Winter crappie may be found at any depth but at some time you’ll need a deep water rig like one of the three listed below.
Single Hook Rig - This rig is nothing more than a heavy jig for hard-to-reach spots in deep water including beds, thick brush and submerged trees.
Deep, thick cover requires vertical jigging; a straight up and down presentation for fewer hang-ups. A 1/8-ounce jig is a good choice but it’s okay to go with a 1/4-ounce. A sinker can be added if more weight is needed.
Top pick: 1/4-ounce jig, a Yamaminnow and a Crappie Nibble. Fish it on a sensitive graphite pole and light line. When the water is cold use subtle jig movements and give the crappie time to hit. Expect many light bites so be a line watcher. You’ll likely see more bites than you feel.
Drop Shot Rig - A drop shot rig is the best in water 7 to 20 feet deep but can be used much deeper. Use in scattered cover or structures like a bridge piling. This isn’t the best rig for all situations but excellent when fish are at a specific depth.
Use a sensitive 7 or 8-foot pole, light 6-pound test line, #2 or #4 hook, jig body and a 1/2 or 5/8-ounce sinker. This combination allows you to cast or use vertical jigging tactics. The bait is nose-hooked onto the hook that’s placed up from the sinker six inches to six feet to put it into the strike zone where the crappie are holding.
Top pick: Yamaminnow, shortened Tiny Ika, or curly tail above a 1/2-ounce sinker. In our example, crappie are on three to four feet tall stumps in 18 feet of water. Place the hook at four to five feet above the sinker. Cast past the stumps and allow it to settle. Move the bait along until you bump cover. Keep the bait there, jiggle it and hold it still. Be patient and work it for a while to entice the bite. The bait will always be in the strike zone so your job is to watch and feel for bites, set the hook and land the fish.
Double-Hook Jig Rig - There are times when two baits are good. One situation is casting: Crappie suspended on the edge of a drop-off and/or cover where they can be targeted by casting. Two jigs do several things to help you catch more of these fish. First, the additional weight of a second jig helps get baits down deep and keeps them there. Another advantage is you now have two chances instead of one. Two baits also lets you play with jig type, size and colors. The disadvantage of the rig is more hang-ups with two hooks.
Top pick: Any Yamamoto body, 1/16-ounce jigs spaced twenty inches apart, fished on six pound test with a sensitive 6- to 8-foot pole.
An alternative method for this rig is to slow troll. The key is to creep along at super-slow speeds. You can use multiple long poles or stick with two hand-held long poles. Switch to two 1/8-ounce jigs to help keep your line vertical.
Tip of the Month
Yamamoto pro staffer, Dan Dannenmueller, suggests that you join a crappie club in 2012 for learning, to meet other crappie anglers and for fun. “Crappie fishermen help each other. The camaraderie is better than you’ll find with any other fishing sport. Many clubs and tournaments include men, women and children. Everyone is out to win but there is so much more including family, friendships and sportsmanship. Tournaments are a great place for learning and fun so give it try.”