Crappie grow fast and make lots of baby crappie. Fueling this lifestyle requires a steady feeding schedule and it doesn’t slow in winter. When the bass go to bed, it’s time to break out the long rods and little jigs. Arkansas’ Brad Wiegmann and Tennesseean Joey Monteleone are old-school slab slayers from neighboring states with different approaches to winter crappie fishing.
How to Fish for Crappie in the Trees
10-foot B’n’M Poles Buck’s Best Ultra-Light spinning rod
8-pound high-visibility monofilament
1/32 and 1/16-ounce jig head
2- to 2 1/2-inch shad bodies
¼-ounce PICO Lures Sickle Minnow Head 1/16-ounce jighead
Two-inch PICO Pointer Shad pattern soft plastic lures
1 Single Poling or Spider Rigging
Two deadly techniques for winter crappie are single poling and spider rigging.
After the water temperature drops below 45 degrees, crappie migrate to river channels or current breaks in feeder creeks and coves to hide in submerged timber and ambush unsuspecting shad. Both techniques use a long, 10-foot spinning rod and light line. High-visibility line makes it easier to see the light bite. Single poling is performed with a tandem rig.
Tie a 1/16-ounce jighead to the end of the high-vis line. Twelve inches above this jig, make a loop knot and add a 1/32-ounce jighead. Bring a variety of colored soft-plastic tails to match the crappie’s fancy. When the fish are deep in the branches, position the kayak overtop of the structure and drop the rig straight down. Keep the line vertical and bounce the jig up and down. If the fish are spread out, switch to spider rigging.
Slow troll several lines around the structure. Use the same, long rod rigged with a single 1/4-ounce jig. Set the lure a few feet off the bottom and move around the structure at less than one-mile-per-hour. Fish several rods with jigs at different depths. If slow trolling doesn’t bring a bite, try speeding up.
– Brad Wiegmann
2 Simple Slabs
Fishing for winter crappie? They school in deep sloughs, highland reservoirs, streams or rivers where you find open water.
When the water temperature hits 55 degrees, crappie will migrate off warm-water shallows to deeper holes. Look for fish in dock pilings, bridge supports and weed beds, but they really love submerged trees and man-made stake-beds.
Choose a seven-foot, medium-power rod to ease the hook into a crappie’s paper-thin mouth. A spinning reel with retrieve ratio of 5.2:1 is perfect for slowly working a crappie jig. Four-pound test line makes it easier to cast a tiny 1/16-ounce jig.
Crappie have two feeding moods: active or neutral. When the fish are searching for food, work the jig with a cast, crank and pause. If crappie aren’t hungry, use a vertical presentation. Hold the kayak over the structure and drop a 1/8-ounce jig directly into the thick of the tree limbs. When the bite is on, I release every other fish I catch.
– Joey Monteleone
Crappie, pronounced like “hoppy,” thank you very much. | Feature photo: Brad Wiegmann