Advanced Seasonal Structure: Deep Summer Structure

By Tim Huffman

            It’s hot. Crappie have had a few months of hot weather and hot water especially in the southern half of the country. The northern half gets warm but has better conditions for both the fish and fisherman. No matter what part of the country a crappie lives, there are tactics and spots where they can be caught. Electronics is the key to all of these spots.

Electronics are primary tools when searching underwater structure. Dannenmueller uses his Garmin unit to look for just the right spot along a ledge.

Electronics are primary tools when searching underwater structure. Dannenmueller uses his Garmin unit to look for just the right spot along a ledge.

Shaded Channel Ledges

            “This morning we are targeting ledges,” says Dan Dannenmueller. He is CrappieNow Publisher and is a regular on the Crappie Master Tournament Trail with partner Garrett Steele. “It’s important to pay attention to the sun especially in the summer.”

The results of finding the right structure, cover and fish.

The results of finding the right structure, cover and fish.

Dannenmueller explained that it took him many trips over the years to figure out the pattern the crappie were using in the summer on his home waters, the Alabama River. Fishing is a matter of experienced mixed with paying attention to details. He says the pattern is really simple once a fisherman understands what the fish are doing.

            “We would fish these channels, like we are doing today, and would catch fish in the morning but they would quit in the middle of the day and we had trouble getting back on them. What we figured out was that shade is a key factor. The good channel ledge in the morning was shaded on the drop-off. Crappie would get there and actively feed. But by 10:00 in mid-morning they would quit. We fished deeper and shallower but could not find active fish.

            “A couple of trips we started moving across the channel when the fish quit biting. Provided the opposite side drop was shaded, the crappie would be there and be active. So we learned it by accident but once it happened we studied to learn what was happening . Of course once we figured it out it seemed very simple. And, it’s something that should apply to any body of water you fish.

After finding the spot, spider rigging allows numbers of baits to be pushing into the ledge or cover. Dannenmueller and partner Garrett Steele concentration on the locator and pole tips.

After finding the spot, spider rigging allows numbers of baits to be pushing into the ledge or cover. Dannenmueller and partner Garrett Steele concentration on the locator and pole tips.

Three Steps to Ledge Success

            The first step is to use your mapping to find channels and ledges. Hard copy maps work fine. Electronic mapping is easier if you have it. One a channel is found it’s time to fine-tune the search.

            “Electronics is a key to almost any kind of fishing,” says Dannenmueller, “especially when fishing underwater drops and ledges. The first thing is to find the channels using mapping and then use sonar to pinpoint them. Once found, zooming and down viewing screens can help detail a spot to know if fish are there and how they are relating to the structure.

            Step two is looking for specific depths. In our example, also, we were targeting shaded drops. The shaded side will be obvious because of the position of the sun. Finding the right depths might require some searching and looking. Once the rights depths are found it’s time for step number three.

Johnson Fishing

            Step three is looking for specific cover. “An ideal cover along a ledge is a big stump with roots on it. The large, dominate fish often claim that prime spot. If you can get a bait to the fish without getting hung up there is an excellent chance you’ll catch it. I love bumping the baits against the cover and leave them setting there.”

More Ledge Stuff

            Dannenmueller says a creek channel with turns and bends are ideal. “The fish just love these changes in a channel. When you have the changes you will also shade and probably plenty of cover. Everything you need.”

            He says it’s important for a weekend fisherman to know that this is a tactic that anyone can do. Basic equipment and a basic sonar unit will do the job. The key is to follow the proper steps and take time to know exactly where you need to fish before wetting a hook. It’s easier to search when hooks are out of the water.

            Serious fishermen, guides and tournament fishermen are going to have more advanced electronics. The primary purpose of the higher priced units is to find fish quickly. There is less time wasted searching so more time is spent fishing.

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            “I use Garmin for several reasons but primarily because they are on the cutting edge of technology so I have the opportunity to have the best tools available for my fishing. The detail and resolution are second to none. It’s a professional tool for serious fishermen.

            “In our fishing along the ledge, Down Vu adds great detail where we can see everything down there including the fish. We can actually count the fish and get a good feel of their size. A newer option called PanOptixs gives us a real-time look at movement and activity. It can be a game-changer especially for spider rig fishermen.

            Another key element in late summer can be schools of shad. When all the elements of a good ledge are in place, the addition of ample baitfish can turn a good spot into a great spot.

            “The schools of shad are important because crappie will be around them. They go after the bait. Some fish will follow the schools while others will stay in place, like on the ledge, and then ramp up their feeding when the bait comes in.”

            Dannemueller says he is spider rigging this time of year because of bait control and multiple baits in the water. 8 to 15 feet is normal on the ledges to find the crappie, but they may move deeper or shallower depending upon conditions.

            His rigs consist of minnows, jigs and combinations. Often, it’s a straight minnow hook on top, a sinker in between and a Road Runner head with a Bobby Garland Swim’R body on bottom, tipped with a minnow. The bottom bait adds flash, color and natural action. Once a trend is found, baits will be geared to the best color and size bait.

            “One last thing is the thermocline. It trumps all other conditions because fish will be above the thermocline no matter what. So if the thermocline is at 12 feet all the fish will be above that depth. Also note that some moving waters won’t have a thermocline to worry about.”

Mentioned in Article:

Road Runner   www.ttiblakemore.com

Swim’R           www.bobbygarlandcrappie.com

Garmin            www.garmin.com

Dannenmueller/Steele  facebook Crappie Country