From the January 2012 issue

Cold Crappie Strategies And Tips

By Tim Huffman

Some northern spots may have ice but in the middle and southern states you’ve still got soft water. Many of these waters have crappie that are hungry and willing to bite if you know the right strategies for catching them. The following are an assortment of tried and proven ways to help you catch more crappie.

    A good game plan, especially during bad weather conditions, is important for consistently catching crappie. Part of your plan should include picking some different spots to test-fish. Try guessing the strike zone depth and start with cover at that depth. For example, you figure crappie will be at 18 feet so pick locations 16 to 20 feet deep. A channel bend, drop-off and bridge piling may be structures within that depth zone you can try. Be sure to find cover or other likely spots.
    If you don’t find fish at the 16- to 20-foot depth you should move to covers in 12- to 16-foot waters. Then try eight to 12 feet. If shallower doesn’t work start eliminating deeper water. The trick is to use a systematic approach so you won’t keep doing what isn’t working. Once you find the right depth it isn’t difficult to find more spots.

    One of the biggest differences between a weekend fisherman and an expert is that the expert won’t just fish spots. For example, the water gets muddy and fish leave their typical spots so the weekend fisherman says they’re not biting. An expert will use a systematic approach to find crappie instead of expecting them to be where they were last week.
    It’s possible fish will be in the same spots but change mood. Don’t hesitate to try different baits and different presentations. Be versatile because no one bait or technique works for every situation. When the bite is slow, give the fish a chance to hit whatever baits you’re presenting.

    You are at the launch ramp looking across a big body of water. Where do you start fishing? It can be a scary situation when you consider that crappie are only in a small percentage of the lake. Here’s a trick. Start by picking an area of the lake similar to your home water; maybe a creek or cove. Remember where you caught fish on your home lake during this time of year under these conditions and apply the same tactics to the new lake you’re on. It gives you more confidence and a good starting point.

    You must find crappie to catch them. However, doing little things right will put more in your livewell once you find them. For example, something as simple as holding your pole correctly will help you catch more fish. Instead of getting a good grip try holding it loosely like you would and egg. You’ll have better sensitivity.
    Big minnows can make light bites difficult to feel. “Is it the minnow or a bite?” Try downsizing to a tiny minnow or go strictly with jigs so when you feel something you know it’s time to set the hook.
    Use scent. Berkley Crappie Nibbles is a popular choice because it is easy to use and definitely gets you more bites. You may catch fish without scent but you’ll catch more with a scent.

    Using a map and locator is critical to finding fish. Use the map to find spots likely to hold fish. Use your locator to pinpoint contour changes and cover. Seeing fish is a bonus but don’t hesitate giving a good looking spot a quick test to see if fish are present. If you are really serious about improving your fishing, the new down and side imaging units offer superb structure-finding features. You’ll quickly become a better fisherman but the side imaging electronics are very expensive.
    Taking time to find the right spot before you wet a hook will save you a lot of time because you’ll only fish potentially productive water. Keeping your bait where the fish are located is a key to consistent fishing.

    Catching fish is a combination of doing several things right. Finding fish is the biggest chore. Once accomplished, presentations are important. Typical cold weather patterns call for extremely slow bait movements. No movement at all is sometimes the best, while other times it might be slow jigging. Light line and other ultra-light tactics also put more fish in your livewell. Apply sound fishing tactics and you can catch fish right now.

About The Author
You can get an autographed copy of Tim Huffman's book, Winning Crappie Secrets, by sending $12.50 to Huffman Publishing, P.O. Box 26, Poplar Bluff, MO 63902.

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