Editor’s Note: Kent Driscoll of Nolensville, Tennessee, has been crappie fishing for about four decades and competes in national crappie tournaments each season all across the country.
In February, I’ll start concentrating my fishing on the ledges of the main river channels and the feeder creeks. We often get warm fronts in our area in February, which causes the crappie to begin thinking about spawning. The crappie will start a gradual move toward the middle of the lake and the creeks. At this time of year, I like to look for a drop-off about 4 to 10 feet off the bottom. The key ingredient to the crappie holding on that drop-off will be some type of wood cover, either a log, a stump, a brush pile or a man-made stick bed. At this time of year, the crappie usually will be holding really tight to that cover, so I’ll be spider rigging or slow trolling. I want to try and get my baits right down in that cover or as close to that cover as I can. The real trick to finding that structure is to use your electronics. I like a Humminbird side-imaging unit (https://www.humminbird.com/learn/imaging/side-imaging) to actually find the structure, and then I mark the structure on my GPS as a waypoint. I return later to that waypoint and look at that structure, using the transducer on the foot of my trolling motor. I move up and down that creek channel, trolling my jigs over that structure.
When I’m trolling, I’m trolling really slowly with a limber 12-foot trolling rod and minnow rigs. Typically, I’ll be using a jig and a minnow on the bottom and out 18 inches above that jig and minnow, I’ll be fishing with just a minnow. I’ll have a 3/4-ounce egg-type sinker on the bottom of my line in the middle of the two jigs. I’ll be moving really slowly down the edges of the ledges with eight poles along the front of my boat and 8-pound-test line on each pole. If I’m fishing stained water, I may increase my line size up to about 10-pound test. Besides looking for structure on the ledges, I’ll also be searching for pods of baitfish, because the crappie will be holding around those pods. Many times if you find a good ledge with plenty of brush on it, you can catch 20 to 40 crappie off that one ledge at this time of year.
To learn more about crappie fishing, see John E. Phillips’s books in Kindle, print and/or Audible forms, including, “Crappie: How to Catch Them Spring and Summer” (http://amzn.to/WGaJLT). To receive and download for free “The Crappie Catchers’ Cookbook,” by John and Denise Phillips, go to https://johninthewild.com/free-books.