Outlaw claims that too many crappie anglers are afraid to fish shallow water when the air temperature may be in the 90’s and the water temperature is in the mid to upper 80’s. He said that most anglers simply stop fishing in the summer and those that do head for the deepest water they can find. He submits that crappie will head for the deepest water they can find – in the immediate area. Rather than head down the lake, Outlaw spends his time identifying deep water around the headwaters and rivers that flow into the lake.
“Deep water is relative to the fish,” said Outlaw. “I’d rather look for a ditch or channel that’s 2 or 3 feet deeper than the rest of the area, especially if that area is surrounded by shallow flats or sandbars.”
Outlaw’s reasoning is that a crappie can’t or won’t hold its breath and swim across several hundred yards of a foot and a half of water to look for deeper water. In the head waters and feeder creeks on the upper ends of most reservoirs, crappie will spend the majority of the year holding around shallow flats that provide cover.
“There are a couple of things you need to keep in mind,” he said. “You’ve got to have stained water. Fishing shallow water rarely works out in clear water where the fish can easily see you and the boat. The second is there has to be some cover. Places like here at Santee and Reelfoot and any of those river oxbow lakes you find in Mississippi and Alabama and even down in Florida – all those places have shallow water where fish move only a foot or two in depth the whole year long.”
Outlaw said not to expect the fish to be super aggressive. Hot water will make the fish lethargic and most of the time will be holding on or near the bottom in heavy cover. In order to catch them, you’ll have to put the bait right in the fish’s face.
A shallow flat like a swamp or an oxbow has everything a crappie needs – there’s cover like weeds and stumps and lily pads and all of those places will have baitfish hiding around them,” he said. “Just look at the general area and then find the deepest water in that vicinity. Most times it’ll be a ditch or a cut or channel that don’t have but a foot or two of drop. In the summer, and even in the winter, that cut will be loaded with fish, you just got to get in there and find them.”
Outlaw’s preferred tactic is single pole jigging using a 1/16 ounce Rockport Rattler jighead with a tube body fished on 10 pound test line. Favorite colors for murky and stained waters are anything with the color chartreuse blended in which means a black and chartreuse, red and chartreuse, or orange and chartreuse.
“The best approach is to start deep on a travel route that you had marked on your topo map. Using either a bow mounted trolling motor, sculling oar, work your way along the break from the deep end, presenting your bait vertically on each piece of structure within reach as you work your way along the drop,” said Outlaw. “Start on the deep water side of the structure and methodically work your way to the shallow side. Bear in mind that crappie may be laying flat on the bottom to maximize water depth. Work the area thoroughly, making sure you bump the bottom with the jig.”
Pulling big crappie out of heavy cover was what Outlaw had in mind when he designed the Santee Elite rod for B’n’M. The Santee Elite won’t snag on heavy cover or break when you put some abuse to it because it is a heavy duty graphite blank that has no guides. The fishing line enters a port located approximately 3 feet above the reel seat and the line runs through the middle of the rod blank. The rod tip is a unidirectional grommet that lets the line flow smoothly in any direction.
“I firmly believe in upgrading to a more sensitive rod when fishing shallow,” he said. “That was one of the features I asked for when I designed my own rod. The Whitey Outlaw Santee Elite was designed to deftly pick crappie from deep within grass beds and out from under cypress knees. It’s also great for extending out to isolated cover and picking off spooky crappie by vertically jigging around visible structure. That’s a great way to catch crappie in the shallows when most people think it’s too hot to fish.”