Many anglers consider crappies a cold-weather species and only target them during winter or early spring, but fish must eat all year long.
“A lot of people think crappie fishing is seasonal, but I fish 52 weeks of the year and catch fish each time,” said Mike Baker, a professional crappie angler and guide from Silver Springs, Fla.
In the summer, crappies frequently move from the creeks to deeper water, typically about 15- to 25 feet. Not as subject to the whims of weather, deep water remains relatively stable all year and can provide cooling comfort on blistering days. In addition, deep water does not suffer as much from boat wakes or other turbulence pounding shallow shorelines.
“To fish deep water, we do what we call bottom bouncing,” said Joe Carter, a professional crappie angler from Gilbert, S.C. “We use a 1-ounce sinker at the bottom of the line and come up 18 inches with a Number 2 hook or jig on a loop coming about 2 inches off the main line. We add a second hook or jig 18 inches above that. We drop the line all the way to the bottom and reel it up two turns to keep it just barely off the bottom.” (Check your local fishing regulations to see if two hooks on a line are legal)
Anglers may bottom-bounce around deep brush piles, rocks, blow-downs, stump fields, or humps. Summer crappie also hover near dock and bridge pilings and other shady or vertical cover.
“For vertical fishing, I usually use a 1/16-ounce jig with a 1/2-ounce egg sinker,” said Joey Briggs, a crappie pro from Dexter, Ky. “I use a really small split-shot below my egg sinker to keep it from sliding up and down. Most often, crappie bite very light in warm weather so I like to hold one rod. I put this rig on an 11-foot rod and vertically jig it.”
Try Jigging Spoons
Vertically jigging 1/8- to 1/2-ounce chrome spoons can also produce good results in deep holes. Small, heavy and compact, a jigging spoon quickly sinks to the bottom. As it flutters down, it resembles a dying shad. Many spoons incorporate facetted edges that reflect even more light. Let a spoon flutter all the way to the bottom. Frequently, fish hit on the drop. After the spoon hits bottom, bounce it up and down a foot or two to keep it in the strike zone. Anglers can also cast spoons. Retrieve it with a series of jerks and pauses, allowing it to drop a few feet with each pause.
Besides hanging near cover, crappies may follow baitfish schools in the summer. They often suspend beneath shad schools, picking off stragglers. They can better spot prey silhouetted against surface glare and might rise three or four feet to hit a temptation, but not see a jig flicking just below them. To locate fish, some anglers pull crankbaits or jigs parallel to drop-offs, weed lines, banks, or around humps.
“A crappie always looks up to feed,” Baker said. “It might not see a bait moving 6 inches below it, but it might rise several feet to hit a bait moving above it. I like to pull double rigs with two Culprit Champion’s Choice jigheads tipped with paddletail, tassel-tail or curly-tailed jigs per pole. One weighs 1/48-ounce and the other weighs 1/32-ounce. The heavier jig runs a little deeper than the lighter one.”
When trolling, Baker sets out eight rods in different lengths ranging from 8 feet long for the inside rods to 16 feet long for the outside rods. He tips each rod with two different colored jigs until he narrows down the best color combination for that day. After tallying a couple strikes in one area, Baker often works over that section of lake slowly and thoroughly with vertical presentations to zero in on the school or suspended fish.
A spider rig allows anglers to fish vertically, keeping baits in the strike zone longer. Spider rigging involves slow trolling with several rods arranged in a fan shape off the bow instead of the stern. On the end of each line, hang a 1/2- to 1-ounce sinker about 10- to 18 inches beneath a three-way swivel. On the swivel, tie two 6- to 12-inch leaders. On each leader, attach a tube jig or other bait. Below the sinker, drop another 10- to 18-inch leader with a third bait.
More like hunting than fishing, searching for deep crappies normally takes effort and patience, but anglers could load the boat in a good spot — even on hot summer days!
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