John's Journal...

Catching Cold-Weather Crappie with Some of the Nationís Top Crappie Pros

Swamp Crappie with Whitey Outlaw

Click to enlargeEditor’s Note: In many areas, the crappie fishing is better in the winter than at any other time of year. To catch crappie in the winter, anglers must understand the crappie’s seasonal migration patterns and know where the crappie will show-up before they get there. Here are cold-weather crappie-catching tips from some of the nation’s top crappie pros.Click to enlarge

“Most of our lakes have grass in them, especially river-run lakes,” says Whitey Outlaw of St. Matthews, South Carolina, a tournament crappie fisherman, who fishes all across the nation all year and spends 200 days or more a year looking for and catching crappie. “Oftentimes if you go into the tributaries coming off these main rivers, you’ll find areas that have old creek channels winding through grassy flats often with timber on the edge. I often refer to these regions as swamps. Crappie think grass is a wonderful thing because it holds heat and causes the water to be warmer. During February, I’ll catch crappie 5- to 10-feet deep in these swamps. Remember that black crappie love grass, so if you’re fishing a lake or a river with shallow grass that has stumps or brush, you can fish that 1-1/2- to 3-foot water and wear out the crappie. Because most crappie fisherman wait until March or April when the white crappie spawn to start fishing, they miss the black crappie spawn that usually begins this month.” Click to enlarge

Outlaw mentions that during this time of year, he prefers to use a small- to a medium-size minnow about 1- to 1-1/2-inches long and a No. 2 Eagle Claw Click to enlargecrappie hook on 10-pound-test Vicious line with a 14-foot B’n’M Whitey Outlaw Series Santee Elite crappie pole or Buck’s Graphite Jig Pole. “I like the 14-foot pole because it allows me to get my minnow well away from the boat and into the areas where I think the crappie are holding,” Outlaw emphasizes. “I’ll be fishing a white-and-chartreuse or a glow-and-chartreuse-colored Crappie Pro Wasshoppah jig with a 1/16-ounce jighead. The swamps I fish are generally oxbow lakes or feeder creeks, and at the first of the month, I’ll be fishing the mouths of these creeks where the pre-spawn crappie are waiting to come to the bed. But toward the end of the month or any day I see fog holding 2 feet above the water, I’ll be fishing stumps, logs, and the edge of grass in 2 to 3 feet of water. If I can find a bottom drop of 1 to 2 feet in 2 to 3 feet of water, I usually can wear the crappie out in that 2- to 4-foot-water depth.”

According to Outlaw, any morning you go out on the water and there’s a layer of fog about 2 feet above the water, you’ll need to fish shallow bays and feeder creeks for crappie in 2- to 4-foot depths because that fog indicates that the water in these places is warmer than the air temperature. “When the water’s warmer than the air in February, the crappie will be moving to the bank or holding on those 1- to 2-foot drops in 2 to 4 feet of water,” Outlaw advises. “Because the oxbows, the dead lakes and the shallow water in the feeder creeks will warm-up faster than the main creek or the lake, the crappie will show-up there first. For the crappie to start spawning and moving into shallow water, they need an air temperature of 55 to 60 degrees and a water temperature in the 50-degree range. So, if you get warm days in February, you can have some awesome crappie fishing.” 

Check back each day this week for more about "Catching Cold-Weather Crappie with Some of the Nationís Top Crappie Pros"

Day 1: Fish Big Impoundments in February with Ronnie Capps
Day 2: Big Baits for Pre-Spawn Crappie with Ronnie Capps
Day 3: Fish the Mouths of Bays, Coves and Feeder Creeks This Month with Darrell Baker
Day 4: Slow Down for Cold-Weather Crappie with Darrell Baker
Day 5: Swamp Crappie with Whitey Outlaw


Entry 547, Day 5