Deep Water Summer Crappie

By Steve Welch
Most of you never even think about fishing for crappie unless it is spring. They have to eat like
any other fish and all you need for success is some basic knowledge about their needs.
Lake Shelbyville my home lake and the lake I am a full time guide on is really three different lakes
all wrapped up into one. The river system that feeds it, the north end above the Findley Bridge and the deep, clear south end. We use all of it to our advantage during the fishing season. In this article I am going to talk about the deep southern end.
When they made this lake back in the late sixties early seventies they just left standing timber anywhere that was going to be below the eventual water line. Some of these trees are just what we call pole timber and just don’t have many horizontal branches left. These are hard to figure out how deep to fish around them and without horizontal branches the fish don’t have as many places to hide. The deep coves on this lake have hundreds of thousands of these trees.
Since I upgraded my electronics to Lowrance HDS with down scan and side imaging I have found a whole new world out there and now I have found trees out on the main lake river channels that are still standing and have every branch they ever had still on them. You pass over them with down scan and they look like an oil painting of a tree. You can see every branch and the fish hiding within the tree. This allows me to use my three-part system that I talk about in my winter seminars.
Part one locate the river channels on the lake using my Navionics Mapping card in my HDS unit. Then I travel down them looking for any down tree or standing tree on my side-imaging unit. I am scanning about sixty feet out each side of the boat. That is far enough to find anything I am looking for. The further out you scan the smaller the object shows up on your screen. Every tree I locate that has good branches in the fifteen to twenty foot range I drop a waypoint on them. I don’t care if that tree is standing in forty feet of water and many times they are.
Part two I go back over my new waypoints and this time I have it switched to down scan. Once over these spots they look just like tree branches and within them you can see white dots. These are fish hiding within them. You can then freeze your screen and move your cursor down to the exact depth that these fish are holding and while you are doing it drop a marker buoy right on the spot that you intend to fish.
Part three you set up a slip bobber rig and a plain minnow at the exact depth the fish are suspended and cast over to your marker buoy. I like to keep the boat away from the marker because even twenty feet down the boat casts a shadow and spooks the fish.
My slip bobber rig is a little different than most. I spool my spinning reel with twenty pound Fireline Crystal then that goes to a barrel swivel with a 1/4oz. weight above it and a slip bobber big enough to hold everything up. Under the barrel swivel I have a leader tied on about a foot in length using fourteen-pound Fluorocarbon and a number four aberdeen light wire hook. I stay
with the number four because it bends easily and you don’t loose as many hooks that way. Above
the hook I use a small chartreuse or glow white bead.
Since the fluorocarbon has little stretch and the braid has none once we get hung up we simply give the rod a quick snap from slightly slack line and the hook straightens about ninety percent of the time. Clients love this system and believe me we use it a bunch during the day. You have to be in the thick wooded branches to catch fish.
This system really kicks in about mid July once the water temps get warm enough to give us a pronounced thermocline. We fish like this until October and we start cooling down. Last year I boated a three man forty-five fish limit about ninety percent of my guide trips all summer long.
The action is very good since we routinely catch about a hundred crappie a day trying to get a
good-looking limit.
Anyone wanting to get in on this tremendous summer crappie fishing just give my guide service a buzz at WWW.LakeShelbyvilleGuide.Com or 217-762-7257. All my available openings are listed as is my on-line store and my new Illinois Fish Talk forum that folks have been raging about. Feel free to become a member as we already have about four hundred.
My on-line store has been a great success. My wife, my buddy Dick Beal's and I stay hard at work hand making the Candy stripers that most folks use for white bass and walleye on the lake. My Deep Ledge Jigs are in everyone’s tackle box. They are the best-made jigs I have seen anywhere. They have a large aspirin shaped head with inset eyes that have prism eyes and four coats of rock hard epoxy paint with a clear coat over the top to make sure the eyes won’t come off. All of these are hand painted with a sable brush. So far we have sold close to a hundred thousand in the last year alone and get tons of testimonials about how good they work. Same thing with the Candy stripers. I have one tied on my rod all summer when I am looking for whites in any depth.