By Tim Huffman
Flooded Brush & Trees. High water often changes the position of fish. We see this most in the spring but any time of year it’s possible that crappie will find conditions favorable for moving up to shallower water, especially into brush and wood cover.
A prime example was this year at the Crappie Masters National Championship when Ronnie Capps and Stave Coleman took second place. Their fish were up in flooded willows and stickups. You can find the same type areas when water comes up in almost all lakes and rivers.
Being familiar with a lake is a huge advantage. Small grassbeds, short cover and other items that will be totally covered with water during high water. Small stuff will be difficult or impossible to find without previously spottings. Therefore, notice these small covers when water is normal or below normal.
After a rise, pay close attention to visible cover. If you see brush on the bank and in the water partially covered, there is a good chance there will be further out that is totally covered. Watch for these telltale signs.
Looking with your electronics is a key factor that will find more spots and pinpoint places within places. For example, you can find submerged cover on your sonar or scanner. This gives you potential areas. Finding a cut, dip, or drop within the cover is finding the “something different” that will likely be the best spot.
A point with willows and brush can be a good place to search for high water crappie.
Crappie might go from 15 feet up to 10 feet so a variety of techniques will work. However, in this article we are talking about fish that get up in shallower water. For shallow areas with cover the two primary techniques are vertical jigging and slow trolling.
Vertical jigging allows all cover to be slowly probed. You can use any size and type bait needed, move it quickly from stick to stick, or leave it still for a long period of time when hits are slow. On the fun side, placing a jig, feeling the thump, and setting the hook can’t be beat.
Screen shot of a fantastic high water spot to find crappie. Note that more cover is underwater than visible.
Vertical jigging equipment includes a 10- to 12-foot pole rigged with proper line for the water and cover. Six or eight-pound test is typical. Braided line will give smaller diameter with better strength.
Slow trolling is another good method when fish are up shallow in cover. The disadvantage is the amount of work required to keep multiple poles unhung. Longer 14- or 16-foot poles are best in shallower water because they keep baits further from the boat. The longer the pole the more of a pain they are to handle, but they do give you more bites because of fewer spooked fish.
The technique is called slow trolling or spider rigging, but when in the middle of thick cover it’s more like stopped trolling. Keeping baits relative still is important for more bites because it keeps baits in view for a longer period. Any time baits are moved raising pole tips, pulling free of hang-ups, and re-baiting will be required as hooks find the cover.
Baits can vary but a single jig tipped with a minnow is a great choice. This gives weight to keep the bait down, color to the bait and the minnow provides a natural look, flash and smell. A single jig is much easier to control and move.
#1-Water Comes Up. Water rises 5 feet. Cover is from the newly formed bank out to 8 feet of water with some cover totally under water. Fresh water over the cover can have fish at three general areas within the cover. The first is the outside edge. This is where fish first contact the cover when coming up from deeper water. It’s a good stopping point for them and easy access back to deep water.
The second section is the inside cover in 3 to 6 feet of water. These fish have the opportunity to roam around looking for food. They are well protected and comfortable.
The third section is the shallow cover is 3 feet or less. When conditions are right, the food source of bugs, worms, hoppers and other natural creatures along with active shad that move shallow, are all available making a great restaurant for the crappie.
#2-Water Stabilizes with Gradual Drop. A stable to two-inch drop isn’t a cause for concern. The water should be clearing a little and fishing should be good. If crappie have moved into water one foot deep they will come back out a little.
#3-Rapidly Falling Water. When food is abundant the crappie will stay as long as possible. However, they will become uncomfortable as water falls and move out before their safety becomes an issue. Therefore, the outside edge of the cover will be the high-percentage place to find the fish.
High water can mean shallow fish any time of year. Water temperatures and food are the key elements for crappie coming up and staying. Test fish a few spots any time there is high water.
High water can mean stained or muddy water. Glow jigs are important. So are minnows. A jig tipped with a minnow gives the best of both.
When testing an area, be sure to check the outside edge, shallowest and in-between because crappie can be anywhere.
Take your time. Leave a bait still and give fish a chance to bite. If fish are hitting it immediately you can speed up your presentation. The speed of your fishing should be based upon the aggressiveness of the fish.
High water situations, especially when water starts to fall, can be very challenging. Find the right spots you can have good action or at least salvage a no-bite situation into a few keepers.