Shoot Your Way To Catching More Crappies

Shooting a tiny jig to the far recesses under a dock is the best way to load up on slabs once autumn arrives. Here’s how “Mr. Crappie” does it.

Colin Moore

Shoot Your Way To Catching More Crappies

Some of the biggest crappies of the year are caught in the fall, when they’re fattening up on young-of-the-year baitfish such as shad.

Crappie fishing is often associated with open water, cane poles, live minnows and brush piles, but by the time autumn arrives the popular panfish have switched their preferences to shorelines, shady docks and small jigs. The main reason is that young-of-the-year baitfish and sunfish use docks for cover, especially those whose owners have deposited brush piles and other fish-holding attractors under them.

Getting to the crappies that forage around docks isn’t a matter of simply using a pole with a minnow for bait. For one thing, crappies usually hold in the hard-to-reach dark spots where only precise casts with small, bite-size jigs will entice strikes.

Texas crappie specialist Wally Marshall or “Mister Crappie”  as he’s known in the crappie-fishing world, has made a science out of enticing crappies from underneath docks and employs a fishing method called “shooting” to reach them. Basically, “shooting a dock” means using an underhanded bow-and-arrow cast to send a tiny jig into a crappie’s lair from up to 30 feet away.

Crappie-Fishing Tips To Live By

1. Fish Into Cover: On shady days, crappie will be above cover or shallow in the water under cover such as docks. On sunny days, it’s just the opposite. If you’re trolling over brush on a sunny day, you’re not going to catch much until you stop and fish down in the cover.

2. Go Small: The most important thing about being a crappie angler is downsizing jigs from 1/16- to 1/32-ounce and slowing down presentations when the water temperature is below 57 degrees. Crappies don’t move as fast, and they don’t eat as much.

3. Get Reading: Learn how to read side-scanning sonar and understand what you’re looking at under docks. When you catch a fish, stop at some point and see what the fish look like on the screen of your sonar. Crappies tend to stack up in sort of Christmas tree-shaped school.

4. Use Your Hands: When you shoot a jig under a dock or other cover, always close the bail with your free hand. Don’t use the handle to close the bail because it will throw a loop in the line and it will eventually snarl on the spool.

5. Jig Up: Crappies might rise in the water to take a bait, but seldom will descend to feed. It’s best to keep a jig up in the water column rather than bouncing it along the bottom.

“Anybody can cast a jig in open water and wind it back in, but most of the crappies you’re fishing for have already been caught by somebody else,” Marshall says. “The fish that are hard to get to aren’t easy pickings, but if you can put a jig in front of them, you’ll catch them.”

It’s best to use a monofilament or fluorocarbon line that is bright enough to be seen in the shade of a dock. If you see the line hop or move off to the side, set the hook.


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