In the deep south here in North Carolina, crappie fishing is one of the most popular fish to target. Many fishermen and fisherwomen will search for these very tasty panfish in the spring, summer, and fall months of the year. Who can blame them, they bite readily, put up a great fight on Ultra lite tackle, and are one of the best eating fish in our waters.
But for the most part, I start my crappie fishing when most winterize and put their boats away for the winter, BIG MISTAKE!!! Crappies will and do bite very well in cold water months you just need to change up your tactics and think s-l-o-w this time of year. And another plus, the big crowds are now gone and some days you have the lake to yourself with no jet skies, speed boats,and skiers!!
My bait of choice will be a 1/16 ounce jig (weedless) tied with a no slip loop knot, you can Google up that knot, and 99.9% of the time I’ll use a red hollow body with chartreuse/silver flake tube jig. I like the hollow body so I can fill the cavity with Pro-Cure Crappie and Panfish Magic Super Gel. Although this scent from Pro- Cure works well all year long I firmly believe it can make the difference in catching fish and not catching fish in colder water. Just recently the wife and I went to a local hot spot crappie hole and we put on a show catching crappies 2 at a time while others not yet familiar with the Pro-Cure Panfish Magic Super Gel watched in amazement!!
Now as the water cools on down into the low 50’s and into the 40’s this is when I’ll switch from the 1/16 jig to a 1/32 ounce jig. This smaller jig will have a slower fall rate and will be more inviting to the cold blooded crappie who will be in slow mode now since his body temperature is the same as the water. This slow presentation of your baits now is more critical than ever and a bait scent like the Crappie Panfish Magic Super Gel now in my opinion will make a bad day of fishing into a great day of catching!!
If I find crappies in shallow water now like 5 to 10 feet this is when I’ll go to the Betts Tackle “twist on and twist off” adjustable bobber with a bobber stop so I can cast to these fish, fish my baits at a predetermined depth and have my bait suspend “in their face ” motionless until they can’t stand it any longer. There’s still something magical watching a bobber go under the surface still 68 years after starting my fishing career!!! With this rig if I need to move to deeper water I can just remove the bobber, slide the “foot ball shaped” bobber stop down to the jig and switch back just as quick and easily if needed.
Here’s another tip to remember in cold water. Over the years I’ve observed crappie fishermen using jigs in cold water situations doing what you are supposed to do with jigs…….jig it…..However, I have found that if you let your jig fall naturally and slowly, and if you don’t get a bite on the fall, then just hold the jig as still as possible and be patient, 99% of the time you will soon feel that familiar “thump”, I’m sure you know what to do then😁!!
Another little trick I’ll do if I’m having wind moving my boat around or current moving my line off of straight down under the boat I’ll add 1 or 2 #2 split shot a few inches above my jig, this will help hold it down and more still sometimes giving it a more natural appearance to your quarry.
If you are having trouble finding crappies on your sonar try this. Use the 1/16 ounce jig and about an inch above the jig put a #2 split shot on you line. Now, drop it to the bottom especially around bridge abutments or the edge of a creek channel and start by cranking up half a round on the reel handle and have the rod in a holder. Give the fish around 5 minutes and if no bites crank up another half round. Keep up with the turns on the reel handle and when you get a bite you have most likely found the right depth they prefer at this time.
And remember this, if you look at a crappie close you’ll notice his eyes are positioned on top of his head giving him the ability to look and feed “UP”. So when you mark a school of crappies on your sonar and note the depth and always fish a bait above them a few inches to a few feet. Count your baits down and soon the crappies will tell you how deep to fish.
As for equipment I like the IRT spinning reels on lite or ultra lite Fenwick HMG rods or the ultra lite Fenwick Eagle series of rods. I like the Mr. Crappie 6 pound high visibility yellow line. Irt reels is just now taking orders for the newest line of spinning reels They are producing now. It is the 200 series, this is going to be an awesome reel for crappie fishing, even m8re so than the awesome 400 I use now. Can’t wait to get me a couple of these 200’s. Check them out at irteeels.com
You’ll notice I didn’t mention. Spider rigging, I tried it and although it has its time and place, it’s just not for me. Crappie fishing is supposed to be fun and simple, that’s just more work and aggravation than I want to deal with to catch a crappie, if you like it, that’s just fine, that’s what makes the world go round😀😀!!
I hope this helps you catch more crappies in cold water situations. Also, Pro-Cure also has a Crappie scent called “Crappie Cocktail” but I’m old school. I haven’t tried it yet because so far the Crappie and Panfish Magic Super Gel is all I’ve needed to load the boat everytime I go crappie CATCHING!!
Capt Butch Foster