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]; https://www.facebook.com/jonathan.phillips.1675), who guides on the Alabama River, the Coosa River and Lake Jordan in central Alabama, but competitively fishes for crappie all across the South.
Most people don’t expect to catch very many fat crappie during the winter. However, December and January are the months I expect to catch the heaviest crappie, because winter fish are really fat. A stringer of seven tournament crappie easily may weigh 14 pounds. Your average fish to catch on Lake Jordan at this time of year generally will weigh 1-1/2 pounds, which is extremely large for a crappie. Crappie that weigh 1-3/4 to 2 pounds are also fairly common. On a guide trip at this time of year, we usually can take a limit of 30 crappie per person per day. If you catch your limit, you easily may have 40-60 pounds of crappie.
Most of the time, we’ll be fishing a tight line, with no cork. I use the weight to get the baits down to where I need them to be. I let the crappie tell me whether they prefer jigs or minnows on the day that I’m fishing. If you’re using the drop shot rig like I suggested (see Day 1), with a 1-ounce sinker and two loop lines (droppers) above the sinker, you can put a jig on one and a hook and a minnow on the other. This way, whichever bait gets the most bites and catches the most crappie is the one you need to fish. I’ve had luck fishing with either jigs or minnows in cold weather, however I always say you never can go wrong fishing live bait.
To learn more about crappie fishing, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “Catch Crappie All Year: Fishing a Single Pole, Using No Boat and Farming Crappie,” available in Kindle and paperback at http://amzn.to/16AzIZi. For a free eBook, “The Crappie Catcher’s Cookbook,” go to https://www.emailmeform.com/builder/form/eb81136oQJ1g2fe9q6RNd73jh.