Wintertime Crappie

Wintertime Crappie

Author: Matt Foster

” No matter which technique you choose, keep it slow.”

Well it’s that time of year again.  The leaves have fallen, the air is crisp, and the crappie bite is, in my opinion the best it will be all year.  This time of year provides some of the best fishing for multiple reasons.  One of the reasons I like fishing for crappie so much during the winter is there are fewer people on the lake.  Less boats on the lake means more time focusing on fishing and not worrying if a person on a jet ski is going to run right over the stump you’re fishing.  The main reason I prefer wintertime crappie fishing is once you locate them, even though the weather is cold, the bite is fire.

When searching for large crappie in the winter, I start by utilizing my Humminbird Helix 10 MEGA Side Imaging on the edge of a creek or river channel.  When scanning, I’m searching for stumps, or brush piles in ten to fourteen foot of water.  The crappie will be suspended near the cover usually holding around eight to twelve foot deep. I have found that especially during the winter, crappie will hold close to cover.  My home lake of Wappapello, in Missouri is over populated with small (under 9”) crappie.  A big slab crappie on Wappapello will be two pounds.  Locating these fish in the wintertime is easier due to the Corp of Engineers drawing the lake down approximately five foot for winter pool.  With the lake being drawn down, it seems to concentrate the fish towards the river channel and creeks. 

Once I find a brush pile or stumps holding crappie, I mark it with a waypoint on my Humminbird.  I then deploy my Minn Kota Ulterra and work my way into the wind and towards the marked waypoint.  The primary technique I use is spider rigging.  However, you can also pluck them off the cover with a single pole as well.  The way I spider rig during the winter varies greatly from any other time of the year.  During the winter, I use a B’n’M Buck’s Graphite Jig Pole that is 16’ in length. 

Crappie during the winter will often bite light and the B’n’M BGJP provides just the right amount of tip sensitivity needed to see those light bites.  I rig my poles with a 3/4 ounce egg sinker.  Due to the large size of shad in the lake during the winter, I will set my poles up with a 1/16 ounce jig tipped with a medium sized minnow.  I prefer a 1/16 ounce jig during the winter. I have found that more times than not, a crappie during the winter will just open its mouth to suck the jig in, rather than chasing it down like they do during the spring. By using a 1/16 ounce jig, it allows the jig to be easily sucked into the crappies mouth.  I use a MidSouth Tackle #104 White with clear flake tail tube. 

My setup is a jig with a minnow on the bottom, a 3/4 ounce egg sinker, then a Eagle Claw gold 2/0 hook on top.  By having two sets of hooks on each rod, it further increases odds of catching crappie that are suspended at different depths.  No matter which technique you choose, keep it slow.  The water is cold and so are the crappie.  The aren’t as responsive so the few extra milliseconds a jig sits in-front of them may make the difference between an empty livewell or limits.

If you are lucky enough to get a day where the sun is shining and a calm wind look for shad popping on a shallow (2’-4’ deep) flat.  When the sun comes out, the shad will move to the shallow flat due to the warmer water.  If you can locate the shad, the crappie will be there as well.  I have had great success casting a jig with a bobber on these shallow flats or by simply spider rigging and drifting across them. 

Whichever your method, whether it be spider rigging, casting, or using one pole, wintertime crappie can provide some great fun.  If you take a friend or kid you can make some great memories that will last a lifetime.