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Where to Find Crappie in the Winter Months

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Editor’s Note: How long has it been since you’ve enjoyed delicious-tasting fresh crappie? Are you sore from sitting in a tree stand from dawn until after dark chasing deer? Consider the possibility of taking your fishing boat to your hunting club this weekend and catching a mess of crappie in the middle of the day from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. To find out why you should crappie fish at this time of year while everyone else is deer hunting, we talked with Jonathan Phillips of Team Phillips Guide Service (334-391-9735; [email protected];, who guides on the Alabama River, the Coosa River and Lake Jordan in central Alabama, but competitively fishes for crappie all across the South.

There’s a difference in the early-winter pattern and the late-winter pattern. An early-winter pattern is actually similar to a summer pattern. The crappie tend to hold on deep wood structure and ledges. In a late-winter pattern, which we’re in now in December, especially after the very-cold weather we’ve had during November and December, the crappie start schooling and actually may leave the wood and roam around, rather than isolate themselves on one piece of structure. Typically I find crappie on laydowns and stumps. They also may move up and down a ledge. You’ve got to move around to catch crappie continuously at this time of year.

We’ve had a really-cold early winter in the South this year, and crappie seem to position differently on rivers and on lakes when that happens. On the lakes, the crappie usually will be holding in 18-20 feet of water, or sometimes as deep as 30 feet. On the rivers, the crappie will concentrate at about 15-20 feet. When I’m fishing for deep-water crappie, I’ll usually be fishing with 8-pound-test line. I’ll put a 1-ounce minimum weight on the end of my line and tie a drop shot type rig coming up from the weight. My first dropper may be as much as 2 feet above the weight, and I’ll fish with either a minnow or a jig on the first or the second dropper.

In December, the crappie are trying to pack on weight, so catching a 2-pound crappie is relatively easy. The crappie bite is usually very aggressive. But the colder the weather is, the less aggressively the crappie will attack the baits. Even the shad that crappie feed on slow down, so the crappie don’t have to chase the shad nearly as far to eat them.

To learn more about crappie fishing, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “Crappie: How to Catch Them Fall and Winter,” available in Kindle and paperback at For a free eBook, “The Crappie Catcher’s Cookbook,” go to

Tomorrow: How Many Crappie Should You Expect to Catch in the Wintertime?

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