Dip Fishing Crappie

Crappies love cover, most of the time. Sure, I've found them bunched in open water in both summer and winter. And they sometimes scatter across shallow flats. When given their druthers, though, they nestle among branches or lurk by stands of tall vegetation.

To fish this sort of cover, long poles excel, the reason they've been popular among crappie anglers since our ancestors trimmed willow branches and made sinewy lines from bark. Today's no different, except for the fine new tools we dip and dabble with.

Poling Places

On backwaters of the Mississippi River in Minnesota and Wisconsin, black crappies push into sloughs and old oxbows soon after river ice breaks up. They head for black-bottom areas with old marsh grass, stumps, and beaver lodges — spots you can't even get to in July in boats larger than a kayak.

When they first arrive, fish hold in deeper channels and holes that may separate floating bogs, or in feeder creeks margined by lilypad rhizomes. In darker waters, pole fishing works well, as productive locations typically are confined. It's often best to anchor since fish can be spooky. Moreover, crappies continue to cycle into these areas, so it's often better to sit and wait than to run from spot to spot.

As vegetation sprouts and thickens, poles continue to be ideal for probing pockets back behind the edge of bulrushes, wild rice, and lilypads. Among emergent vegetation like bulrushes, you often can find a lane to swing a lure, using the pole's length to propel it back into a productive hole. In thicker grass like cattails and maidencane, you may have to lower baits vertically into the spot.

In reservoirs across the Heartland, brushpiles have become key crappie locations from early spring through winter. Anglers place them from shallow banks out to creek channels. During low water, the brushy tip-tops give them away, but sonar reveals deeper piles on key spots. The best tool for finding brushpiles is side-imaging sonar — Lowrance's new Gen2 HDS units with StructureScan or Humminbird's Side Imaging Sonar. You can nearly count how many crappies inhabit a particular pile.

To fish deep brushpiles, most anglers favor poles in the 8- to 12-foot range equipped with spinning reels. Open the bail and the jig plummets straight to the bottom, sometimes between limbs, down where the big ones hold. Experiment with depth, though, as crappies may suspend well above bottom at times, and sometimes wander out beyond the edges of the pile, though still relating to it.

In spring, shallow piles typically are best, as fish move to warm pockets and creek banks. Fish may spawn around shallow piles as well. During winter, piles from 20 to 30 feet often are productive.

Piers and boat docks represent key crappie cover on lakes and reservoirs. Pitch jigs beneath docks or adjacent to boat lifts and in slips to entice fish. In some reservoirs, floating docks are more common and crappies flock to the shade and baitfish they offer. While some anglers shoot jigs between floats and next to platforms, poles work, too. Swinging a jig with an 8- to 10-foot pole effectively places it into corners. Then, once it's several feet down, let it glide back toward you.

To reach beyond a dock structure or far beneath a walkway, reel the jig to the tiptop, position the pole, then release the bail to drop the lure into a shaded nook. Let it fall to the level of the fish and keep probing. Crappies tend to bite right away in those situations so keep moving until you find a concentration of fish.

Around shallow docks in natural lakes, crappies may hold in weed clumps next to or below docks. It often pays to use a slipfloat or fixed float to keep baits above bottom, allowing time for fish to notice them and come to feed. Pitch the rig into place and let it rest.

Sun and wind often determine crappie position around docks. When wind pushes into docks, they often feed on the outside edges, while in calm, sunny conditions, they push deeper beneath platforms and canopies.

Poles Today

Several companies offer great selections of poles ideal for probing crappie lairs of all sorts. B 'n' M Pole Company's name says it all, and their large pro staff continues to expand their lineup, including specialized models for dabbling and dipping. Their new 8-foot Buck's New Graphite Jig Pole and 10-foot Buck's Gold Jig Pole are particularly well suited to this technique.

With the addition of Wally Marshall to the pro staff and design team, Lew's becomes a big player in the crappie market. Available for this season are Wally Marshall Signature Lite Rods and Signature Series Crappie Rods, along with some for trolling. Models from 4½ to 14 feet are available, in light and medium-light actions. Cabela's maintains their tradition of producing an array of panfish poles, with the Classic Crappie Pole available in lengths from 10 to 16½ feet, as well as the popular Cabela's Crappie Rod by B 'n' M, in lengths from 7 to 12 feet. And Shakespeare's Crappie Hunter poles range from 9 to 12 feet.

Pole fishing is fun for anglers of all ages. Telescopic models store anywhere so you're always ready to whip one out and start dippin' and lippin' some fine crappies. Dip Fishing Crappie

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