by Brad Wiegmann
Crazy may not be the right word for how shallow Gary Rowe is fishing for crappie. Insane may be more fitting. However, his shallow, hot water approach puts limits and big crappie in the boat.
As anglers head out to deep brush piles or offshore ledges to fish in the soaring temperatures, Rowe turns his boat and begins searching for the shallows for crappie. “This pattern really starts taking off after the first of June when water temperature gets up to 70 degrees up until about 90 degrees. I know that’s crazy hot, but the crappie are there for a reason and that’s to eat,” said Rowe.
Another clue besides water temperature to the shallow, hot water bite being on is the gar. On Fort Gibson in Oklahoma, when the gar start spawning it’s time to focus on shallow water. He also watches for large schools of shad flipping on the surface or appearing on his sonar unit, but noted that if the shad are not present than the crappie won’t be either.
Rowe freely admits he stumbled on the technique years ago by accident one summer. “I was out bass fishing shallow brush in super shallow, hot water and my lure kept coming back missing the legs every time I set the hook. I figured it was crappie just nipping at the tail or biting the little arms. I had a couple crappie rods in my boat all rigged up and in a short time had caught a limit of crappie,” said Rowe.
When fishing shallow, hot water Rowe focuses on the mid lake section of Fort Gibson. He is looking at 3- to 6-feet to fish in, but if the water clarity is clear may fish up to 8-feet deep. Rowe is looking for water clarity from 12- to 18-inches.
“Fishing this deep is definitely a different way of fishing in the summertime for most crappie anglers. I get strange looks all the time when I head off to shallow water once the water temperatures are this hot and not off to fish 15- to 20-feet deep. It’s like you can’t catch crappie shallow when the water temperatures are this hot, but at the end of the day I just let my livewell full of crappie do the talking,” said Rowe.
Long Bay on Fort Gibson is one of Rowe’s favorite places to fish for shallow, hot water crappie. He is targeting extremely long points that extend out to the old creek channel. The long points will only get from 3- to 6-feet deep until falling off.
Ledges on Fort Gibson would be the other area Rowe likes to fish. It’s not a deep ledge, but one that sets up so crappie can use it as an ambush point when schools of shad swim by. The bottom of the lake might only be three feet deep with the top of the adjacent ledge two feet deep where the crappie get up on.
Besides structure, Rowe looks for cover like lay downs, brush piles and bushes in the water when fishing shallow although it’s not always present in some areas. “Any kind of lay downs or brush in the water is a plus when it comes to fishing with stained water clarity, however, I have a few places void of any kind of wood, but it produces crappie every time I go there once the water warms up and schools of shad start bunching up,” said Rowe.
Locating crappie in shallow, hot water can be challenging Rowe noted if you don’t know what you are looking for on the sonar unit. “I have two Humminbird sonar/GPS units on my boat. One is upfront and the other on the console. I use the one on the console by the steering wheel to search for crappie, lay downs, brush, ledges and schools of shad while driving around at about 4 MPH. At that speed, I can see everything perfect. The sonar/GPS unit is what I use while fishing and to keep me within casting distance,” said Rowe.
Side imaging on Rowe’s unit is set to display 50- to 60-feet out on either side. “Personally, I find it hard to see crappie in that shallow of water, but sometimes on ledges I will see them around the balls of shad,” said Rowe. Mostly Rowe is searching for lay downs, brush or ledges while trolling around.
“You can also search for productive spots by doing some map study before hitting the water. Most sonar/GPS units have maps that you can make waypoints on that look productive. So, you can get in your boat and head down the lake right to them,” said Rowe.
Once Rowe has found the crappie, schools of shad, lay downs, brush or ledges he will waypoint it. Rowe also tries to stay at least a casting distance away from the crappie. “Normally around 10- to 20-feet is a good distance to stay away from the crappie so you don’t scare them off,” said Rowe. He keeps his distance by throwing out a marker buoy, in addition to making a waypoint on his Humminbird sonar/GPS unit. If he gets snagged, Rowe employs an old spark plug to get it loose by hooking it on the line and letting it drop down to break it free.
To catch them, Rowe will cast pass the target where crappie are waiting to ambush shad going by and swim the lure back. He works the lure near the surface or middle zone, but never dragging it on the bottom. “It’s not a vertical presentation, it’s more of a horizontal one where the crappie are feeding up and ambushing them as they swim by,” said Rowe.
Rowe, a frequent contributor on www.Foxsportsoutdoors.com website and seminar speaker on crappie fishing, uses spinning gear that allows him to make pinpoint casts to brush, lay downs or ledges. For a fishing rod, he uses a 7’2″ medium light spinning rod and matching reel rigged up with 4-pound test monofilament fishing line. Unlike most crappie anglers, Rowe doesn’t use a high visibility line preferring to use clear monofilament line since most bites in the summertime are powerful and easy to tell.
Gary Rowe watching his sonar/GPS unit and preparing to throw a marker buoy.
Not surprisingly, Rowe has a handful of lures he uses when casting for crappie in shallow water “I really like to use lures that resemble a shad because that’s what the crappie are eating. You give them what they want and crappie will eat it every time,” said Rowe.
“Bobby Garland 2-inch Baby Shad, 2 1/4-inch Baby Shad Swim’R and 2-inch Slab Slay’R are the lures I use to catch crappie once they go shallow in hot water. I rig them up on Bobby Garland Mo’ Glo Glow-In-The-Dark Jigheads. What size jighead depends on how deep, I want it to go along with current and even how strong the wind is blowing,” said Rowe.
Shad patterns like crystal, pearl white, threadfin shad and bone white/chartreuse are Rowe’s favorite colors. He rigs them up on matching Mo’ Glo Glow-In-The-Dark Jigheads, but likes ghost glo and pink glo the best.