B’n’M pro staffer Kent Driscoll suggests that to understand
seasonal crappie movements this time of year, all you need to do is take a look
at any piece of property on dry land and it’s pretty obvious where people walk.
If it’s a busy area, there will be sidewalks to facilitate traveling from one
area to another. If it’s out in the country, you’re certain to find a well worn
path or trail that determines the route. People travel via roads and sidewalks.
Why should fish be any different? In a
world where they can travel in any direction, fish still use the same
migrational references as any other animal.
“By the time February rolls around, crappie have spent the
entire winter deep in major river channels, relating to ledges that are formed
by the edge of the channel” states Driscoll. “Their biological clocks are
starting to tick and they know it’s time to start getting ready to move. Just
like ducks, as daylight time lengthens and water temperatures start to change
they’ll start moving up the creeks, using the creek itself like a flyway.”
For most of the country, this means the first of February
will find crappie staging at the mouth of a major creek channel. As February
progresses, crappie begin to move along the creek channel edges heading from
the highway to “the neighborhood” where they will spawn when conditions are
right in a month or so.
“Just like any highway, there are rest stops along the road
where crappie will pause along their migration route” the crappie pro
explained, “these rest stops are places where crappie can get out of the
current to rest and eat. These areas are some type of structure that provides
enough profile to block any current and also attracts baitfish. ”
When it comes to rest areas, Driscoll ticks them off on his
fingers as crappie favorites: “First is a big old stump, second is either
natural or manmade brushpiles, and third are manmade stake beds” he said.
“Crappie will hold along a creek channel on the down current side of any of
this structure, out of the flow of water.”
In order to locate these features in a creek channel,
Driscoll will use the sidefinder technology built into his combination sonar/GPS
unit. This eliminates a lot of searching for Driscoll as he can motor up a
creek channel and make note of every piece of structure on both sides and use
the mapping software of the GPS to locate channel bends and slack water eddies.
But it’s not all a matter of high technology.
Before he hits the water, Driscoll will spend some time with
a good topo map that gives the depth elevations of the water he intends to
fish. He uses the elevation lines to judge the steepness of the drop into the
channel. Tighter lines mean a steep drop while loose lines indicate a gentler
slope. This allows him to narrow his search to specific creeks and specific
locations on the creeks he is targeting.
Once Driscoll has found structure along a creek channel that
is likely to hold crappie, he has two separate approaches for catching them,
depending on if he is fishing live or artificial bait. With either approach, he
will move over the top of them in his War Eagle and present the bait straight
“For artificial baits, I like a single jig in weights
between 1/16 to 1/8 oz, depending on the depth of water” said Driscoll. “If
crappie are holding deeper than 20 feet, I’ll add a #5 split shot about 18
inches above the jig. I am also going to apply some type of scent or attach an
attractant like a crappie nibble to the jig since coldwater crappie respond
better to scents this time of year.”
For live bait he reverses the order of the weight. “I use a
½ ounce bell sinker at the end of my line and loop a size 2 red hook about 18
inches above the weight and often may add another hooked bait above that. I
hook a live minnow through the lips and I can bounce that weight on the bottom,
knowing that will put the minnow right in the crappie’s face.”
Crappie typically holding near the bottom and the weighted
presentations allow Driscoll to stay in touch with his offering. Since he is
right over the fish, he will forgo longer rods that are popular with crappie
anglers and opts for a shorter 7 ½ BnM Sam’s Super Sensitive graphite rod or
one of B’n’M’s Buck’s Best Graphite poles. The shorter rod gives him both
better feel and more control over the deep bait.
“The bite this time of year is mushy” instructs Driscoll,
“with any resistance on the line, I’m going to set the hook and if I can get by
without wearing gloves—I like to keep a finger on the line to feel any light
No matter whether
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