When water levels rise into the grass and woody cover, the crappie
often move there with the rising water. (Photo: Ron Wong)
Tracking Crappie Down in Rising Water
by Ron Wong
April showers brings May flowers. April showers also causes all lakes, rivers and ponds to rise. In many Corp of Engineers or Tennessee Valley Authority lakes that is a good thing as they are lowered in the winter to be ready for the spring rains.
But trying to keep tabs on crappie as those water levels rise can be tricky.
Jason Cook, B’n’M Pro Staffer and guide, has numerous years fishing rising water in the spring on all of the hottest lakes in Mississippi. All of the lakes where he fishes will experience rising water normally through the middle part of May.
Cook said, “I like to fish for crappie in transition along brush/bush and grass lines. Those crappie will either be pre- or post-spawn fish and the easiest to catch”.
He starts with the deepest brush lines near open water. Spider-rigging a double minnow rig fished fairly shallow (three-to-six feet deep) over deeper water works well for him.
For those that prefer single pole fishing (cast jigs), start at the edge of the brush or bush first to catch those on the outside then move your offering to the middle of the cover. Often, there will be more then one fish on a bush.
Cook says for stained or muddy water use dark colored plastics that will have either orange or chartreuse color, same for hair jigs. There will be times to tip your jig with a small minnow to entice the fish to bite. As the water rises into the grass, key on any bushes that are in the grass. Sometimes there will be clumps of very thick grass in grassy areas, fish those clumps. Typically, grassy areas will also have the clearest water that will draw the forage and crappie.
Danny Baggett, Reelfoot lake guide and professional on the American Crappie Trail, said, “I look for debris clumps caused by the rising water in slack water. Although the water maybe deep, the crappie will hold just beneath the debris clumps. Find a hole in the debris and drop a jig into it beginning at 1-feet deep, if no bite, drop it another foot”.
Look for ditches and sloughs coming into a river and normally there will be slack water and clumps of debris. Often, this will be the clearest water. Darker colored jigs work the best as there is normally very little light penetration in debris clumps.
Another method to catch river crappie when it is on the rise is to find a slough and start fishing first available cover. Fish the down stream side of the cover for the crappie.
Some good tips that our pros offered are:
- Use braided line as rising water is somewhat stained and you are fishing heavy cover, 15- or 20-pound test is best especially in a green color
- If spider-rigging, go slow, .2 to .5 mile per hour max
- Use electronics to find bait fish
- When fishing around a piece of cover (bushes or standing timber) fish all sides and middle when possible
- Darker colored offerings will work best such as black/orange, black/chartreuse, purple/ chartreuse, or lime green
- In current when fishing the down-stream side, use a ¼ ounce jig with a #4 or #2 hook rigged
- Start with using a smaller size bait in rising water as the forage will be small
- Fish slow and do not use a lot of movement on your offering, let the fish come to the bait
- Use attractants such as Crappie Magnet Slab Bites or JB’s Fish Sauce to help in stained or muddy water.
Crappie fishing during the rising water can be very productive. Just remember to slow down and fish the cover thoroughly.
(Ron Wong is a veteran of the U.S. Navy, retired from FedEx after 34 years, and currently serves on the boards of several organizations. He is an avid fisherman and outdoor writer. He also co-hosts the weekly radio show Outdoors with Larry Rea, airing in Memphis, Tenn. Saturday mornings from 6-7:30 a.m. on ESPN790.)