Fishing The Winter Drawdown
Phillip Gentry
Don’t believe the myth that big crappie are only caught during the spring. B’n’M pro staffer John Harrison caught this 3.21 pound slab on a flood control reservoir during the winter drawdown.
As the water recedes, crappie will be drawn off the flats and into major creeks and tributaries that feed the lake, often getting trapped in shallow runs.
The majority of structure where you’ll find crappie are the old stumps and stick up that line the main river channels.
Anglers often choose to access these isolated areas any way they can, including using small boats, kayaks or even an ATV to get across the vast expanses of dry land and shallow streams.
B’n’M pro staffer John Harrison not only understands these changes, but looks forward to crappie fishing flood control reservoirs during each extreme – in the spring when crappie go as far back into the woods as the water will allow them, and during the winter when the plug is pulled and nearly all the water drains out.

According to Harrison, getting to the fish during the winter drawdown is most of the battle. Before he targets the fish, he has to figure out how to get to the water. Dropping water levels, either due to winter drawdown, drought, or both, make many conventional boat launch areas inaccessible. Even when he finds a place where he can get a boat in the water, he may not be able to navigate from point A to Point B.

“I wear a good pair of chest waders and I’m obviously fishing out of a smaller boat than I normally use during the spring, summer, and fall,” he said. “When that water starts dropping, it pulls the crappie out of the flat areas and draws everything into the lower areas – typically creek channels, ditches and finally, the main lake basin out in front of the dam. But along the way, a lot of fish will get trapped in a deep hole or ditch. Those are the crappie I want to get to.”

Crappie tend to follow one of two extremes during the winter drawdown, but there’s both rhyme and reason to these movements.

“A lot of fish will go straight out in front of the dam,” he said. “But here’s what you need to understand about crappie this time of year – they’re hungry and they know they need to stock up before it gets real cold. At the same time, shad are attracted to moving water, that water that’s coming down the creeks. During the early part of the winter crappie will gorge themselves on shad and they’ll either follow the bait up current or they’ll stick with them in deeper pools and eddies of the river and get caught when the water goes down.”

In order to get to the crappie trapped along a river channel, Harrison will motor as far as he can in his 15 foot War Eagle john boat then he may have to get out and pull the boat through shallow water that he can’t navigate in the boat. In other areas he may use a small pirogue or kayak to launch upstream and paddle the shallower drafting boat downstream, fishing as he goes. At other times, he may skip the boat altogether and use an ATV to drive across the mud flats to get to the deeper holes.

Now that he’s gotten to the fish, the fishing is similar to catching fish in a barrel. While he may troll for crappie with multiple rods when the water is up on the banks, during the drawdown he comes armed with only one or two poles.

“I’m vertical jigging, I use an 11 foot B’n’M BBUL with the bottom reel seat,” said Harrison. “I use 6 pound test line and attach a 1/16 oz. jig head with a Sassy Shad body. The fishing area is reduced so I want to make sure I put that jig in every place that might hold a crappie.”

Harrison claims most of the structure will be out of the water, but adds that a lot of the old stumps that line the river channel will be imbedded in the river bank. The roots and base of the stumps will be down in the water where the current has exposed the wood and that’s where the crappie will be. Any other kind of wood structure will also hold fish and it’s possible to catch three or four fish on each piece, then move on to the next one.

“I have been so far up the river that I couldn’t fish a shallow spot from the boat,” he said. “In those cases I also want to make sure I bring along a good casting rod like one of our Float and Fly rods that I can use to cast a jig under a cork and work the other side of the pool that I can’t get to.”

Wherever fishing takes you, whether its up in the woods during the spring or down in the bottom of the lake during the winter, B’n’M has been there. For more information on any of our custom-situation crappie fishing rods, take a look at our catalog, available in either printed or digital formats from our website at www.bnmpoles.com.