How To Use Brushpiles To Your Advantage During The Pre-Spawn
Phillip Gentry
The B’n’M crappie tournament fishing of Jim and Barbara Reedy credit much of their success on national tournament trails to locating and fishing brushpiles during the majority of the year.
Crappie will suspend over the tops of deep water brush on mild weather days and dig down into them during bad weather. Either way, brushpiles are where you’ll find them.
Black and white crappie relate to brushpiles differently. Black crappie tend to hold tighter to cover while white crappie will orient to brush by suspending above and around it.
Tight lining is not just a deep water tactic. Reedy suggests using the tactic to follow crappie through the pre-spawn right up to their spawning grounds.
“We don’t try to fish anything over 20 feet deep,” said Reedy. “We seldom catch crappie much deeper than that anywhere any time of year. Once you’ve located this type of structure, look for crappie to suspend over the top of it if there’s been stable weather and you’re fishing on a sunny day. If the weather is bad, a sudden weather change or front that moves through, they’ll be dug down in the brush.”

The Reedy team prefers to tightline troll over brushpiles and relies on B’n’M’s new Buck’s Gold jig poles in 12 foot lengths. They outfit the rods with 6 pound hi-vis Vicious monofilament line and use a Capps and Coleman minnow rig to present either live or a combination of live and artificial baits.

“We go with at least a ½ ounce sinker on the rig because we’re fishing right in the brush and having that weight in the middle of the rig will help shake the hook loose when hung up,” said Barbara Reedy.

After years of putting out their own brushpiles, the Reedys now rely on state of the art technology to locate both their own piles as well as those put out by other anglers others on long deep water points that jut out toward deep water and along channels and cut that lead from deep water back to good spawning cover.

“We have a Humminbird 997 side imaging unit in the boat and we use it to both locate and mark deep water brushpiles,” said Reedy. “In one pass we can scan for structure, tell if it’s holding fish, and mark it as a waypoint. If we don’t see anything, we move on to the next point. It eliminates a lot of water for us.”

Slow spider rigging using live minnows for bait is an extremely effective late winter/ early spring tactic during the early pre-spawn pattern. Water depths of 15 – 20 feet are the ideal range as crappie stage up on underwater structure.

Reedy explained that generally speaking, black crappie are found holding tight to brush piles and stake beds sunk in many lakes for cover. White crappie tend to relate to deep water brushpiles while suspending up in the water column over deep water and may hold just below schools of baitfish. Many anglers don’t target specific schools of crappie, they just concentrate on finding brushpiles with baitfish in the vicinity, knowing the crappie will follow.

Once an open water fish is caught, the team will begin circling in the immediate area to locate the school of crappie that have corralled baitfish up to prey upon and to fish the brushpile from several different sides.

Tight line trolling in the methods described by the Reedy Team is a year round practice but most anglers consider late February to late April to be the prime time. Crappie will start out staging around deep water brushpiles in areas near main river channels before they migrate into shallow spawning flats via ditches and submerged creek channels as water temps warm from the 50’s into the mid 60’s. After that, look for crappie to begin the spawn around shallow stump fields and shoreline structure.

“The great thing about this type of trolling and the way we use it is it’s not just a deep water tactic,” said Reedy. “All you have to do is lighten up on the weights a little and roll your line in a little and fish right into shallow water. Crappie will rarely turn up their noses at a good brushpile so long as it’s in the right depth and along a route they’re using.”

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