Editor’s Note: Nighttime crappie fishing is one of the most-addictive forms of fishing I know. Crappie fishing at night in the summer is cool, relaxing, rewarding and an ideal way to spend quality time with friends and family away from the rest of the world. Also, crappie fishing at night doesn’t interfere with any of my daytime activities. I can fish in the afternoons after work, fish all night Friday and Saturday and still have Sunday after church to recover.
To catch hot-weather crappie, a fisherman must know what causes crappie to leave their deep-water haunts and move into shallow water when the temperature climbs high enough to fry eggs on the sidewalk. Larry Battison of Georgetown, Georgia, is a nighttime crappie fisherman, who fishes Alabama’s Lake Eufaula on the Alabama/Georgia border. He rarely, if ever, lifts the lid on his ice chest or his livewell when someone asks, “Have you caught any fish?” He’ll say, “The weather’s so hot out on the lake, I can’t believe a fish will bite anywhere.”
But Battison generally has a cooler full of big slab crappie he’s caught at a time when and at places where most other anglers don’t fish during the summer months.
“Lake Eufaula near my home has about three or four, underwater bridges that are still intact,” Battison explains. “In your area of the U.S., you can find these bridges by looking at old road and river maps that show train trestles and bridges crossing small creeks and rivers before the lake has been impounded. Crappie often suspend under these bridges and above these old creek channels. But you’ll have difficulty catching them, unless you use two grappling hooks to hold your boat in place.”
Battison tried to catch the underwater-bridge crappie for several years before he developed his grappling-hook technique. One bridge he fished was out on the main part of the lake where waves caused his anchors to come-up and moved his boat away from the edge of the bridge. Battison learned that if his minnows or jigs didn’t fall right beside the bridge where the crappie could see them, the fish wouldn’t move out from under the bridge to take them. He had to find a way to keep his line and minnows right along the edge of the underwater bridge. So, Battison came up with a grappling-hook tactic that would enable his boat to stay right on the lip of the break and let him fish with his line lying right beside and touching the old bridge.
“I made an anchor resembling a grappling hook from pieces of aluminum with a 4-foot piece of aluminum sticking straight-up and four spikes coming off the main shaft,” Battison says. “I’d lower the anchor/grappling hook down and catch the underside of the bridge with at least two of the four prongs. Then I’d tighten-up on the rope and run the end of the rope through a bungee cord I’d hooked onto the cleat on the side of my boat.
“Once I got the first grappling hook secured to the side of the bridge, I’d hook up a second grappling hook to the stern. The grappling hook would hold the boat next to the bridge. The bungee cord let the boat rock back and forth without creating slack on the rope that held the grappling hook to the base of the bridge.”
Then Battison baited his rods with live minnows and slowly let the lines down the side of the bridge. He kept most of his rods inside the boat with just the tips of the rods over the sides of the boat. He usually could feel the side of the bridge with his line as he lowered a minnow down to swim right on the bottom edge of the bridge where the crappie were holding. The bridge provided shade, structure and a place for the baitfish to concentrate.
Although a number of people fish this bridge, Battison has learned to fish the edges of the two pilings that sit on the underwater riverbank and support the span of the bridge. Those bridge pilings offer vertical structure over the edge of the deep water, which means the crappie can hold vertically wherever they want under the shade of the bridge.
Often at night during the summer months, Battison will use his grappling hooks to hold him on the break of the old underwater bridge. He’s learned that crappie move out from under the bridge and hold on top of the bridge when the sun goes in, and the moon comes out. The later he fishes into the night, the closer to the surface he’ll catch crappie. The fish will move-up because he uses either a Coleman lantern or floating lights to attract the bait fish on which the crappie will feed. With Battison’s grappling-hook method, he holds his boat on the lip of the break. He can fish minnows either under the submerged bridge by day or on top of the bridge by night.
To learn more about crappie fishing, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “Crappie: The Year-Round River Fisherman’s Bible” at https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07YDXB4G9/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p2_i5, available in Kindle, print and Audible. You may have to copy and paste this link into your browser. When you click on the book, notice on the left where Amazon says you can read and hear 10% of the book for free. On the right side of the page and below the offer for a free Audible trial, you can click on Buy the Audible book.
Tomorrow: What You Can Use to Attract Nighttime Crappie