Fishing on foot can produce some fine strings of delicious crappie, especially in early Spring.
Walkin’ the Shore Over You
by Ed Mashburn
Crappie anglers fishing from the shore can have great success with big crappie
If you’re of a certain age, you may remember an old country song called “I’m Walkin’ the Floor Over You, a sad refrain of lost love. I imagine a similar song that is not sad at all called, called “I’m Walkin’ the SHORE Over You.”
Crappie fishing from the bank is an especially excellent approach in the springtime when crappie are in shallow water bedding and eating up everything that will fit in their mouths. In the Mid-South, March and early April is usually prime time.
Most major bodies of water have at least some public shoreline access. State parks or other government-owned public land is a great place to begin. The map shows all the public TVA Undeveloped Recreation Lands along the 650-mile long Tennessee River. There is a good chance the government entity that controls your nearby water provides similar maps.
Advantages of Walkin’ the Shore
No doubt you’ve observed this. People fishing from boats are often casting as close to shore as possible while the bank fishermen are usually casting as far out in the lake as possible. What’s wrong with that picture?
When fishing for crappie from the shoreline, anglers can really see what the shoreline structure is, and they can really work a productive area well. As an angler moves along the shoreline, structure on the bottom, drop-offs, and overhanging cover are often more obvious than they are to boat anglers. This allows shore anglers to get into best position to put bait or lures right in the zone where the crappie are bedded up.
It’s crucial for a shore-based angler to pay attention to the shoreline itself.
If a particular bank or slough isn’t paying off, simply keep walking or drive to a new location.
The biggest advantage of shore-based crappie fishing is that shore anglers can often reach crappie on the beds that boat anglers can’t reach. I have fished for spring crappie many times in flooded woods and backwaters where no boat- even a kayak- could reach, but I could get to the water on foot.
Disadvantage of Walkin’ the Shore
The worst thing about fishing for crappie from shore is that sometimes the bedding crappie will be too far from any road or parking area for foot anglers to easily access.
Another disadvantage of shore-based crappie fishing is that sometimes the angler will have to wade or navigate tough terrain. But those willing to do that usually won’t have any competition from other anglers and get to fish unmolested water.
That means you need to pare down gear, tackle boxes, and bait buckets to the lightest and easiest to carry. Foot fishing requires us to really think about the lures and gear that works and leave the extra stuff in the car.
Ways to Do It Right
The most important element of shore walking for crappie is to keep it slow. When walking the shore, an angler can’t move too far or too fast, so working slowly is the only way to fish.
It’s crucial for a shore-based crappie angler to pay attention to the shoreline itself. Sometimes the bedding crappie will use somewhat steeper shorelines with drop-offs close at hand. Shore anglers can read the hillside or bluff face and see that certain areas might be good crappie bedding areas.
Shoreline wood cover can be crucial. Bedding crappie love to hang near wood in the water. Logs, stumps, blowdowns and other natural wood can be super-productive for shore-based crappie anglers. Long poles with light lines are great tools for dipping jigs or live minnows in tiny pockets and alongside log tangles for crappie holding below. Or some shoreline anglers prefer casting jigs under floats.
Also, any shoreline which has willow trees hanging over the water needs to be worked very carefully by shore-based anglers. I’ve caught some big strings of bedding crappie by slowly pulling a Beetlespin or other small spinner under willow trees, and quite often, a small jig simply dipped into the water near willow tree roots and slightly moved up and down to create a minor action in the lure can produce well.
Don’t forget the docks. Even after the spawn is over and the crappie disperse away from the springtime spawning grounds, foot anglers can still get into some great crappie fishing by quietly and slowly walking along boat docks and vertical jigging either mini-jigs or live minnows under the docks. A foot angler can actually work docks better than boat anglers can, but the foot angler will need to move slowly and work quietly because the crappie will be immediately below, and they are sensitive to traffic and noise from above.
The moral of the story: Don’t think you need a boat to put crappie in the freezer