One of the most important keys to locating schools of crappie when the fish are not in the shallows and holding close to visible structure is learning to rely on your “offshore eyes” to locate fish. Schoenherr said that without his Lowrance HDS sonar units, he would spend a lot more time fishing water with little or no potential. By being able to approach an area from well to one side and using side imaging, he can determine if crappie are home without disturbing the fish. Then he swaps over to down imaging and presents his baits vertically to the fish below.
“This new side imaging and down imaging technology has definitely changed the way I fish,” he said. “You can make sure the fish are home before you start trying to catch them.”
Schoenherr divides most of his guide time between two extremes on his home waters in southern Illinois. Kinkaid Lake is a deep clear 2,750 acre reservoir in Jackson County, and Rend Lake is a 18,900 acre shallow, stained water Corps lake in Franklin and Jefferson Counties.
Throughout the summer, you’re most likely to find Schoenherr fishing one of these five types of cover/structure while he’s filling the cooler with his clients.
1. Deepwater Brush Piles
Schoenherr expects to find black crappie holding tight to offshore brush while white crappie are more inclined to suspend above it.
“I love to fish high brush in deep water. It’s all man-made stuff. A brush pile that’s laying in 30 feet of water but comes up to 18 feet or so is ideal,” he said. “I’m likely to find both species on this kind of structure.”
To fish the top of the brush pile, Schoenherr will employ a simple minnow rig on a slip cork and pitch it out over the brush pile on a 12 foot Buck’s Graphite Jig Pole. If the graph shows fish are holding closer to the bottom, he’ll go to a drop shot or bottom bouncing rig.
“I like the drop-shot because I can stay in touch with the bottom,” said Schoenherr. “I tie a loop about 3 – 4 feet above the weight and that’s where the bait is. I know if I’m on bottom and the fish are 6 feet off the bottom I can raise the rod tip and be right in the strike zone.”
2. Weed Beds
The guide will find weed beds on Kincaid and target crappie holding in and around them using a 1/16 oz. Road Runner jig. He switches over to an Ultra-light rod with bottom reel seat like B’n’M’s new Sam Heaton SS with Bottom Seat & Touch System rod or the Buck's Best Ultra-Lite with Bottom Seat and Touch System rod.
“On a weedbed with a steep drop-off, the fish will hold on the edge of the drop above the weeds,” said the guide. “On a gradual slope, I find more fish holding somewhere between the shoreline and where the weed bed starts.”
Watching the graph, Schoenherr can find concentrations of fish and jig vertically to them. The ultra light weight of the rod helps reduce fatigue and also lets him detect the lightest of bites when the jig is placed in the path of a crappie.
Deeper into summer means deeper into the water column and that’s where deep water ledges produce for Schoenherr. Rocky bottoms and edges will congregate crappie in loose schools, especially black crappie on Kincaid. The drop-shot rig is his favorite when keeping the bait near the bottom is crucial.
“I use a ¼ - ½ oz. weight on the bottom with 12 pound mono line,” said Schoenherr. “I tie a 3 – 4 inch dropper then tie it in a couple of overhand knots so the loop sticks out. A #2 Tru-Turn hook and a live minnow completes the rig.”
Schoenherr uses a B’n’M jig pole to feel around on the bottom with the drop shot rig. The graphite rod is good at telegraphing subtle bites in deep water.
4. Stump Flats
The upper reaches of Rend Lake ar littered with stump flats that are washed by freshwater coming into the lake from the Big Muddy River. Higher oxygen levels from the river will draw in crappie on the shallow lake. For those unfamiliar with Rend, Schoenherr said it sets up a lot like Mississippi’s Grenada Lake.
Schoenherr will jig the individual stumps with a 1/16 oz. Road Runner jig head and a Mid-South Tube body.
“I recently shot a TV show with Ronnie Capps and he’s made a big believer out of me by using just a plain Road Runner head tipped with 3 or 4 wax worms,” said Shoenherr. “Black crappie eat them up.”
5. Stake Beds
Back on Kinkaid, the deeper areas of the lake feature humps around the mouths of the big bays where you can find 6 – 10 feet of water surrounded by deeper depths. Schoenherr and other local anglers have seated steak beds on top of these humps and crappie will hold tight to them during the summer. He will fish these stake beds with a pole in each hand, walking Road Runner jigs or a drop shot rig through the cover.
If I’m using two rods, I might do one of each – a 1/8 ounce Road Runner on a Touch System Ultra-Light in one hand and a drop shot rig on a graphite jig pole in the other,” he said. “Give the fish a choice.”
Schoenherr said he finds a lot of white crappie suspended just above the beds, especially once a thermocline sets up and establishes a go-to water depth.
To contact Kyle Schoenherr of All Seasons Guide Service, call him at 618-760-5948 or visit his website at www.allseasonscrappiefishing.com.
At B’n’M, we’ve got the rods and the know-how to help you catch crappie year round. Visit our website at www.bnmpoles.com or like us on Facebook.