The "Other" Ledge FishSubmitted by Full Limit Outdoor Media
Fall has fallen, as has most of the leaves and the water levels on winter draw-down reservoirs. A lot of people have traded their fishing boats for four wheelers and their rods for rifles. As “fishing season” is winding down, hunting season is in full swing.
There are however, a group of anglers who doesn’t know what it means to winterize their boat. They have never stored their boat until spring. They are the folks that own the lone truck and trailer at the boat ramp in January. They’re the one little dot you see in the middle of the river as you drive over the bridge with your heat on. They are also hunters.
This time of year finds a lot of anglers in trees awaiting a mature whitetail buck. But the ones we’re going to talk about today are the ones who are working a crappie jig through a tree and repeatedly haul out a slab. Sure, you can still catch bass right now. Lots of them as a matter of fact, but they’ve had their time to shine this fall. It’s time to give a little attention to the “other big mouth”.
As the air, and therefore water, temperatures begin to steadily decrease, the crappie start biting. They can be found deep (15’ to 20’), mid-depths (8’ to 12’) and even shallow (2’to 8’) this time of year. You can basically fish for them any way you prefer and sometimes the best bites changes from day to day, if not hour to hour. Between the bite and the lack of pressure, now is a great time to be a crappie angler.
I am personally very fond of fishing for shallow slabs. On my home waters of KY Lake we often catch live-wells full of them in extremely cold and extremely shallow water. I often have people respond with comments and looks of unbelief upon recounting days of full limits in 40 degree water that is less than 4 feet deep. I really enjoy throwing a 1/16 once Mr. Crappie Slab Slasher jighead tipped with a Joker under a float. We typically cast it just past shallow stake beds or “mats” and retrieve them with a gentle, steady shaking motion. There are nights in the winter when I close my eyes and all I can see is my float going under. If you don’t mind putting on layers and fishing around duck hunters, you can load the boat in the wintertime with big crappie.
One of my newfound loves is fishing river ledges for fall crappie. I’m sure that seasoned crappie anglers are more adept at getting over the same stuff that I’m casting to and fishing vertically. They probably hang up less and catch more. But, I’m a died-in-the-wool bass fisherman. I grew up casting to cover on the winding river ledges of Kentucky Lake. And, that is how I like to fish for crappie. It’s kind of a miniature version of bass fishing except the limit is 30 and they taste great.
My experience is that crappie will often congregate around the exact same cover that bass do. Let’s quickly define a couple things that are my pet peeve…….. STRUCTURE is the topographical lay of the bottom such as a ledge, point or flat. It describes the area. COVER is what is on the structure. Stumps, laydowns, standing timber, rocks, brushpiles and stake beds are all types of cover. Now that I have that off my chest, let’s look at how this approach works.
I am basically searching structure for cover. What I mean is that I am primarily scanning (side scanning with my electronics) river and creek ledges for submerged trees and brushpiles. Inadvertently, you will most always find some crappie beds along the way. Any type of wood cover can and will likely hold crappie. There may be 1, or there may be 71, but once you find a prime piece of cover you should expect to get bit.
I prefer to upsize my jigs to a 1/8 ounce for this technique. I really like the Mr. Crappie Slab Slasher head due to the hook, but this is a time when the Mr. Crappie Sausage Head can be the ticket. The Sausage Head comes pre-rigged with a Crappie Thunder on it, and that works great as it’s a big profile bait and that’s important in deep water and heavy cover. I also really like the Joker and the Shadpole for fishing this way. Color is a matter of water clarity and preference. Every crappie angler, and even wannabes like me, have their pet colors. In my experience, anything with some chartreuse has potential.
Whereas most crappie fishermen seem to get over this type of cover and fish vertically, I prefer to sit deep and cast shallow. It keeps me close to my bass fishing roots. Another reason is that a lot of our river ledges are fairly shallow this time of year and I try to stay off of the cover as much as possible. I also catch several by swimming the bait much like a bass swimbait.
Bites are typically easy to distinguish. Also, much like bass fishing, they can range from distinct “thumps” to a sensation of being “heavy”. That can change throughout the day and even from school of fish to school of fish. I also prefer yellow line that allows me to sometimes recognize a subtle bite as a small ”twitch” in the line.
There’s no right or wrong way to target these offshore crappie except to not give them a try. It is a wonderful reason to get out on the water in the late fall and winter. Fishing deep with light line and lures will certainly hone your skills. And, the end result on the dinner table isn’t a bed perk either!