It’s no secret. Anglers love fishing for crappie in the wintertime. Lakes and rivers are void of jet skis, wake boarders and pleasure boaters making it enjoyable being on the water fishing for crappie.
The biggest difference is how deep an angler has to fish for them. “Right now water temperatures are around 38- to 42-degrees on Fort Gibson in Oklahoma and it’s not going to warm up much till spring arrives. The crappie really don’t seem to care and just move to deeper water,” said renowned crappie angler Gary Rowe.
Although Fort Gibson has standing timber crappie don’t seem attracted to it like on other reservoirs in the wintertime. “Crappie like to hang out around wood and rock. Not just any wood or rock is productive,” said Rowe.
He likes the wood to have limbs extending out from the trunk or a big root ball. “It gives the crappie somewhere they can hide or suspend around waiting for schools of shad to ambush as they swim by,”said Rowe. Rowe noted that logs with limbs or a root ball seldom have any crappie hanging around them.
As for rocks, Rowe likes to have one big boulder or an isolated pile, but it has to be right next to the ledge or a channel swing to hold crappie.
Rowe only fishes in the main river channel during the winter months. He keys in on ledges in the 15- to 30-foot range with wood or rock. To find the cover and crappie, Rowe will set his Humminbird unit on Side Imaging in the auto mode and troll around looking at potential areas that could be holding crappie.
One place he doesn’t fish on Fort Gibson is boat docks that are back inside pockets or feeder creeks. “Unfortunately, most boat docks are back inside pockets and just too shallow for crappie to hang out under. The exception would be a boat dock out on the main river channel that has a channel swing running under it,” said Rowe.
“It’s also important that there is shad around where you are fishing for crappie or the crappie just seem like they wouldn’t bite as good.”
Once Rowe has found a productive looking spot, he will take his boat right over top of it with the front of the boat and drop his Bobby Garland Crappie Baits 2-inch Baby Shad (www.bobbygarlandcrappie.com
) rigged on a MO’GLO jighead on four pound test monofilament straight down to the structure or cover and lift it just off the bottom or cover.
“I don’t really give the Bobby Garland Baby Shad any kind of action or try to move it around much. Basically, I’m dead sticking it. The crappie just don’t want a lure that’s moving around much in the wintertime.”
Amazingly, Rowe explained most of the bites are really easy to feel even in the cold water. “Crappie just seem to bite really hard even though the water maybe only 40 degrees,” said Rowe.
To get his Bobby Garland Baby Shad down to the deep cover or structure, Rowe used a Bobby Garland Mo’Glo in 1/16- to 1/8-ounce with the head color pattern matching his Bobby Garland Baby Shad. If it’s not enough weight to get the Bobby Garland Baby Shad down, Rowe will add a small spilt shot a short distance from the Bobby Garland Mo’GLO jighead to get it down deeper. “The weight doesn’t impede the action of the jighead and getting it down to the right depth quickly,” said Rowe.
His favorite colors for crappie fishing on Fort Gibson is pearl white, chartreuse silver and black/chartreuse when the water clarity is clear. If the water clarity is dinge, Rowe will switch to using darker colored Baby Shad lures in black night, gumdrop or licorice/chartreuse pearl.
Right now Fort Gibson has a good population of crappie in it. Depending on the size of the root ball or rock, an angler might catch a legal limit of 15 crappie over 10-inches. “Every day is different, but right now on Fort Gibson fishing is really good with the population of crappie,” said Rowe.
Finding a ledge with cover and structure is the key to catching crappie in the wintertime. The bite will be even better if shad are present where you are fishing. Just remember to keep the lure really still to incite a crappie to strike it.