Crappie Fishing in Winter
Since today is the first official day of winter, I decided to give a few hints and pointers that I use to catch winter time crappie; these hints work not only on the Tennessee River but also on Lewis Smith Lake of North Alabama. According to the calendar, December 21 through March 21 is winter time; many fair weather fishermen wait until the warmer days of spring, but crappie bite very good during the colder months of winter. The crappie may bite a little slower during the colder months of the year, but it appears that the bigger slabs are a little easier to catch during the cold months of winter.
I consider the most important aspect of winter time crappie fishing is to find good cover; the habitat of winter crappie seems to be some type of structure. Crappie structure can include stump beds, brush piles that have been placed at appropriate depths, trees that have fell off the banks into deep water, boat house piers on the Tennessee River, and rocky points. Since there are no permanent boat docks on Smith Lake with supports that extend into the bottom, fishing the supporting poles is limited to the Tennessee River; however, during the spring months, a lot of crappie can be caught around lighted floating boat docks at night on Smith Lake.
Just in the last two weeks, I have caught crappie around structure on Wilson Lake, and I have friends that have been catching crappie on a regular basis on Smith Lake for the last few weeks. On the river, the small yearling shad are gathering by the thousands around boat docks and tree tops; on Wednesday of this week, my depth finder would not read but four to five deep in water that was 30 feet or more because of the huge schools of fingerling shad blocking the bottom echo. It seems to me to be the best forage on the Tennessee River that I have seen for crappie in the last several years; crappie are waiting under these huge schools of shad for a slow moving jig.
Two types of jigs seemed to work very well; a lead head equipped with a Bobby Garland grub and a maribou jig. The type of Bobby Garland grub that I prefer is a small plastic body about one inch long with a long slender straight tail; many colors of Bobby Garlands are available, but the colors I prefer include bluegrass, blue ice, albino shad, key lime pie, electric chicken, monkey milk, bayou booger, and ghost. Small feathered maribou jigs also work quite well with a cork; I prefer one with white feathers and a red head, but blue heads also seem to work very well.
Cork and Jig
Even though the water is colder during the winter months, do not forget to use a cork and jig especially on Smith Lake, but always look for crappie cover that will hold bait fish that the crappie feed on and eat. In cork fishing, it is preferable to use a 1/16 to 1/32 ounce head with a small float or cork some two to four feet deep above the jig; cast the cork and jig over submerged structure and twitch the rod gently and slowly retrieve the rig toward the boat. Keep an eye on the cork because when it disappears, it is time to lift the rod and set the hook.
On the Tennessee River, I have caught numerous slab crappie with a cork and jig during some extremely cold days of winter; I know some boat docks that have structure place under and around the dock where a cork and jig is very effective. During February, I have caught some of the biggest black crappie that weigh over two pounds on the cork and jig around docks with structure. Do not forget to try a cork and jig during the winter months while crappie fishing on Smith Lake and the Tennessee River.
Most of my fishing on the Tennessee River is on Wilson Lake where I have a small house and boat dock; I can let my boat into the water and begin fishing without running a great distance. During the winter months, I love to vertical fish with a 1/8 ounce lead head and Bobby Garland grub around boat dock pilings on the Tennessee River and large trees that have fell off the bank into deep water. I like to fish boat dock support poles and trees that are in 25 to 35 feet of water, and the method is very simple.
Using four pound test line, just let the jig go to the bottom next to a boat dock pole or in the top of a submerged tree; very slowly wind the jig back toward the surface. Repeat this process around a lot of boat docks and trees; you should catch a mess of crappie vertical jigging during the next few months. You should be very careful not to move the boat while vertical jigging a tree top; it is important to be sure that you jig straight up and down in tree tops or you will lose a lot of jigs. Vertical jigging is a very effective method for catching crappie during the winter months.
Most crappie fishermen only use the horizontal casting method for fishing a jig or grub and lead head; this style of fishing is very effective much of the year, but do not forget the cork and jig and vertical fishing. This week I fished a rocky point that tapered off into some 30 feet of water, and the shad were constantly moving around the point into a large hollow. I caught some 12 fish by slowly walking the 1/8 ounce lead head with a Bobby Garland from the point to a depth of some 25 feet. Walking a jig is to let it settle to the bottom, then lift the rod letting the jig fall until it hit the bottom again; this procedure is repeated until the jig is just about under the boat. Be sure the point that you are fishing is not covered with brush or you will lose a lot of jigs; over the years, I have caught many crappie walking a grub off of rocky points.
Another place to horizontal cast on the Tennessee River is parallel to boat dock poles; cast your jig along the front edge of a boat dock and let it sink to the bottom in a preferable depth of some 20 to 35 feet. After the jig reaches the bottom, slowly wind the grub past the supporting poles of the boat dock toward your boat; set the hook when you feel a slight tug on the line.
I hope you get out and enjoy winter fishing for crappie; feel free to ask me questions or comment on this post. I hope you have great crappie fishing this winter; I look forward to seeing you on the water. Be sure to join my blog to read all my stories! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!