March 22, 2018
During the pre- and post-spawn, deep-brush crappie techniques are simple and deadly.
Anglers can expand the spring crappie-catching season several weeks by fishing deep brush. Woody cover is a favored staging spot for crappie, and the pre- and post-spawn periods are prime times to find them on brush.
Fishing deep brush is highly predictable — and even during the spawn will continue to produce, because not all crappies move at exactly the same time to or from the shallows during the course of spawning season.
To clarify, deep is a relative term. It may be 10 feet deep on one lake or 25 feet-plus on another, depending on water clarity, spring rains and other factors. But simple experimentation while on the water provides that answer.
Finding brush with crappie is job number one. Modern equipment such as down- and side-scan imaging sonar makes the process simple. Crappie tournament pros use this technology to not only find brush at the right depths, but to mark fish around the gnarly cover.
One of the best techniques is simply fishing small jigs vertically over deep brush.
After extensive experimentation, I think a 12-foot rod offers the best rod length when paired with an ultra-light reel. Rod length is certainly a personal preference, and crappie experts will use various lengths. The rod should have a fast tip for "feel" with plenty of backbone to muscle slabs out of the brush.
The depth fished is crucial, but fortunately getting to the right depth is easy if you pull line out in measured lengths. To fish 12 feet deep over brush, for example, pull out line the length of the rod and drop the tip near the water. If that doesn't produce or doesn't get deep enough, simply pull a bit more line off the reel or simply reel in just a bit for a shallower presentation. When you catch a crappie, note the exact depth and repeat the presentation.
Six-pound-test line is a great starting point but don't hesitate to go to 4-pound in clear water. Most crappie pros use high visibility line for a reason: They want to see it. Crappie bites can be ultra-subtle, and sometimes just a "tick" of line movement will be the only clue to a bite. A quick snap of the wrist loads a slab on the hook.
Jig size is crucial. Heavier jigs provide more feel and a 1/8- or 1/16-ounce jig may produce, but don't leave a brush until you work a 1/32- or even a 1/64-ounce jig. At times, the size of crappie caught is inversely proportional to the size of the jig.
Crappie Pro Brad Chappell on Lure Colors
Jig bodies vary greatly, and tube, curly tail, hair and other designs all produce. Experiment with various styles and color patterns, because the most effective choice can vary from day to day.
Approach the target using an electric motor for maximum boat control. In an ideal situation, you'll find fish right at the top or along the outside edges of the brush. These are usually active fish.
Lower the jig until it bumps the brush, then raise and lower the rod tip while using the long rod to swim the jig around the cover. If crappies are home, they usually bite quickly. Low-light periods are often best for active fish but not always. On clear, post-frontal days, you may have to probe into the cover.
The old adage "If you're not hanging up, then you're not fishing good crappie cover" is true when fishing deep brush.
The deep-brush tactic is simple — but deadly — on pre- and post-spawn crappies. To be most effective, stay mobile and if action is slow move to another spot and try again. At this time of the year you'll likely catch multiple fish at one spot when you find the right deep-brush pattern.