Friday, May 18, 2012

Under the Bridge: In search of Crappie

When it comes to structure fishing, there are some pieces of structure that are hard to find (submerged rock piles) and there are other ones that are extremely obvious (standing timber).. but the most obvious piece of structure is also one that is often overlooked when crappie fishing.. Bridges

If you haven't noticed this already, Crappies have very similar instincts to Bass (probably why we love to fish them), and not only will they school and hold tight around various types of structure, but they will also look for shady spots to stay cool in the afternoon heat.. docks, timber and yes Bridges.

For years now after the initial spring crappie madness has ended I return to a couple local hot spots (minus the 20-30 other anglers usually there) and and fish for the last of the roaming crappies that will make this area there home for most of the summer. As the temps and the sun rise, I focus my attention on bridges tucked nicely along the shore line, and believe me, I flat out catch fish.

Weapons of choice:

When fishing from the shoreline or in a boat, getting under a low slung bridge can be difficult (they key here is low slung and narrow bridges). Longer rods often used for crappie fishing make it tuff to sling baits while fishing in tight quarters. So while fishing bridges (especially from the shoreline) I like to go with shorter noodle rods, 7ft or 8ft rods at the max. You still need these long soft rods to throw small baits in at an awkward angle as well as the soft tip to set the hook into these golden paper-mouth fish.

Note: If you are fishing from the shore line, I will warn you that the tip of your rod will probably take some abuse scrapping off the sides of the concrete structure. I have grown to expect it, but since I currently use BPS Crappie rods, I'm Ok will dinging them up and replacing them every couple years. I have one that even with the last inch snapped off, I continue to use as a back-up or in real tight quarters

I have two go-to baits that I like to throw under bridges while searching for crappies. The first is a crappie sized spinnerbait, we are talking about small 1/16oz bait with a single blade and no skirt, products like the Southern Pro Creek Runner are staples in my arsenal as they offer these tiny spinnerbaits in a variety of colors, with a quality hook. I like to buy them skirtless so I can change the body color when fishing different areas and at different times of the day. I do this by using a crappie tube bodies (like the BPS Squirmin Squirt") and slide them on and off.

The spinnerbait is always the first bait I throw when I approach a bridge, looking for aggressive fish you will learn very quickly what is living under the bridge and what structure you are going to run into.

Once I have fan casted the entire area, bouncing off each wall, and then through the middle, I will then move on to a standard 1" to 2" crappie tube  (yes the same Squirmin squirt minus the spinnerbait body). I usually present these on a slip bobber, preferably one made of foam, and weighted. Since you will no doubt be banging this bobber off cement walls, you want something that will take abuse without breaking. The Mr. Crappie slip bobbers (Betts) are on the top of my list and as you can see below I put them through the ringer. I like the cigar shape and find it much easier to walk then other styles.

When pitching a crappie tube under a bridge, you need to find the right depth setting. Start with 2ft, and  if your rig floats freely or with slight bottom drag, your in the right spot. If your tube is catching on the bottom, bring it in and adjust the length by a few inches. This is a game of cat and mouse and you may need to adjust a few times prior to finding fish.

Similar to the spinnerbait, I fan cast the span of the bridge, start by banging off the far wall, and working the bait back. then I cast a few feet off the wall and so on and so on, until I'm banging the bobber off the closest wall to me. While casting I  want to try to get as far under the bridge as possible (even out the far end If I can). Even if the bobber is out of your sight it's OK, just keep tension on the line and you will know if and when there is a fish on. As mentioned above I like to use weighted slip bobbers, I do this so I can use less weight on the jig itself, I find the lighter the jig, the more natural the fall.

If you dont like to use slip bobbers, your crazy, but you can do this same technique without one. be prepared to get your bait hung-up more often, as most bridges have rock bottoms, and are places in which debris seems to easily collect.. these two situations make bridges death traps for open hooks being dragged across the bottom. take heart though, as what makes bridges  a pain to fish, is also what makes them a great place to fish.

So now that I have given away my secret to finding crappies often missed by other anglers, do yourself a favor and start stalking the shorelines in your area in search of bridges and culverts that may, if your lucky hold a stockpile of these golden beauties..   just dont steal my bridge.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome article. I thought it was very informative and it actually motivated me to head out this afternoon. Keep up the good work.