Most anglers like to do their crappie fishing during the spring. This is largely due to their spawning, which makes the entire fishing experience fun with lots of action. However, it is a lot like shooting fish in a barrel, which makes it not challenging at all.
If you love a challenge, you will probably get bored in no time at all. You need to brush up on your deep-water crappie techniques and try to get them when they are in the deep. That means fishing for crappie during Fall, Summer and Winter!
When temperatures hit the extremes, for example during summer or late fall, crappie tend to go deep. This is because conditions in deeper waters are much more stable than that of the waters above. Temperatures deep down tend to stay the same, whether it is cold, windy or rainy above, or even when outside temperatures are high.
This article I wrote covers the subject of the best time to catch crappie in-depth!
This unique behavior of crappie makes late Fall, Summer and Winter great times to fish, as long as you know how to fish deep. Here is the ultimate collection of deep water crappie techniques to help you catch like a pro in any season.
As always, please be a responsible angler and follow all state regulations. Here are the crappie size and bag limits for Texas. Make sure to look up your local regulations before heading out.
LOCATE THE CRAPPIE
This is the first and most essential step. Locating the crappie can be quite difficult, especially when they are deep in the water. However, if you know what you are doing, you should be up to the challenge. You can locate the crappie using various methods, depending on your situation.
If you are on a boat, consider using electronics. It will make the entire process much faster and more efficient. Look for channels and drop-offs. You need to particularly look out for channels that are going from deeper to shallower, and look at around 30 feet. You should also look for brush and weed beds. Finally, keep in mind that during the fall, crappies school in huge numbers. This will look like a Christmas tree on your fish finder.
It is also important to note that during the high summer heat, they will go deep but not all the way to the bottom. Expect to find them just over the thermocline, generally at around 8 to 20 feet deep. The water is cooler above the thermocline, but it also has enough oxygen to sustain bait and other fish.
Crappie tend to also spread out during very warm summers, making them harder to locate, especially in large lakes. A good trick to use is to search for them near sunken or submerged structures like trees and brush piles. Once you make a single catch, keep fishing at that depth because more crappie are definitely around there somewhere.
During winter, use your fish finder and search for them at the deepest parts of the lake. The deep is warmer than the top, so they are attracted there. It may be a little difficult to find them at first, but because they are huddled together due to the cold, finding one will definitely mean you are going to reel in a huge catch. Just remember to fish slowly and pay 100% attention to the bites. Crappie bites, especially in winter, are very subtle and easy to miss if you look away.
If you are fishing from a barge, dock or from a bank, you need to look for structure. For the best results, fish close to piers and pylons. You should go to the bottom then reel up a couple of turns. Keep reeling up a few turns every 3 to 5 minutes until you locate the school. Check out this article I wrote, there is a section on finding the right depth.
Whenever you can, bring a good updated topographical map of the area you are fishing in. Not only is this good practice, it is also just smart fishing. A good topographical map will have some indications of water depth and terrain altitude.
Since finding the right depth is an essential part of crappie fishing, this information will go a long way in helping you figure out where to start your search. It will likely cut in half the time you would spend in finding the right place to fish. As far as maps are concerned, they can easily be found online. In fact, it is possible to stumble upon some really good topographical maps with local depths and indications of sunken structures, all for free. Download the ones of your fishing location and print them out before heading out. If you have a large sporting goods store, they will have excellent topo maps of all the lakes in your area. I know that Dick’s Sporting goods and Academy both carry them.
An understanding of crappie feeding styles is essential if you want to be even more effective in your fishing. Crappie only feed up, so this tells you that your bait must always be slightly above them. With the help of electronics, you can easily achieve this. However, if you are bank fishing or fishing from a pier, you need not worry. Click here for a proven technique that will help you find the right depth every time you fish.
During the Fall and Summer months when crappie are deep, I have found that a 1/16 or a 1/32 jig head dressed with a 1 to 1.5-inch soft lure works best. You will realize that the crappie will start attacking the bait while it is still sinking.
When you fish for deep water crappie, do not use an aggressive presentation style. All you need to do is drop the tip and let it rest for a while, repeating this process every once in a while. The important thing is to keep your trigger finger on the line, carefully watching for any slack or slight movement. It is possible to never feel a bite, which is why you need to pay close attention to the line. This is where High-Viz fishing line comes in handy! You can see it much more easily.
Here is a video that I found on YouTube. The guy is not using a soft plastic but it shows vertical jigging pretty good. He is a bit too aggressive in his presentation to my taste but it works for him! This is really just to show you what vertical jigging looks like:
MINNOWS – THE SECRET WEAPON
They should not be a secret weapon at all. They are an absolute all year round favorite of crappie. However, many people completely disregard minnows in the Summer and Fall months. This is especially true for the deep winter months because minnows do not last very long in the cold.
As a smart angler, you cannot disregard minnows, even during the fall, winter and summer months. Keep them alive in an insulated minnow bucket with an aerator. Here is the one I use:
When you hook them, be careful to do it through the upper lip or behind the dorsal fin to prevent killing them. Then drop to the bottom and crank up the reel a few turns. This is how I hook them:
Personally, I usually have 2 or 3 poles tight-lined when I fish for crappie. However, this changes during Fall and Winter. During these months I only fish with one pole in hand. I make sure my trigger finger is on the line and my 100% attention is on the line. If you do not do this, you will likely walk away empty-handed time and time again.
Finally, when it comes to minnows, there is one technique that I do not see used very much. The guys at the barge where I fish call it the “pinch-head”. It is actually quite simple; you need to take the head off a minnow and hook the minnow body to a 1/16 jig head, then fish it like you would a jig. When plastics and live minnows are not working, experience has proven that Jigheads can be surprisingly effective.
WHICH PLASTICS WORK BEST?
This is a question that many people would like to know the answer to. I get asked about it all the time. However, it is quite difficult to answer. Crappies change their preferences almost daily. It is not uncommon to find that what worked yesterday no longer works today.
Here is an article about crappie jigs
Generally, I have found that smaller plastics work pretty good in the fall. You will need to pair them with a small jig head for a slow fall. If you are fishing in darker and murkier waters, use darker colors. In clearer waters, use lighter colors that are brighter and stand out more. However, take this as a simple rule of thumb. It is always best to carry a variety of colors and color combinations to test what works and what does not. It will change daily!
Another pro tip here is to always make sure that you have Chartreuse, Pink and electric blue soft baits with you. I always start testing with those first, because they tend to yield the best results.
Crappie fishing is amazing. You do not need to limit yourself to only fishing in the spring. You will be missing out in a massive way. Deep water crappie fishing is extremely fun and rewarding. Plus, if you want to catch your biggest crappie, you can only get them by fishing in the deep. The biggest slabs I have caught have been in deep waters in the cold October-Dec weather.
Do not limit yourself. You need to set yourself free and explore the opportunities other seasons have to offer. With the techniques listed here, you will be well on your way to enjoy fishing all year round. I fish year round and I love it!
I found some very unusual tips and tricks while scouring the internet for crappie fishing tips.
Let me know below if you have some awesomely effective deep water crappie techniques.
Good fishin’ to you