Ledge Fishing, The Key During Winter
by Steve Welch
Way back when I started to really get the hang of this crappie thing. I would just mark off a ledge and drag a jig right on bottom. I start by dropping buoys on top of a ledge some hundred feet apart and then I slowly walk a jig up and down this ledge always looking for brush so I could hover and get more than one fish. If we caught any good fish we would mark the GPS way point and then return to it later. You need to pick a depth and work that part of the ledge. For me at Shelbyville it is about fourteen-foot, but at Kentucky Lake it can be twenty-five or even thirty. People ask me all the time what is my favorite time to fish and they would think the spawn during the spring would be my answer but oh no it is the winter. Fish are bunched up on the ledges and you can hit the mother load. Big fish and plenty of them.
I recently had an experience on Kentucky Lake where I did hit the mother load. A buddy of mine threw out and got a fourteen and a third just as soon as we pulled up, before I had quite got the brush on my depth finder. I looked down and it was full of fish with the depth reading about twenty-eight foot topping out at about twenty-two. I tossed my jig out with about twenty-foot of line and as soon as it swung under the rod I felt a hard hit and I informed him that his fish wouldn't hold up as big fish for the day. I hooked a dandy fourteen -inch black crappie not quite big enough to take the big fish honor so then I threw out again and once again, boom another hard smack and a thirteen-inch fat fish, then another and another thirteen-inch and yet another. Then my reel actually let drag out on this next strike and I knew I had him this time. Up to the surface came a dandy fat fifteen-inch fish. All total just out of that brush pile in less than ten minutes we got seven thirteen-inch, two fourteen-inch, one fifteen-inch. I love Paris Landing
in the winter.
We caught several really good fish dragging jigs between brush piles and this is the time
of the year that I enjoy going down there because all the good fish are on the drops. On this particular trip we landed about ninety legal sized crappie with about half being over eleven and half of those being over thirteen with some fourteen-inch fish and one fifteen-inch fish. Not to mention some nice bass. Not bad for just a couple of days of December fishing.
Tackle that I use to do this is a stout medium heavy seven-foot spinning outfit and quality reel spooled with twenty pound Power-Pro. Which is a braided line with only six-pound diameter. Reason for such heavy braid is that I can straighten the hook and with the braid I can feel the bottom much better. With the stout rod I can just snap it when I am hung and it will free the jig. We use quarter ounce jigs and larger tubes made by Mid-South. They are two and a half inches long. The fish need to see the bait and I am not hunting for small fish so this is why I up size.
Most wouldn't venture from the warmth of their living room to cash in on this winter crappie fishing but if you dress for it and carry along a heater for your hands it isn't too bad. I rarely see any other boats. Down on Kentucky Lake at Paris landing where I go there are so many bird hunters that you have all the ledges to yourself.
Both Lake Shelbyville and Kentucky Lake are winter homes of mine and I can fill the freezer with huge crappie. If you want to learn more about how I do this then come on out and see me at the upcoming sport shows. I will  be at the Let's Go Fishing Show in Collinsville then at the Midstate Fish & Feather Expo in Bloomington and then at the Central Illinois Boating & Fishing Show in East Peoria.
Fishing Report 12-1 through 12-15
The lake is just slightly above summer pool and water temps are bouncing around 38 and clear to slightly stained. The fish are still in the ten to eighteen foot ranges on drops or brush. They are still biting very well and very few would think so but this is my best time of the year to get a Shelbyville pig. I am averaging a hundred total fish a day and you need to get that many to get three good limits of fish over ten inches. I am using primarily red and chartreuse glow or yellow and chartreuse glow or just plain chartreuse glow. All on eighth ounce jigs. They will start to drop the lake on the 15th and that will just kill our bite for a couple of weeks so get out there while you still can. Cause they are biting.
The lake is very clear and the fish are deep. I haven't been up there in a while but my sources have told me they have slowed down. They aren't fishermen that would try very deep though so try your deeper coves like Jungle and Rt.10. I am using a lot of 14-18 at Shelbyville just because the boat pressure has hammered those fish in the ten-foot range. Reduce your line size to four and stay with smaller jigs. White and chartreuse is a good color on this lake.