding County clubs had our youth/buddy tournament at Jackson and today the Sportsman Club is fishing our March tournament at Oconee. Then on Thursday I go to West Point for three days of practice and the FLW Top Six on the following Monday and Tuesday. I will miss fishing only three days out of 11 so I will get in almost enough time on the water.

Both the Flint River Bass Club and the Spalding County Sportsman Club are sending six man teams to the tournament so 12 of us will be there competing for individual and team prizes. I really enjoy fishing the Top Six each year and hope this is a good one.

What Is Casting for Crappie?

Casting for Crappie
from The Fishing Wire

Casting for crappie

Casting for crappie

When it comes to catching crappie, spider rigging is popular along with long lining. However, just casting for crappie is the number one tactic for many crappie anglers.

As with all fishing, catching crappie by casting requires that you put yourself where the fish are, whether you’re in a $40,000 boat or walking the bank.

For crappie anglers in most areas, the best time to cast for crappie is in the springtime when the fish are up shallow spawning. Crappie will get up on the bank searching for spawning areas and make nests around cover or structure. Making target specific casts to cover and structure is the best way to catch these crappie.

“Casting is a great way to get the bait or lure in front of the fish without spooking them when they’re up shallow,” says B’nM’ crappie pro staffer Brad Taylor.

It’s not just Brad Taylor using a spinning rod and reel when casting for crappie. His daughter, Allie Bre, one of his favorite fishing partners, also loves to cast and catch crappie. “It’s a great time to take out your children and let them cast a live minnow or lure by themselves without having to help them and they can honestly catch a fish by themselves,” said Taylor.

One of Taylor’s favorite crappie fishing spots is the renowned Grenada Lake in Mississippi. “Early in the year, I like to fish the grass on Grenada Lake since there is no structure to speak of here. I usually fish with a live minnow or Southern Pro Lit’l Hustler 1 ½-inch tube rigged on a 1/32- or 1/16-ounce jig head,” said Taylor.

For live minnows, Taylor uses a #2 Eagle Claw 214EL light wire hook and #4 split shot. “Since the water is muddy on Grenada Lake, I can rig up with 8 pound test line when fishing with live minnows or even tubes,” said Taylor.

Crappie caught by casting

Crappie caught by casting

Taylor likes to rig with a cork and keep the tube lure just above where the crappie are located.

“Most the time on Grenada, I’m in about three feet of water catching them,” said Taylor.

Casting light offerings can be challenging for the novice angler. However, a spinning reel can help eliminate some of the problems associated with casting especially live minnows or lightweight lures. Spinning reels have a fixed spool that doesn’t rotate. Instead the fishing line flows off the spool by being pulled from the weight of the lure.

One reel especially effective for this duty is the WaveSpin spinning reel (www.wavespinreel.com) with a unique star-shaped spool lip that the company says is much less likely to cause tangles than conventional designs. Reportedly the design can also increase casting distances due to reduced line drag. The revolutionary spool features a row of teeth all slanted in one direction with gaps between the teeth reducing friction at the same time eliminating tangles. The reels have aluminum spools, all metal gears, over-sized line roller, infinite anti-reverse and an exclusive 10 disc drag system.

Two anglers that don’t have any problems casting spinning rods and reels are B’n’M’s pro staff manager Kent Driscoll and B’n’M’ pro staffer/Grenada Lake fishing guide John Harrison (www.crappie101.com) who fish together in crappie tournaments. Both like to cast spinning rods and reels especially to stake beds. Stake beds are man-made structure commonly constructed from wood or PVC pipe to attract crappie.

“When fishing stake beds, we approach them going into the wind because we can control the boat better and that lets us keep our distanced from the stake bed,” said Harrison.

“We use live minnows, live minnows rigged on a jig with a soft plastic body or a 1/16-ounce jig. Normally, we will just cast past the stake bed and twitch it, pause, twitch, pause retrieve back through the stake bed,” said Driscoll.

Rod and reel for casting for crappie

Rod and reel for casting for crappie

When it comes to crappie rods Taylor, Driscoll, and Harrison like using the B’n’M’ Poles Sam’s Super-Sensitive 7-Foot Crappie Rod (www.bnmpoles.com) or Buck’s Graphite Crappie Spinning rod. Both are lightweight graphite rods design just for casting live minnows or casting lures.

Spinning reels and rods make casting live minnows and lures so easy any angler can do it. Then it’s a matter of cleaning the fish and heating up the cooking oil.

What Are Some Tricks To Catch Late Season Crappie?

Surefire tricks for late-season crappies

Scott Glorvigan – sglorvigen@wired2fish.com
from The Fishing Wire

For anglers across the Ice Belt, November’s arrival spurs thoughts of the hardwater season ahead. But plenty of fine open-water fishing remains for the faithful who see the season through to the end.

Take crappies, for example. One of the year’s best bites is still firing on all cylinders, and promises stellar slabbin’ right through freeze-up. “It’s undoubtedly worth getting your boat out a few more times to enjoy the late-fall crappie bite,” says veteran guide and noted fishing authority Scott Glorvigen. “The fish are ganged up in predictable places, and ready to hit baits with a vengeance.”

Here’s the deal. As autumn wanes and water temperatures fall into the 40s, crappies abandon withering weedbeds and shift away from near-shore structure. “The fish head for their winter haunts, which are typically deep, mid-lake basin holes,” Glorvigen explains.

Here, large schools of hulking, hump-backed slabs roam the abyss in search of sustenance. Much of the feeding focuses on zooplankton and other pint-sized prey, but crappies eagerly snap up larger meals such as minnows and other baitfish.

Glorvigen leans on cutting-edge electronics such as Lowrance’s Elite-5 CHIRP Gold sonar-chartplotter to pinpoint pods of wayward panfish. “The fish are constantly moving around, which makes sonar a must,” he notes. “Lowrance’s new CHIRP units give you incredible target resolution, so you can verify the fish you’re marking are crappies, and even pick out individual fish within a school.”

A plotter primed with detailed mapping is another key component. “This allows you to identify likely areas and then search them effectively,” he says. “Plus, if you lay down a trail of waypoints while following the fish, you can often predict where they’re headed next. For example, if you know a school of slabs is moving in a counter-clockwise rotation around a deep hole, it’s much easier to follow the herd.”

In search mode, Glorvigen scans potential hotspots, which include depths of 50 feet or more. “Don’t assume there are limits on how deep the fish will go,” he cautions. “Many anglers mentally set a boundary of 25 to 30 feet, but crappies often suspend much deeper.”

Once a school is spotted, Glorvigen takes an unusual tack for tricking the fish. “One of the hottest tactics for tapping the late-fall bite is hovering swimming jigs such as Rapala Jigging Raps and Northland Puppet Minnows within the school,” he says.

“Horizontal jigs tipped with flavored softbaits such as Berkley PowerBait and Gulp! bodies also work well. “You can use spoons, too, but vertical baits aren’t nearly as effective this time of year.”

While many anglers wield tiny tackle for crappies, Glorvigen favors swimming lures in the 2- to 2¾-inch class, along with 1/8-ounce jigheads. Colors aren’t as key as the bait’s water displacement when fishing deep water, he notes, though he has seen higher catch rates on UV patterns compared to standard color schemes.

Gearing up, Glorvigen spools a light-action Lew’s multi-species spinning rod with 10-pound Northland Bionic Braid mainline. The rod’s quick tip engenders strike detection and solid hooksets, while the superbraid boosts sensitivity, which is a huge asset when fishing deep water. He ties a small swivel on the end of the line, to limit twist, and adds a 12- to 18-inch leader of low-vis 6-pound fluorocarbon.

Unlike traditional snap-fall tactics used for walleyes and other larger predators, Glorvigen applies a slower hand for suspended cool-water crappies. “It’s not a standard jigging presentation where you’re really working the bait,” he says. “This situation calls for deadsticking. When the crappies see the lure’s profile, they think it’s a minnow mixed in with the zooplankton, and boy, do they smack it.”

Thanks to his CHIRP sonar’s target resolution, Glorvigen can watch his jig even as it descends into a crappie wolfpack. “This is really a breakthrough,” he says. “It’s not uncommon to run across massive schools 15 feet thick. With traditional sonar, there’s no seeing into a tight school. Once the bait gets into the fish, it’s off the radar. But with CHIRP, I can tell where my lure is and how fish react to it.”

He cautions that once you find a school, it’s important to keep moving to stay on top of it. By shadowing a deep-running gang of slabs, it’s possible to pluck multiple fish from a single group. “Keep in mind that when you pull crappies out of extreme depths, the fish are likely unreleasable,” he warns. “Plan on keeping what you catch for a late-fall fish fry. And if you get on a school of fish too small to keep, move along until you find larger ones.”

Depending on the individual lake, your latitude, and what kind of weather Mother Nature dishes out in the weeks ahead, you might have a month or more of crappie action before winter draws the curtain on open water. “Good news is, as soon as safe ice arrives, the same areas are still going to produce fish,” Glorvigen adds. Which is all the more reason to hit the water now to unlock the locational secrets of late-fall crappies on your favorite fisheries.

How Can I Catch Spring Crappie?

Spring Crappie PANdemonium

Simple stuff for finding and fishing cool spring crappies.

By Calvin Christopher
from The Fishing Wire

Ask any saltwater angler whether ‘high’ or ‘low’ tide is the pick of the litter, and not only will you get mixed results, but iterations from “the first hour of incoming tide,” to “halfway through outgoing,” to “dead flat – I’m weird like that.”

Catch spring crappie like this

Catch spring crappie like this

In search mode, crappie expert Brian “Bro” Brosdahl casts small jigs with soft plastic bodies. Once fish are located, he switches to fuller bodied feathered jigs tipped with minnows. Photo by Bill Lindner Photography

Maybe not quite so particular, but subjective nonetheless, are freshwater panfish seekers. And in the spring, their preferences arc the spectrum from “sun-soaked bridge pilings,” to “mouths of creeks,” to complexities like “first drops off shallow muddy bays on the north end.” Myriad factors affect their partialities, of course, things like water temperature, water clarity, bottom composition, forage base and the like. So truthfully, to offer one man’s perspective is pretty one-dimensional, given the infiniteness of conceivable factors. But what about two-dimensional? Now that’s diverse.

So unwilling to enter the third dimension, I quizzed two dogged and salty (like character; sometimes language) panfish activists for their perspectives on spring fishing. And it goes something like this:

Who is your favorite NASCAR driver?
Bro: Dale Earnhardt Jr. It’s hard to live in the shadows of a big name like his dad. Jr.’s carving his niche and I respect that. (Frankly, I thought this question would stymie Bro.)

Neustrom: Dale Earnhardt Jr. He’s the crowd favorite. Great individual. He’s gone up against all the negativity and just races fast. Oh, and Brad Kieslowski – he’s a pain in the ass, and I sort of like that, too.

Do you open with plastics or livebait on spring crappies?
Bro: For searching, it’s definitely plastics. And ice fishing sized stuff. I like to put a single Northland Bro’s Bloodworm on a Gill Getter jig. Might slide on a piece of waxworm as well. The meat and plastic combo can be lethal in the spring.

Now once I know where they’re at, it’s time for feathered jigs and minnows. Cast it out and swim it back slowly. Give fish time to come over and grab it.

Neustrom: Depends. In clear water, my tendency is to go with minnows. The bite is trickier; fish are spookier. And livebait, well, always looks like livebait. Don’t have to worry about matching the hatch.

In darker water, I catch most fish on a jig and curly tail grub. The action does it. And I’m still a firm believer in the effectiveness of vibration.

Fish under a float or cast?
Crappie warlords Bro and Neustrom underscore the importance of keeping livebait energized. Minnows are best maintained with Frabill Aqua-Life aeration systems.
Bro: I use a float when searching during bluebird days. You can work a bait so much slower under a float. No float if the conditions are perfect – low pressure, warmth and some cloud cover. Then it’s time to cast and retrieve.

Either way, I’m looking for that one fish that gives up the flock. Humminbird Side Imaging lets me choose those casts wisely, too. It’ll show me actual fish, or at the least help me identify key features like emerging weeds and sunken timber – crappies are like glue on early green weeds. And just to make sure they’re fresh, I can verify greenness with my Aqua-Vu underwater camera.

Neustrom: Both. I like to pitch and swim plastics first, though. Keep the rod tip high. Reel in slowly. And just watch and feel for the rod to load up. There probably won’t be a classic ‘bite,’ either, so be on the trigger.

I fish with a float if I’m targeting smaller spaces like pockets in the reeds. In cover, the bait needs to sit longer, let fish find it. A 1/32-ounce jig with a minnow or plastic tail works just right under a float.

Are you a slave to fishing the northwest corner of a lake?
Bro: No, not at all. Some of my best spring crappie spots are shallow weedy bays on the south end. But then I’ll check the northwest corner of the specific bay. I’d say 60-percent of my natural lake crappies are caught on the northwest corner of the most qualified bay.

And then there are all those nooks and crannies, which can be in any direction. I’m looking for harbors, channels and small sections of water that get a lot of sun but little or no wind. Crappies hate the wind.

Neustrom: No. There’s far too much emphasis put on fishing the northwest end of the lake. Instead, I choose smaller lakes with all the right stuff: reeds, bays and darker water. If it looks good, I fish it.

Weather goes to hell. Where do you start looking for bites?
Bro: Crappies will hold to structure near shallow feeding areas under cold front conditions. Or, they might hover over holes near prime shallows.

I’ll go after them one of two ways. If the fish are 12-feet or deeper, I quietly drift over them dragging feathered jigs. If they’re shallow, I’ll pitch a heavily weighted float and jig. I want the float barely sticking out of the water so waves roll over it.

For both techniques, I’m using a short, 5-foot St. Croix Panfish Series rod. Long rods catch too much wind.

Nice spring crappie

Nice spring crappie

Freshwater Fishing Hall of Famer Tom Neustrom advocates releasing breeding-sized crappies before and during the spawning to promote species proliferation. Photo courtesy of Daiwa
Neustrom: I’ll slide out to first break, which might only mean 8- to 12-feet of water. Don’t expect the motherlode, but you can still pick away at a few crappies in crummy weather.

I go to a float with a plain VMC hook and a tail-hooked minnow. You have to sit on those fish.

And one more thing, I set my Humminbird on SwitchFire mode. It enhances my view, seeing baitfish and even smaller fish that’ll start me on the right path to locating larger crappies.

Led Zeppelin or the Rolling Stones?
Bro: Tough call, but I’m saying Zeppelin. The guitar riffs are epic. And their aggression and intensity keeps my pulse high, in that good sort of way.

Neustrom: Led Zeppelin. Their creativeness is incredible. Makes you stop and think.

How does current factor into your site selection?
Bro: Current sorts things out nicely. I can find fish faster. It pushes crappies into pooled-up calm areas associated with logs and timber. And the fish are usually more aggressive.

I like to tight-line with a 10-foot St. Croix Panfish Series, reaching out and bumping the jig around. And wherever possible, I lock down with a Minn Kota Talon shallow water anchor. It’s the absolute epitome of boat control.

Neustrom: Don’t like current much. Maybe the edges, but that’s about it. Crappies don’t like a lot of movement. They’re a different kind of cat.

But with all that said, current flushes in food. So it’s typical to find springtime crappies near current areas.

What are your thoughts on catch & release as it relates to the proliferation of ‘big’ crappies?
Bro: Nothing wrong with turning crappies into food, but that doesn’t mean getting greedy on the big ones. Actually, fish in that 10 to 12-inch range are the best eaters. Trust me. Watch how much better the meat cooks next time. Slabs fall apart in the pan.

And let others enjoy catching big crappies, don’t get all piggish. Unlike bluegills, there isn’t any scientific study that says fishing down size alters the gene pool. But I do know when a lake gets hammered, it takes years to bring back size.

Neustrom: I really don’t like catch and kill during the spring spawn. Let them breed. And if you remove the large fish, eventually all you’ll have are dinks. Can take 4- to 6-years for size to recover. I’ve seen it over and over again.

Where did all the big ones go, people ask? Duh.

How To Catch Winter Clarks Hill Crappie

Many crappie fishermen are getting tackle ready, planning and looking forward to March when the slabs start to move into the shallows to spawn, but they are making a mistake. If you aren’t fishing for crappie in February you are missing out on some of the best fishing of the year, especially for big fish.

Clark’s Hill is our biggest lake and offers great crappie fishing. There are many creeks and smaller rivers entering the lake that run in different directions, so you can find a place to fish that does not get the brunt of the winter wind. And you can find just about any water clarity you want to fish.

two big crappie

two big crappie

Rod Wall grew up and still lives near the lake in 96 South Carolina. He has a place on the South Carolina Little River arm of the lake and builds docks and seawalls on Lake Greenwood and Clark’s Hill. All his life he has been fishing Clark’s Hill for crappie.

About six years ago Rod started fishing crappie tournaments. He set small goals, first trying to catch a limit in each tournament, then to place and now to win. He does well on the Crappiemasters, Crappie USA and Georgia Slabmasters trails. He guides for crappie on both Lake Greenwood and Clark’s Hill.

Rod has done well enough on the trails to be sponsored by B ‘n M crappie rods, Vicious Line, and Hummingbird Electronics. He likes Southern Pro jigs and Midsouth Tackle jigs and trailers for his fishing and carries about 400 color combinations of jig heads and trailers with him in his boat.

Rod’s usual partner in tournaments is his 15 year old son Braxton and he has learned well. He has won two youth national championships, the 2010 Crappie USA Pickwick tournament and the 2011 Crappiemasters Alabama River tournament.

Nice winter crappie

Nice winter crappie

“You can catch some of the biggest crappie of the year right now,” Rod told me. The fish are moving into the creeks toward spawning areas and are feeding actively. There are several ways to catch them that work from right now through March.

To prove his point, he took me fishing in mid-January and we landed about ten crappie. The biggest seven went from 1.40 to 1.91 pounds – on his tournament scales. Those are big crappie. But he catches even bigger. His best seven fish

Winter crappie

Winter crappie

tournament limit weighed 17.5 pounds and he has landed three pound crappie on Clarks Hill this time of year.

Rod likes to longline, also called pulling or trolling, for crappie. His Lund boat is set up with Driftmaster rod holders allowing him to fish 14 B n M rods out the back. This setup lets him cover a lot of water quickly, finding the schools of fish and catching them.

To start the day Rod will look for stained water since he says crappie hit better on a reaction bite when the fish can’t get as good a look at the bait. He will watch his depthfinder for baitfish and schools of crappie to determine the depth he wants to run his jigs and use either four or six pound test Vicious line and vary the weight of jig heads to keep them at that depth.

“One of the biggest mistakes a beginner crappie troller makes is to not know the depth he is fishing,” Rod says. The best way to learn is to put out some one sixteenths ounce jigs and troll them over a flat of a consistent depth. Vary the speed of your boat until the jigs start to bump the bottom. If it is 12 feet deep that will tell you that size jig will run at that depth at the set speed.

Speed and line size is as critical as the size of the jig. The length behind the boat you troll is also important. Rod has made a chart so he knows exactly how fast to troll a jig size and line size combination to fish a set depth.

Normal trolling speed is from .6 to 1.2 MPH. A good GPS will tell you exactly how fast you are trolling and Rod keeps a constant eye on his speed. His boat is rigged with a Minkota remote control trolling motor and he can work it from the back of the boat near the rods to keep his boat on an exact course and speed.

Crappie relate to the channels as they move toward the spawning areas so he starts near the channel, fishing points and flats along them. We caught most of our fish in January off the end of a big flat that ran out to the Little River channel and dropped off on one end into a small feeder creek. They were stacked up on the drop.

Another mistake beginners make is to try to start with too many rods. Although Rod uses 14 B ‘N Rod rigs, you should start with just six to eight rods until you learn to control them and not get tangled.

It is also important to keep your rod tips down at the surface of the water, especially if there is any wind. Wind will catch the line and make it change depths and speeds, making control difficult if the rod tip is up off the water.

On his boat Rod will have four eight foot B ‘n N rods across the back beside the motor. Three more rod holders on each side have a 12, then 14 and finally a 16 foot rod. This allows you to cover 32 feet plus the width of the boat on each troll, a swath almost 40 feet wide.

In more clear water or if you want to run your jigs deeper, use four pound test line. In stained water or if you want to keep your jigs higher you can use six pound test line. First thing in the morning Rod will try several different colors but will switch most of his jigs to the color the crappie prefer.

Rod warns that the color choice can change rapidly during the day so if the fish slow down hitting one color try others. Also vary your speed if the bite slows on one that has been working. Watch your depthfinder so you stay at the depth the fish are holding and keep your bait there by changing jig size or line size for the speed you need to go.

A loop knot used to attach your jig head to the line definitely gives it more action and Rod always ties them on that way. With the light line a good know is critical. You need to tie one that will not cut the light line.

Some of Rod’s favorite places to fish on Clark’s Hill are the South Carolina Little River arm above the Highway 378 Bridge, Soap Creek above the Highway 220 Bridge, Haw and Wells Creeks on the Savannah River arm and Germany, Rousseau and Kemp Creeks on the Georgia Little River arm. He also fishes up Big Hart Creek and Little River around Kemp Creek.

Start toward the backs of these creeks in the mornings in February and pull out toward the mouth until you find the fish. On Clark’s Hill you can find space away from other boats giving you room to troll and make the wide turns necessary to be successful. Once you find an area holding crappie, either when you start catching them or seeing a lot of bait and crappie on your depthfinder, stay in that area.

Rod likes curly tail jigs and will tip them with a live minnow to see if that helps. He often puts jigs out on one side with minnows and jigs without minnows on the other side of the boat to see what the fish prefer. If they are hitting the jigs without minnows there is no need to use them.

Crappie often are just barely hooked on the jig so you should not set the hook or fight them too fast. Just pick up the rod and start reeling. Keep the fish in the lane that rod is in so they don’t tangle other lines and let them run when they want to. You have to keep the boat moving so reel very slowly.
You will need a long handle net for bigger fish. Rod says you should never get the fish closer to the boat than the length of line equal to the rod length. When the fish is about a rod lengths line away, slowly lift your rod tip to bring it to the net.

No matter how tempting it is to try to land a big striper, hybrid or largemouth when you hook one, they will make a mess of all your lines. In tournaments Rod will instantly break them off. The day we fished he hooked a nice striper and tried to land it. It tangled 12 of our 14 lines. If you want to try to land a big fish be prepared to untangle lines. Jut be sure it is not a really big crappie before you break it off!

Another trick when trying to find out exactly what the fish want is to run a zigzag pattern with your boat. That will speed up jigs on one side and slow them down on the other. This not only changes speed, it will change depth, so you can find out what they want.

On sunny days Rod will use translucent jigs and more colorful jigs on cloudy days. A little breeze often helps but stronger wind makes boat control difficult. To control his speed when trolling with the wind Rod keeps a drift sock in his boat and puts it out to slow him down. He will also put his motor in gear and he says that will slow your speed up to a tenth of a mile and hour by itself.

Some current definitely positions the fish deeper on cover so it makes trolling more difficult. No mater what, make sure your jigs stay clean. Any small piece of grass or other trash on the jig will guarantee the fish won’t hit it.

Don’t hesitate to change speed, color and depth when you are not catching anything. As Rod says, if you aren’t catching any fish it certainly doesn’t hurt to change.

The trolling season for crappie extends a long time. Warming water even for a few days can turn the fish on and anytime the water is over 50 degrees the fishing is good. There are both black and white crappie in Clark’s Hill and the blacks move in earlier, followed a couple of weeks later by the whites, so that extends the good fishing time.

Rod says black crappie will spawn at 60 degree water temperature and whites a couple of weeks later, so keep up with the water temperature. Fish move in waves of schools so you can keep up with them and catch them over a longer time than you might expect.

Smaller fish are often more aggressive and hit more shallow, so drop your jigs a little deeper if you are catching small fish but seeing others a little deeper. But be sure to always keep your jigs above the fish. Rod says crappie will sometimes come up six feet to hit a jig but will never go down to take one.

There are other ways to catch crappie this time of year. Rod has rod holders on the front of his boat for pushing bush piles and standing timber. This method involves putting the rods out in front of the boat, moving up close to the brush or tree, and letting the jigs or minnows drop straight down.

Depth is critical when pushing, too, so try different depths until you find what they want. Standing trees in the mouths of spawning creeks and pockets often hold large numbers of crappie and you can catch a lot while pushing them.

Clark’s Hill used to be known for its crappie fishing during the spawn in the button or buck bushes but the lake has been low for so long that has not happened in years. Fish will spawn just about anywhere along the bank and even out in deeper water on brush and standing timber.

The lake was 16 feet low the day we fished, just before all the rain in the middle of the month. The lake had come up about a foot since Christmas and should still be rising. The rain will give more color to the creeks and that should improve the trolling.

Rod’s depthfinder has a barometer indicator on it and he likes to see a rising or falling barometric pressure. He says a steady barometer is not good but movement in either direction will help make the bite better. An approaching front, with changing pressure, definitely helps.

If you want to catch some big crappie, head to Clark’s Hill this month. Try Rod’s methods or fish the way you like best. There are other good creeks on the lake, too so don’t get stuck on one pattern on place.

To book a guide trip with Rod on Greenwood or Clark’s Hill call him at 864-993-8868 or visit his web sites at http://slabmasterguideservice.com for more information and to book a trip.

Where Can I Catch Spring Crappie In Georgia?

Slab Time In The Peach State
Catching Spring Crappie In Georgia

If you have missed out on the ritual of catching crappie in Georgia in the spring you have missed one of the most enjoyable fishing experiences our state offers. The action is fast, the fish taste great and thousands of your fellow anglers take advantage of some of the best fishing Georgia has to offer.

Growing up near Clarks Hill I experienced the excitement each spring. Word would spread around McDuffie County like pine pollen blowing in the April wind – “The crappie are in the bushes.” Everyone from farmers who got in a boat once a year to bass fishermen who concentrated on largemouth 50 weeks a year to mommas and young kids would head to the lake to catch a mess of crappie.

This was the time to fill your freezer for fish fries that would last for months. For a two to three week period every cove at the lake would have several boats full of fishermen easing round the bank dropping minnows or jigs beside button bushes and pulling out shinning crappie. Everyone had a big smile on their face.

In lakes all over Georgia crappie go through their spawning cycle and fishermen show up to catch them. With a little effort you can expand the two week spawn when they are shallow into a full spring of catching fish. And you can do it on almost any public lake near you.

During the winter crappie are suspended out over big water, usually around some kind of wood. They hold over brush piles and tree tops and you can catch them but the weather is not very much fun and they are hard to find. Trolling and jigging is the most effective way to catch them.

As the water starts to warm in late February and early March the fish start to move toward the spawning areas. Depending on how fast it warms up, some crappie may be back in the spawning areas in late February but by mid to late March you can count on some laying eggs. Late March and early April is usually the prime time to catch them shallow.

Usually by mid to late April the shallow action is gone and the fish are heading back to deeper water. As they work out you can troll for them or shoot docks on lakes with lots of them. You can hit them in blowdowns on deeper banks toward the main lake. Then by early summer it is back to trolling and jigging in deeper water.

Spring is the time bank fishermen catch their share of crappie, too. From late February to late April the crappie are more likely to be near the bank and in reach of fishermen without boats. Find access at boat ramps, parks, fishing piers and roads that run near the water. Stay on public land and you can catch them.

If fishing from the bank it is a good idea to have several rods and poles so you can cover a fairly wide area. Keep some baits in near the bank but make long casts with others. When you catch one fish put all your bait in that spot because a school of crappie is probably moving through the area.

One exciting way to catch crappie on all our lakes is to tie up under a bridge or beside a treetop in deep water, hang a lantern over the side or drop a light into the water and wait for the shad to come to the light. Crappie will follow them and you can again load your boat. Many bridges look like small cities this time of year as dozens of boats light them up.

You can catch crappie all around Georgia but some lakes are better than others. Clarks Hill seems to always be good as are most bigger lakes. But don’t forget the smaller public waters like Public Fishing Areas and State Parks. If you live near one you know how good the fishing can be.

The following six lakes should all be good for crappie this spring. Choose one near you, hook up the boat if you have one, grab some poles and enjoy this ritual of spring.

Lake Allatoona

Although not known as a crappie hot spot, Allatoona has a good population of crappie and many anglers take advantage of it. Early spring fishing is good and there is less of the famed pleasure boat traffic on Allatoona. You can fish in relative peace.

The crappie fishing at Allatoona has been consistent for several years, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Division. (WRD) The crappie you catch should average about one-half pound and be just over eight inches long. Some crappie weighing a pound are better should be in your catch, too.

There is very little shoreline cover like bushes to fish unless the water is very high, so look for shallow crappie around blowdowns and brush piles put out by fishermen. There are also some docks to fish in the creeks.

Troll the creeks for them in the early spring then drop a jig or minnow beside any kind of wood cover when they are spawning.

Look for crappie back in Kellogg, Illinois and Stamp Creek. The DNR says these are all good places for crappie. You are likely to catch some of the biggest crappie of the year while the females are full of eggs and back in the spawning areas in the early spring.

As the water warms follow the crappie back out by trolling toward the mouths of the creeks. By early summer they will be schooled up on state brush piles and other cover put out by anglers on drops and humps on the main lake. Fishing for them at night will help you avoid most of the boat traffic and gives you the best chance of catching them.

Lake Harding

Lake Harding, also known as Bartletts Ferry, has a good population of big crappie. According to the DNR at least half the crappie in the lake are in the 10 to 14 inch range and will weigh about one-half to three-fourths of a pound. There are many larger fish that you can catch, too.

In late February crappie start moving into the many pockets and small creeks on the lake. Almost all these creeks and pockets have docks in them and many have brush piles around them. Crappie will move following the deeper water and you can catch them by trolling jigs. Then they will hold on the shallow dock posts and brush piles to spawn and this is a good time to shoot jigs under the docks and dabble jigs and minnows around the shallow cover.

Also look for the cypress trees planted by the WRD and Georgia Power on shallow areas on the main lake. The root balls of these trees often hold spawning crappie. Fish all around them with jigs and minnows, just like fishing shallow brush in the creeks.

As the crappie start to move out they will hold on deeper docks. Late spring is a good time to shoot jigs back under the docks into the shady areas where they are feeding. Try to get all the way back under docks to the heaviest shade on bright, sunny days. Respect dock owners and skip docks where they are fishing, there will be plenty of empty docks to fish.

There are six fish attractors put out by the WRD that offer excellent fishing as summer approaches. Drop minnows and jigs around them during the day or anchor and fish over them at night with a light. You can do the same kind of fishing in the river by tying up to treetops and logs in deeper water.

Lake Blackshear

When you first see Lake Blackshear you can’t help but think it is crappie heaven. And it is. The acres of cypress trees standing in shallow water, numerous docks and bridges all look like crappie hot spots and they are. Add to those places the 10 brush piles put out by the WRD and you can find crappie all over the lake.

According to the WRD you will catch both black and white crappie on Blackshear and the populations of both is fair. Most of the fish are under 10 inches long but there are a good many pound to pound-and-a-half fish to be caught. Early spring is the best time to get the bigger fish.

Blackshear is far enough south that many are spawning by late February. Look for them in the cypress tree root balls and around the docks in Collins Branch, Spring Creek, Gum Creek and Boy Scout Slough. Up the river all the backouts have good spawning areas as do many of the main river runs.

Drop jigs and minnows beside cypress tress but remember the root ball may extend out several feet. Fish from right beside the trunk out at least three feet from it. A minnow swimming around just over the root ball should be hit, and you can drop jigs down to the same areas.

By late March there are still good populations of crappie holding around docks but you can also catch them off the state brush piles or around the bridges. Fish both areas day or night from late March on through the summer.

Also troll creek channel ledges for them. Take lots of bug spray.

Lake Sinclair

Probably our most popular crappie fishing lake in the winter because of the warm water released from the Georgia Power steam plant, Sinclair is a good bet all spring long, too. Year after year it produces good catches of crappie and that should continue this year.

There are some two-pound plus crappie caught each year at Sinclair and most are over eight inches long. About a third of the crappie at Sinclair are 10 inches long or longer and will weigh over half a pound. In the spring they will be fat and heavy.

You can start trolling for crappie and catching them early at Sinclair if you concentrate on water warmed by the outflow in Beaverdam Creek. By early March many crappie will be found in the backs of coves looking for spawning areas around docks, brush and bushes. The area from Beaverdam Creek to the dam will see fish move in earlier with those up the Little River and Oconee River arms moving in shallow a little later.

Check out Rooty Creek for good spawning areas all during the spring. The lower creek is warmed by Beaverdam some when pumpback is running at Oconee and the upper end warms a little later. Drop minnows and jigs around dock posts and brush back in the creeks. The back one third should be best early when the fish are spawning.

When the water hits the mid 60s the fish are mostly finished spawning and moving back out. Start shooting docks in the coves, concentrating on the docks in the outer two-thirds of the creek. When you catch a crappie around a dock stay there, there should be others as they school up this time of year.

There are several good state brush piles to fish in late spring and the main lake docks hold crappie, too. Troll the open water around the brush piles or shoot jigs to deeper docks in late spring to find the fish. Many crappie are also caught under the Little River bridge from late spring to summer.

Hamburg Lake

One of the most peaceful places to catch crappie may also be the best to catch big crappie. Hamburg is a 225 acre lake located in Hamburg State Park just north of Sandersville. Motors are limited to 10 horsepower so the lake stays quiet and calm. You can camp there and boat rental is also available.

Although crappie you catch at Hamburg will average about a half-pound, there are a good many two-pound-plus fish in the lake. The lake is full of stumps and crappie love wood cover, so you can usually locate them fairly easily.

In the early spring look for stump beds and brush out from the bank and either troll carefully through the area or cast jigs to them. As the water warms cast jigs to all the shoreline cover or dabble minnows in it. In late spring troll the old river channel and fish the standing timber along it with jigs and minnows.

When fishing standing timber, try to find the depth the crappie are holding by spotting them on a depthfinder. If you can’t see the fish for the forest, drop a live minnow or jig down and work it deeper and deeper until you catch a crappie. When you catch one note the depth and concentrate on it, that is the depth most of the crappie should be holding.

Lake Hartwell

Hartwell is a big lake with lots of arms and they all offer good crappie fishing. Different parts of the lake warm at different rates so you can usually find a variety of types of fishing at the same time. You can pick one area to fish and follow them as they move in or try to hit spawning crappie over different areas and extend that catch.

There was an excellent crappie spawn a few years ago after the water was down and that year class is getting bigger every year. They should be around 10 to 12 inches long this year and weigh about three-fourths of a pound. There are bigger crappie in the lake but for a good average size Hartwell should be excellent this year.

Start looking for crappie over structure like roadbeds and standing timber near the mouths of coves and creeks in early March. As the water warms follow the schools back into the creeks and coves, trolling for them. Watch for schools of baitfish as well as the crappie as you troll. They will often follow the shad as them move in, too.

By early April the crappie should be back in the coves spawning around bushes and other cover. Check out Eastanollee, Gum Log and Shoal Creek for better chances at crappie since those creeks have more color to the water and you can catch more there. If the water is too clear it is hard to get them to bite if they are real shallow, and the stained water is more fertile and supports more fish.

Late in the spring follow the fish back out trolling the creek channels and over standing timber. Night fishing is excellent in the clear water under bridges and over the standing timber. Use a bright light and fish your favorite jig or live minnow. Try different depths until the fish start hitting and tell you where they are holding if you don’t see them on your depthfinder.

All of these lakes offer great crappie fishing this spring. Pick one near you or head out to find new waters. Don’t miss one of the best times of the year to catch crappie.

Crappie Heaven – Secret Crappie Fishing Hole

Shooting jigs under docks for crappie

Shooting jigs under docks for crappie

Jim Pope tells us about a secret crappie fishing hole that sounds fantastic.

CRAPPIE HEAVEN
Jim Pope

Crappie fishing is something that this fisherman never spent much time doing. Sure there have been times when a school of slabs were accidentally located while fishing for smallmouth with grubs. When that happens, it is hard not to try to put a few of the tasty critters in the livewell. There are some, however, who dedicate themselves to catching crappie. A cousin of mine is such a fisherman.

My cousin lives about twenty miles west of Nashville, and he has a fish camp near Kentucky Lake in the New Johnsonville area. That is as close as I can take you to his place, because his fishing area is classified. He gave me a little hard capsule to keep on my person at all times and made me promise to bite into it if someone tried to torture me into telling them about this spot.

In late October of 1997, I was fortunate to be able to get in a fishing trip with my crappie fishing cousin and another cousin who had come down from Wisconsin (there is another story related to Wisconsin fishing. When we got to his camp, the first thing on our list was to make sure that the batteries were charged to capacity. When we opened the garage doors, I was surprised to see three boats housed there. There was a fairly new 17′ aluminum bass boat with a 60 hp motor, a 12′ john boat with a 9.9, and a 14′ john boat painted and rigged for duck hunting. After I spent several minutes complimenting the bass boat, my cousin informed me that he usually fished out of the 12′ rig. The bass rig was really nice, and I wondered why he would make such a choice. that would be revealed the next day.

The following morning, we casually drank coffee and had breakfast. There seemed to be no rush in getting to the water. A massive cold front had just passed through, the temperature was about 40 degrees, and a northeast wind was blowing at twenty or so. I was in no hurry, because the warmth of the trailer and the coffee felt good. In all honesty, I had many unspoken negative thoughts about the day.

We were at the water’s edge around 9:00 that morning. A gravel/dirt ramp was available to launch the boat, and my first thought was that it would take a four wheel drive vehicle to master that task after all of the rain which had fallen in the past two days. As it turned out, the ramp was very solid, and launching the boat was accomplished with ease.

Most of my fishing is done on large lakes and rivers. The body of water on which were about to embark was slightly different. It appeared to be more of a swamp than it did a lake. My cousin told me that the average depth was about three feet. Actually, is probably much less than that, because there are acres upon acres of water less than a foot deep.

This lake is near, but not connected to Kentucky Lake. The only time they join is when the spring rains raise the river level sufficient enough to overflow into this body of water. The lake consist of several thousand acres of shallow flats with twisting creek channels fingering their way throughout. It is absolute filled with big buck bushes, most of which are in less than a foot of water. That is where the 12′ john boat comes in handy. The bushes we would target on this day were the ones which were located on the edges of the creek channels. Understand that the water in the creek channels is, at most, only three feet deep. Next to these channels, the buck bushes were in 15 to 20 inches of water.

My cousin assured us that the crappie would be nosed up to or inside of the buck bushes on this cold windy day. He also said that we probably would not catch many fish, but the ones we would catch would be good ones. I wondered how he knew that, so I asked. His answer could have been related to largemouth bass instead of crappie. According to my cousin, the crappie dive into heavy cover on days like this day. The big ones move in, and the little ones have to leave. That is the law of the water. OK. He didn’t use any scientific reasons, but he spoke with confidence. Suddenly my negative thoughts began to change.

With two buckets of two and three inch long shiners in the boat, we set out. These minnows seemed rather large for crappie, but I held back that question. Our tools were simple. We each had a ten foot telescoping crappie pole with a little butt-reel spooled with 40 lb. test mono. On the terminal end was a slip float, a split shot, and a 3/0 wire hook. A piece of rubber band was tied about 12 or 15 inches above the hook to act as a stop for the slip float. Without asking, I wondered why he would want to use such a heavy line and large hook to fish for crappie. That was another question in my mind which was later answered by observation.

We fished three or four buck bushes before my cousin got our first crappie. I was amazed at how he could drop his float and minnow down through the center of the bushes. He had done that in this particular bush, and I heard him say, “There’s one!”. He raised his pole straight up. The long pole took on a parabolic shape, and the fish struggled to stay in the maze of roots and limbs. After a few short seconds of grunting and pole bending, my cousin horsed the big crappie straight up through the thick limbs of the bush and swung it into the boat. This fish would have weighed two pounds!

Naturally, my cousin from Wisconsin and I were both excited about the size of the fish. My cousin calmly informed us that this fish was not such a big fish. He probably can be considered somewhat of an authority, since he has more than one crappie on his wall in the three pound range. According to him, the spring fish are larger, and it is the spring fish he likes to catch. I can see why!

My cousin had three good crappie in the box before I had the first bite. That was enough for me to begin trying to drop my float fig down into the middle of those bushes. By 1:00, we had ten or twelve fish in the cooler, all of which were big fish (from my point of view). We threw back a dozen or more in the 10 to 12 inch range (for some reason, they now looked to be really small).

I had also managed to land four largemouth bass, the largest of which was about three pounds. A larger bass had straightened my wire hook. Strangely enough, a gar, which had to be 30″ long, took one of my minnows. For a few seconds, that was a “line singing” experience. It didn’t take me long to understand why the poles were rigged with 40 lb. test line. First, the strength is needed to force a fish up through an entanglement of roots and limbs. Second, it is strong enough to pull loose from a snag. The heavy line can be wrapped around the hand and the wire hook straightened. Now it all makes sense.

That day of crappie fishing was an eye opener for me. It was a very relaxing day, even if the temperature was below the comfort zone. To say the least, I was impressed with my cousin’s ability to put us on the huge crappie. As he had predicted, they were few, but they were good ones.

This fisherman is now at the age of diversity. For years, those casting from the back deck of my boat had no choice but to fish for bass. The only exception to that rule was when the stripe (white bass) were surfacing or when I took my Dad catfishing. Now that I have somewhat mellowed, I have found that there is often much pleasure associated with diversity. There will certainly be another trip to the secret crappie grounds, but please don’t ask me where it is. I have too many good years of fishing left.