Advanced Seasonal Structure: Man Made Beds
By Tim Huffman
Placing cover for crappie is nothing new. Stake bed, crappie condo, crappie bed, brushpile, structure and cover are a few of the names fishermen use for these beds. Professional guides, tournament fishermen and serious recreational fishermen have long used the beds to enhance fishing.
The key purpose for manmade beds is to position crappie where they are easier to catch. It might include putting a bed where other cover doesn’t exist. Or, by placing it in areas where there are different types of cover like trees and snags providing something different for the crappie.
Unfortunately, there are no 100-percent rules that guarantee success. Where they are placed is the key to success but spots that should be excellent may not work and oddball spots that shouldn’t work do work. The following are a few tips and guidelines from experts I’ve interviewed, but each one will tell you that placing cover is not a science with some beds being great producers and others not.
Lakes and rivers have laws pertaining to beds. Some are liberal while others are very restrictive and requiring permits. Some waters allow no structure at all to be placed. The first thing is to learn the laws pertaining to placing cover and the type covers allowed.
Bed material has four primary factors to consider. One is cost. Two is availability and work required to place. Three is longevity of the bed. And four is fishability, or ease of fishing.
Cost can be from very inexpensive by using small trees and large limbs from the bank areas. The added advantage is that the wood will often be near where you want it placed. The primary tools will be wire, concrete blocks or other weight, saw and a strong back.
Cost on the opposite end of the scale is a manufactured PVC bed. These can be very expensive but provide a permanent structure and are very safe and easy to place. Many fishermen build their own PVC condos with pipe, a bucket and quickset concrete.
Availability is important. Having access to scrap plastic pipe, wood or other material can save hundreds of dollars in costs. Also, wood from the bank is free but sometimes prohibited so the brush may not be available at all. Each type of cover requires some work. The plastic is easiest to assemble and drop. Small trees and large limbs can be awkward and heavy making them a dangerous on the water. Driven stake beds are labor intensive with a few tools and a lot of work involved. Dropping a pallet-style stake bed is very popular but again, requires work to drop. Safety should always be a primary consideration when dropping cover.
The longevity of beds is very important because of the work involved to place them. Brent Frazee’s article on Christmas Trees discusses the short life of evergreens. Softwoods do not last as long as hardwoods so that should be a major choice when building. PVC beds will last forever providing currents or floating logs don’t take them out.
Fishability of cover is important. The beauty of both plastic beds and vertical wooden stakebeds is fewer hang-ups. That’s good for the fisherman but very important if taking a kid or inexperienced fisherman. Brushpiles are a top pick for success but placing them can be difficult and getting a bait down deep in them requires a vertical presentation.
Where to Place
The million-dollar question is “where”?
The bottom line is that you can pick a high-percentage spot but only time will prove if it will hold crappie, how many and what size.
No matter which type bed you use, pick a spot to place the bed ahead of time. For example, you might pick a point where you’ve caught fish but there is little cover there. Use your GPS or use visual landmarks to triangulate the spot.
Carry your bed to the spot and position the boat where correctly. Tossing a marker buoy is good to ensure you’ll get the exact spot triangulated and GPS marked for dropping and returning.
The following are tips from experts on picking a spot.
(1) Put beds in areas where you have caught fish. Putting them in areas where there are no fish, seldom lures them in.
(2) It’s okay to put beds where there is other cover. Truman Lake experts often put beds between trees, stumps and along tree edge lines. Fish will usually be on one or the other.
Another trick is to put cover a boat length away from a group of trees. It’s unlikely that fishermen concentrating on the trees will notice the stakebed.
(3) The more stakes or beds, the more fish it will hold. However, the larger the bed, the more likely you’ll have more fishermen using it.
(4) The more beds you have, the more spots you have to fish.
(5) When placing cover, put them at different locations where you can have a windbreak no matter which direction the wind is blowing.
(6) Vertical stakes are easiest to fish and are best in shallow water. However, deep beds with horizontal pieces are usually good.
(7) What you use isn’t as important as getting it out and putting it in a good spot. Anything, a chair or car fender, dropped into the water will hold fish if it’s in the right spot. (I was making a point, not suggesting you throw chairs in the lake.)
(8) Bed depth will often determine which seasons it will produce. For example, a bed in ten feet of water will likely be good in spring and fall. A bed at 20 feet is likely a summer and winter spot.
(9) Don’t forget flats. Mid-depth flats can be excellent fishing and prime spots for beds.
Along with follow the laws, be sure to place beds where they won’t be a danger to boaters and skiers. If the lake is drawn down each year during the winter, make sure your beds will still be underwater during a drawdown.
Keeping beds a secret is impossible. Today’s electronics are too good. Even if other fishermen don’t see you fishing it, some will find the beds with electronics.
Stake beds are a good choice. Stakes can be driven but more likely they’ll be made on a pallet and hauled to the drop spot. Stake height can be adjusted with depth, with deeper beds getting the longer stakes. The width between stakes is debated but 8 to 12 inch gaps are common. The overall size of beds varies, too. A pallet size is normal. However, many good fishermen prefer beds 2.5 to 3 feet wide because they are easier to carry in the boat and less likely to be found by other fishermen. If a big bed is preferred, several beds can be placed together. Smaller beds are often made by sticking stakes into a five-gallon bucket and adding concrete.