Gerald Overstreet (left) and his partner, Steve Brown, show the potential benefits of drop-shotting for fall crappie. (Photo: Richard Simms)
Drop Shottin’ Fall Crappie
by Tim Huffman
Crappie fishing evolves as more techniques and great new electronics are created. Gerald Overstreet, tournament fisherman and Alabama fishing guide, says fishing is still about getting a bait to the fish no matter which technique is used. His drop shot tactic is one way he gets a lure hard-to-reach crappie.
The Current Solution
“The Drop shot is a great rig in the fall and winter,” says Overstreet. “When fishing the river, there is often a little current and it’s sometimes difficult to get a bait to them and keep it there. Going vertical is the best way to drop down to them. The rig will work anywhere, but it works great in current.”
The first step is to find the fish with electronics. Look at the cover and where the fish are positioned. Mark the spot and move in to drop to the fish.
“I am going straight down with the bait so I drop straight down at the trolling motor because that where we are watching on the electronics,” continues Overstreet. “I want a precise presentation and that’s the best way to do it. I’m using a short rod so I know where my bait is positioned.”
This spot we’ve been fishing here is a brushpile. The drop shot gets straight down in it like nothing else will. We drop the bait down to just above the depth of the fish even if it’s in the middle of the brush.”
Overstreet’s rig consists of a weight on bottom that matches the depth and current. The key is to have the weight just heavy enough to keep the line vertical. He says a 3/4-ounce weight is what often works best when fishing deep with a slight current, but it’s best to use the lightest weight possible to do the job. Heavier weight, like a 1-ounce sinker, is needed as depth or current increases. He says a weight that is too light will be swept into the limbs keeping the rig hung-up a lot.
A 3-way swivel connects to the main line and two leaders. One leader has a hook and the other has the weight. The distance between the sinker on bottom to the swivel is determined by the fish. For example, when fish are hugging bottom, the separation can be set to one foot. If the fish are three feet off bottom, the distance can be four feet. Fish suspended up in the brush can have a short sinker distance to allow for good control in the limbs.
“My leader going to the hook will be short, usually four to five inches. But in really thick brush, I’ll shorten it to two inches because I don’t want the minnow to swim around and hang everything up. A tree with all the small limbs will really cause a lot of hang-ups. An old tree with just the main branches remaining allows a longer five-inch leader.”
Presenting the Bait
“The crappie don’t want a bait moving around a lot,” says Overstreet. “Drop the bait down and hold it still. The fish will move to the minnow real slowly, especially as temperatures drop. They will ease up to the bait and just ease off with it. A fisherman may feel nothing more than a feeling that the pole is
getting a little heavy.”
Overstreet uses a 7.5-foot BnM Crappie Wizard pole because it has good feel and the shorter length gives good control of the bait. The tip is sensitive but the rod has a good backbone for strength to quickly pull a fish from the brush. Ten-pound-test-line usually allows a hang-up to be pulled free.
Fishing will likely be in the mid-depths in the fall and move to deeper water as water temperatures cool. Winter fishing will often include 25-foot depths.
“Presentations will be my partner and me standing on the front of the boat fishing on each side of the trolling motor. It’s an easy technique but a fisherman has to pay attention and feel for the light bites.
“One of the keys to not spooking fish is to lower the bait slowly. Don’t disengage the bail and let the weight drop to the bottom. A fast fall means it will bang into limbs and hit hard on bottom. It will kick up mud. I like to release the bail and let the line fall through my fingers to control the fall. I’ll ease it in on them to avoid spooking.
“Always present straight up and down for the fewest hang-ups. Leave the bait still and wait for the fish to come to it.”
Final Fall Tips
“Fall fish are eating and growing. Action really gets good when the water temperatures reach the mid-70’s. October is a great month so be sure to get out,” says Overstreet.
“Fall can bring cool fronts, rain and wind. Fishing can slow but it’s usually worse on the fisherman than the fish.
“Fish location varies with each body of water. Open water fishing is usually good in the fall. Spider rigging is good and so is LiveScope pitching. Use the technique that produces the most fish for your waters. Just remember when fish get down in the brush, it’s okay to switch to a drop shot rig.”
Final tip – “Baits can be a variety of choices. Fall spider rigging is when I have good success using Road Runners tipped with minnows. For pitching and vertical jigging, I’ll use a straight jig. My drop shot rig will usually be a straight minnow. Show them different baits and let them pick what they want.”
(Tim Huffman has specialized in crappie fishing writing and photography since 1988. He is currently Senior Writer for CrappieNOW Digital Magazine, freelance writer and book author.)