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5 Reasons to Get Jiggy with Wintertime Crappie

Long-rodding with jigs produces some of the hottest crappie fishing of the year, even in the coldest weather.

5 Reasons to Get Jiggy with Wintertime Crappie

A long rod allows you to drop a jig right in front of a crappie while simultaneously keeping your distance to avoid spooking the fish. (Photo by Keith Sutton)

It's not surprising that the heart of winter can be the toughest season to catch a mess of crappies. Papermouths aren't playing by summer rules anymore. Regardless of how much you pester them, the fish are less active and more inclined to sull up, especially in the wake of sudden cold fronts.

That doesn't mean you should forego fishing and camp out in front of the fireplace, though. Instead, grab a long jigging pole, which can measure 15 feet or more, and employ a more subtle strategy to defrost a crappie’s appetite.

Jig poles offer many advantages when crappies turn tight-lipped—benefits that are often overlooked by stubborn anglers determined to stick to their summer patterns and presentations. Here are five reasons to consider using one this winter.

1. STEALTHINESS

When impoundments are drawn down in winter and become crystal-clear, the crappies that live in them get spooky. A jigging pole will usually do the trick when a subtle approach is required. Presuming the length of the pole puts you within range of your target, a jig can be lowered precisely and quietly to the fish.

2. COVERAGE

Fishing jigs with shorter poles or fly rods paired with spinning reels might work at times in winter, but longer is better more often than not. In whatever depth they’re found, cold-water crappies aren't as aggressive as they are in periods of warmer weather and are disinclined to chase down a jig or spoon worked past them horizontally. Instead, they're more likely to take a bait that’s being jigged vertically with subtle movement right in front of them. That's when a jigging pole excels. Jigging poles up to 16 feet long are featherweights compared to a bamboo pole and make it easy for an angler to put a jig straight down to tease a reluctant crappie into biting.

3. UP AND OVER

A jigging pole that's specifically designed with a moderate to fast action excels when it comes to getting a hooked crappie out of brush. Rather than having to drag a fish across the cover and risk hanging up, an angler with a jigging pole can lift it out and make minimum commotion in the process.

4. THE OL’ CHANGE-UP

Usually, crappies will let an angler know what color, jig weight and jig style works best on a particular day. Although lightweight jigs of 1/16, 1/32 or even 1/64 ounce are associated with winter crappie fishing, sometimes an angler has to move up to a heavier 1/8-, 3/16- or 1/4-ounce option. That's especially true on windy days when fishing deep water in current, or anytime the fish show a preference for a larger bait. Sometimes, adding a small bobber to the line helps, especially if you know how deep the crappies are. If it's breezy, the bobber bouncing on the surface can impart enough action to the jig to tease a crappie into gulping it down.

5. ZEROING IN

If an angler is fortunate enough to own some of the high-dollar electronics available nowadays, he'll have just about anything he needs to know about where crappies are positioned, how deep they are, which way they’re pointed and whether they seem even moderately interested in a jig or not. An angler who fishes on instinct and with experience knows generally where to look as well. That is, under deep-water docks, around bridge pilings, in brush piles and stake beds and along riprap points and rocky bluff banks that face the sun.

Winter Crappie Sonar
Half the battle of catching winter crappies is finding them. Quality sonar makes quick work of that. (Photo courtesy of Humminbird)

Cold fronts are the bane of crappie fishermen. Typically, they're accompanied by high northerly winds that make jig presentation a challenge. Likewise, plummeting temperatures cause crappies to move offshore or tighter into thick cover—at least temporarily. Sometimes it's easier to find crappies than it is to make them bite. That usually requires patience and putting a jig right in front of their noses. There's no better way to do that than dabbling one with a jigging pole.




Jigs for Winter Crappie
Illustration by Peter Sucheski

DOUBLE VISION

Sometimes you've got to sweeten the pot with the right lure to coax crappies into the boat.

Winter crappies often go on hunger strikes, locking down and refusing to bite. Instead of trying to entice these particularly finnicky fish with a single jig, fish two at a time.

Double-jig rigs are relatively easy to tie and increase the probability of getting a bite. Because the jigs in the rig are separated by a foot or so, a double rig also serves to pinpoint the general depth at which crappies are holding. Likewise, using two different colors or two different jig weights helps pinpoint a slab’s daily inclinations.

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