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Thread: Drifting For Crappie

  1. #1
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    Default Drifting For Crappie

    I’ve reviewed this section for a while now and have yet to see anything posted here about the method we use most often for crappie fishing. So, being as this is a beginner’s section, I figured some folks starting out might want to give this presentation a whirl. Since Walt introduced me to this form of relaxing fishing, I’ve become addicted!

    Here are some of the basic guidelines we use. First, let’s set the stage. Here in our state of Massachusetts, we are only allowed two hooks per angler at a given time. That’s 2 hooks on one rod/line, or a single hook on two different rods per angler. It is what it is!

    Obviously, spider rigging is not an option for us and to be perfectly honest with you, I just don’t know how you folks that practice that technique, can manage all those lines at one time! More power to you for sure. It must become a virtual fire drill at times!

    We normally cast a structure, drift double lines (4 rods), or troll 2 single lines. Drifting has become our most productive presentation over many seasons now. Repeatedly, very successful seasons too I might add.

    When I say “we”, I’m referring to my long time fishing partner Walt & myself. Some of you may be familiar with our posts in the forum entitled, “The New England States” here on Crappie.com. I believe if more folks would try this presentation, they’d be amazed at how productive, simplistic and relaxing it can be. Adjusting for fine nuances as you drift along, switching jigs sizes, body styles and colors (depending on the mood and location of the fish), can be every bit as challenging and rewarding, as other proven techniques for catching crappie.

    However, this may not be the way to go if you are targeting brush piles, man-made structures or timber. Or, any situation where only short drift runs are possible and you jeopardize frequent hang-ups. The water we fish is relatively clear (4’ – 6’ vis.) open basins, with depths between 12’ - 30’.

    Our crappie (and most other species here) tend to chase schools (bait balls) of wandering baitfish - smelt, shiners, young of the year perch, etc. - throughout the water column. There surely are some fish to be taken in the shallows, but since we started drifting, there has been no need to frustrate ourselves with the challenges of trying to fish through weeds, brush, snags and pickerel bite offs (prevalent here). And, regardless of the season, we always seem to find some out, away from the shorelines.

    Walt uses two UL rods, shorter than 7’ at his end of the boat. I am more inclined to fish the longer rods, mainly B n’ M’s SHSS in 7’ & 9’ lengths. We both use UL reels with 2# test braid (we really like Fireline Crystal) for the main-lines, with a 4’ – 6’ fluorocarbon leader joined with the Alberto knot. That knot is critical when joining two very fragile lines like we're using here.

    We mainly drift with 1/16 & 1/8 oz. jigs, depending on the wind velocity. Usually in the early morning, the breezes are light to calm, hence we tend toward lighter jigs. By mid-day the breezes can kick up to about 15 mph or more, with significant white caps on the main open waters. No problem – we keep drifting! Believe it or not, these light jigs, which you’d think are almost water skiing at times, will be voraciously attacked by crappie, bluegill, yellow & white perch, bass and trout. We’ve even caught pickerel this way over the 30’ depths with our jigs barely getting down two feet as we literally fly along!

    I will not dispute the .5 mph – 1.2 mph trolling speeds commonly used by many crappie fishermen across the country. I will say however, that we’ve proven, beyond doubt, that you can catch them moving along a lot quicker than you might think. We do it regularly.

    Arriving at the launch ramps, we prefer a little breeze. If calm, we’ll start out casting various areas that have been successful in the past – similar to what most fishermen do. If our arms tire, we resort to trolling with the electric, but that’s a very small percentage of our efforts normally. Once the breeze kicks in, we’re all into drifting.

    Just let the line go freely along side the boat, count off one, two, three or more “rod lengths” of slack line to get the jigs down to the desired depth, under the conditions that you are faced with. Adjustments are made accordingly, as well as the depths we find bait balls holding on the sonar. Then we just “go with the flow”; letting the wind push us along as the jigs do their own thing down there.

    We adjust the boat’s position by turning the engine one way or the other and dropping the bow trolling motor to act like a mini wind sock to keep our beam perpendicular to the wind direction, as much as possible. We never make deliberate efforts to slow the drift. Seems like the fish know what the wind is doing and they adjust their feeding habits accordingly! Amazing!

    Some days, straight tailed plastic are best. Other days – or even hours later – we shift to action tails like paddle tails or twister tails. With 4 rods being drifted at a time, we can change over fairly quickly, once a pattern develops, and not get into each other’s way. We have never had to resort to using live bait. Never found a need to actually. This method of drifting plastics just lends itself to more simplification, less stress and expense. As fine a way as there is for the beginner to start out.

    Some of our more effective baits are as follows, starting with the straight tails, such as the Bobby Garland Baby Shad, or Southern Pro’s Stingers. This has probably accounted for 50% or more of our catches on a yearly average:

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    Next most effective for us are the paddle tails, such as the Charlie Brewer Slider Grubs. Best when the wind is over 5 mph, in order to give the tails their inherent seductive action:

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    Another very effective lure for drifting are the horse-head spins, such as the Road Runner. This particular one is a custom tie by our member here named “skiptomylu”. And I’ll tell you true, this “gray ghost” pattern that he ties for me is a down right killer at times:

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    The 3-tailed “creature” baits are great when the fish are orientated close to the bottom. Don’t be afraid to experiment with plastics. Some, like the Mister Twister "Helgrammite" can be very effective. This one is the Strike King “Joker” and I like to fish it on the heavier heads, closer to the bottom:

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    Finally, if all else fails the venerable, old fashion curly tailed grub can sometimes steal the show. This one is the Mr. Crappie Shad Pole CT. But just about any curly tail will produce – at times. Here’s what the Shad Pole looks like:

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    We are strictly CPR (Catch, Photograph & Release) fishermen, so we don’t use the livewell and/or a net for landing. If we lose a fish boatside, no big deal. We also crimp down the barbs on all our hooks, including crankbaits. This facilitates quick releases and less danger to the fish and/or ourselves. And you'll be surprised at how few you actually loose doing this. The catching is the fun and I enjoy eating salt water fish much more so than the fresh water counterparts - but that’s just me!. Walt is in charge of keep the counts honest. Being an engineer, he does this job quite well too!

    If you have a chance, check out The New England States forum here on Crappie.com. Thanks for giving this your look-see and please do let us know how you enjoy drifting. God Bless all and keep those lines tight!
    "A voyage in search of knowledge need never abandon the spirit of adventure."
    Thanks scrat, silverside, fishervet, Nowell Brown thanked you for this post

  2. #2
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    Good read. Thanks for the input.

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    Yes, I will have to say that I also have done well on a few occasions, by just letting the wind push the boat along & letting the lines out the side of the boat (also maintaining a sideways position with the trolling motor). One particular event comes to mind, from many many years ago, when my buddies and I were Crappie fishing at Douglas Lake in Tenn. Fish would not bite until exactly 8AM ... and you could almost set your watch by them. Once the day had wore on and the winds began kicking up, we decided to let the waves (well, actually whitecaps) push us to our next spot, which it happened to be conveniently blowing towards. This was back in the days of hook/sinker/minner fishing for me and my buds. We "tried" to buck the wind/waves and "slow troll" to our next spot, but that became a fruitless venture ... so we just cast our minners out and let the wind do its thing. Then I caught a Crappie, and we all joked about how hungry that fish must have been to chase that minner going as fast as we were going. Then another Crappie was caught, then another ... and we all realized it wasn't a fluke, but was actually a "pattern".

    Like Crestliner says ... our baits couldn't have been more than a foot or two below the surface, and likely moving at 2mph or better, and not the depth and speed one usually considers "normal" for Crappie fishing (especially not back in those days !!). But, hey .... it worked then, and would likely work again, given the same circumstances or conditions.
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    Great info!

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    That was an awesome educational read
    You can pour syrup on poop but that don't make it pancakes

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    Great write up,Thanks for posting

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crestliner08 View Post
    We mainly drift with 1/16 & 1/8 oz. jigs, depending on the wind velocity. Usually in the early morning, the breezes are light to calm, hence we tend toward lighter jigs. By mid-day the breezes can kick up to about 15 mph or more, with significant white caps on the main open waters. No problem – we keep drifting! Believe it or not, these light jigs, which you’d think are almost water skiing at times, will be voraciously attacked by crappie, bluegill, yellow & white perch, bass and trout. We’ve even caught pickerel this way over the 30’ depths with our jigs barely getting down two feet as we literally fly along!
    I've done the same thing with a lot of success for bluegill. (I've posted about it a few times in the bream forum).

    I usually use flies or a trout magnet. I have no idea why this method works, but the fish just SLAM the baits. A big gill will almost take the fly rod out of your hand.

    Very fun and relaxing way to fish!



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    This is how I learned crappie fishing fifty years ago on Guntersville as a kid. Drifting with minnows. Didn't know what a jig was in those days. Home lake is Smith now. Completely different kind of lake but has a few flats we use this procedure. I love it all when they are biting.

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    Letting the wind do the work is prettymuch common when fishing from a kayak.Side drifting comes natural in windy conditions,often I save the battery's by allowing the wind to kick my kayak sideways,and Long lining,many times I drift through a spot,motor back,and drift again and again as long as the fish are biting.

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    I know you is an old post but I use this method most of the time especially when fish flats and fish are scattered. I happen to like shorter poles, 5-6' poles. Flip the jig out and let it sink to the bottom and when the drift starts let out line until it is just above the bottom. I use this method in water up to 15 feet deep. When I get a few hits in a spot out goes the maker bout and I'll make repetitive drifts through the area. I'll adjust the size of the jig to coincide with the speed of the wind. The harder the wind blows the heavier jig is used.

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