Matt Johnson Outdoors
Deep Water Slabs
Matt Johnson Outdoors
By: Jeff Huehn

Most  people  who  fish
Crappies   this  time  of
year head out expecting
one     thing:     shallow
water action.

But   as   we   have   all
found out, the  weather
and "Mother Nature" don't always make the conditions
conducive for active shallow water fishing.

While not finding any biters up shallow doesn't always
indicate that the fish aren't there, it can, however, make for
some pretty tough non-action, and thus, not a lot of fun for the
anglers.

In these situations, a fisher folk has to follow that old adage.
"They're either in the shallows, in the deep, or somewhere in
between."

We've tried that shallows. No takers.

Now what?

For me, it's time to crank up the electronics and seek out
those deep water staging fish.

These might be fish that haven't made a move to the shallow
water yet, or could be fish that moved in during more
favorable weather, and said "The heck with this, we're outta
here!" when the cold rain and wind settled in and dropped
surface temps as much as 7-8 degrees, and moved out to
"greener pastures".

OK, so now we're gonna target some deeper Crappies. Just
how do we go about doing this?

Well, in some instances, actually finding the fish when they
have pushed deeper can be a lot easier.

Now, rather then trolling along a weed line and fan-casting a
hair-jig and minnow combo underneath a  float, or plastics on
a tight line in seek of a school of fish, you are watching your
sonar for the school. This can eliminate a lot of water fast, as
the fish can be schooled up and easy to spot.

I'll start with the first significant break-line off the classic
shallow water holding spot. This area might be a deep weed
edge off a shallow water flat, or a steeper breakline leading to
a mid depth shelf. Typically I'm looking for fish in the 8-12 foot
of water range.

These fish may not always be suspended high, so I'm gonna
keep the gain low on my sonar to help seek out the fish that
are hugging the bottom, and also decipher between possible
deeper weed growth and actual fish signals.

If I find some fish, I try to keep the approach similar to what I
would use on the shallow fish. I might size down a bit, or slow
my approach if I am not getting much cooperation, but I try to
keep the tactics much like what I'd be using in the shallows.  
These fish aren't far off from where they were before the front
pushed them off, so drastic changes in presentation aren't
typically needed.

If this still doesn't work, I might go with a live bait set-up and
change the profile of my lure. If I was using feather jigs, I'd
probably switch it up with some of my terminal ice tackle that
holds a larger profile, and tip it with a minnow through the
head. Or, I would go with a softer plastic that wiggles freely
with the motion of the waves.

If plastics were already my shallow water tool, I would stay
with them, but try a different profile, color, or size to trigger
that strike.

But, if the fish aren't there and didn't just slide off their shallow
water haunt into the next depth range, I have to go deeper yet.

Now we're looking in the 12-20 foot depth range. These fish
may also be hugging the bottom tight, but most likely will be
found sitting up slightly, if even just a foot or so off the bottom.

These fish are probably going to be schooled a bit tighter then
those that would be sitting just off the shallower water, so it
might be best to throw a marker for reference, but be careful
to throw it away from the school as to not spook them.

The first technique I use here is to vertical jig them. This is
tight lining it without a bobber.

I'll try keep my line as vertical to the jig as possible, while
slowly yo-yoing it just above the top of the school. If these are
Crappies, they'll typically come for your offering.

The hit may not be very obvious however. Sometimes the fish
may hit the bait as it falls, and you won't know it until you jig it
next. Or the fish will hit the lure up slightly, giving little or no
indication to you that they have snatched your offering. So
much attention to watching your line and rod tip might be
required to help you hook up with the fish.

Once I determine I'm on a school of Craps, I might set-up a
slip bobber rig. This will allow me to anchor and fish them
effectively from a distance if I choose, or I might just want to
hover near them with my electric.

A variety of lures might be effective here. Plastics are always
a good first choice, as is small feather jigs. If the fish are real
picky, a plain old hook and minnow combo could be the killer
as well.

But if the fish are not to be found here, then we go a
searching deep. 20 feet to the deepest water in the lake is
what I call the next classification.

And if this is where you find the fish, chances favor they will
be suspended high and schooled thickly.

However, they may be pretty mobile, meaning it could be hard
to stay in touch with them as the school roams freely in open
water searching for its next easy meal.

The good news is, in my experience, these fish are almost
always aggressive and easy to catch, so once you find them,
you could be in for some good action.

A variety of lures has worked on fish of this location. Tear
drops, feather jigs, plastics, you name it. Often enough, the
fish are suspending high and when your bait approaches
them, they will make a run for it as far as 10 feet in vertical
water depth.

A cold front may not always be bad news, and an
opportunistic angler will take advantage of the chance to
catch some open water Crappies.

Hey, the action can be pretty good!
Fishing Reports