March 2021 Tackle Techniques

Crappie from Small Waters by Tim Huffman

David Baynard’s kayak that he likes to use fishing small water is rigged for casting or slow trolling. His setup includes Driftmaster rod holders and a sonar unit. He says a kayak is great for fishing smaller waters and sloughs.


Crappie from Small Waters

by Tim Huffman

Small waters can provide great fishing trips. Observing wildlife and catching multiple species are often bonuses when crappie fishing small waters


Your early fishing was likely in ponds, creeks, small lakes and rivers. Trips probably didn’t include huge stringers of fish, but the memories of your first fish, your first big fish and those who taught you how to fish are still with you. Snakes, turtles and skipping rocks were part of the outdoor experience, too.

Ponds and small lakes still provide great adventures. One of the first advantages is confined fish. Unlike a big lake where fish can be on a main channel, secondary channel, flat or cove, ponds remove search time because crappie are restricted in the number of places they can hide.

Small waters usually offer bank fishing. A fisherman can stand in one spot and fish down both banks, straight out and every angle in between. It removes the urge and opportunity to run miles and miles around the lake. More time is spent fishing.

Catching is important, especially to youngsters. Small waters often offer more action because different species are likely to take offerings of minnows, tiny jigs and spinners.

Small water is a relative term. For bank fishing, it could mean a 1/8-acre pond or 20-acre large pond. If a boat or kayak is involved, it could mean water up to 200 acres or more. There are many variables to each situation, but small water means a fisherman won’t have to deal with skiers, pleasure boats, fast-paced tournament fishermen and wind should be less of a problem.

Small Boat Strategies

Most fishing hinges around structure and cover. Structures are creeks, ditches, ledges, points, humps and other contour features. These features provide crappie with the depth they prefer and provides a reference point for them.

Spillways are great small water areas where crappie and other species can be caught, all without a boat.

Covers include brushpiles, stakebeds, bridge pilings, docks, trees or other obstructions in the water. Cover provides a hang-out where a crappie can have protection, ambush prey and have shade. The combination of good structure and cover creates a potentially great fishing spot.

Small boat strategies are basic but very important. Being quiet is critical and often ignored by fishermen. It’s easier to catch a fish that isn’t alerted to nearby danger. Boat control is important, too. Anchoring is a good way to hold a position and fish nearby cover. A trolling motor is a bonus but must be used quietly and boat control must be maintained. A fisherman doesn’t need to be getting right on top of the fish, but rather stay a distance away so fish won’t be spooked.

Jigging is a good crappie tactic when working areas with brush, stumps or trees. Casting is a top pick for more open water. Either method works with jigs or minnows. A minnow on a slip-cork is top pick for fishing cover because the minnow does the work and the float indicates when a fish takes the bait. It’s simple but effective. A jig is good when fish will take an artificial offering and a fisherman knows how to control the bait and feel a bite.

Kayak Attack

David Baynard, owner of Driftmaster, is comfortable fishing from his kayak in sloughs, small rivers and smaller areas of big lakes. He says a kayak is a great way to fish and the perfect solution for fishermen on a budget who wants to get on the water.

“You don’t need a launch ramp like you do with a big boat,” says Baynard. “You can fish small waters, a kayak is easy to maneuver, quiet and very stealth so fewer fish are spooked. You can get into waters a big boat can’t go and it can be used to chase and catch any species.”

To turn his kayak into a fishing rig Baynard used a simple trolling rack that incorporates big-boat ideas into a small one. Plastic holders are okay for a while but they only last a couple of years. Driftmaster rod holders are heavier but they won’t break.

When rigging, it’s important to keep the holders low so paddling is easier.

“I’ve also added a graph and transducer,” said Baynard. “All kayaks are different so there is no one-size-fits-all setup when rigging. Anyone needing assistance can call me and I’ll be glad to help them.”

Baynard shares a good tip for fishing sloughs and swamps where alligators live. He painted a bright-colored kayak a nice camouflage but immediately had alligators getting close and swimming along with him. He says it was very uncomfortable and took a while to figure out that the gators liked the camo. He says camo is great for stealth but may not be for all waters.

Final Notes

Whether fishing from the bank, a small johnboat or kayak, there are numerous small ponds, lakes and backwaters where a fisherman can have fun and catch crappie. Get back to nature, relax and have a great time.

(Tim Huffman has specialized in crappie fishing, writing and photography since 1988. He is currently the Editor/Senior Writer for Crappie Masters Magazine, freelance contributor to four magazines, book author and Senior Writer for CrappieNow Digital Magazine.)

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