by Tim Huffman
Edges are great for catching crappie. It’s no secret that the fish are edge oriented. An edge can be a dock, sun-shade edge, a line of trees or an underwater ledge. Edges are an important part of forming a pattern.
Try standing for a while in a 30 mile-per-hour wind. You’ll eventually take refuge. The same it true for a crappie in current. It will move tight behind cover or leave the area for a calmer place with less current.
Where’s the refuge in a river with current flowing? Behind a dam it could be a wing wall or wind dam. Further down river it can be a backout, big cut in the bank, or an area protected with cover. A big laydown is a good example of a cover break.
A key spot to look for is a long mud or sand bar. On the end and backside of the bar will be current breaks. Reverse current, eddies and still water are common. Where you find these you’ll also find the crappie. Find wood cover in the slack water and you’ll likely find a gold mine of crappie.
If you are in current let it work in your favor. For example, current probably means you fish the backside of stumps or trees and not waste time putting your jig in the current.
Note that current doesn’t just happen when the dam gates are open or there are heavy rains. Wind causes current especially when fishing shallower cover. Treat wind current similar to regular water current.
Timber provides a vertical edge. A fallen tree provides a big horizontal cover edge. Leaning timber provides an angled edge. They are at different angles but each can be a dynamite spot.
A standing tree in 15 feet of water gives crappie an edge to roam up and down in the water column without leaving the safety of the tree. The fish might be at 3 feet or down at the bottom at 15 feet.
Jigging tactics vary among fishermen but a typical outfit includes a 10 to 12-foot pole, 8 pound test line and a 1/16-ounce jig. Pole length, line size and type jig can be adjusted depending upon water clarity, thickness of cover and depths being fished.
One of the best jig fishermen I’ve been with is Louie Mansfield. He says, “I’m a firm believer I always do better with a slow presentation. After letting the jig rest in a spot, I dip the jig instead of jigging it up. That seems to work best for me.”
Mansfield also says that being quiet in the boat is more critical than most fishermen believe. “You’ll still catch the small and medium sized fish, but the big ones are smarter and won’t bite if they know you are there.”
His last tip is to fish against the wind because boat control and position are both critical.
A totally different edge the is outside edge of a tree or stump line. The cover may be fished by vertical jigging along the trees but might also be fished by slow or fast trolling just outside the main cover.
Deep Weed Edges
Clear lakes have weeds that offer good holding locations. The pockets and outside edges of the weeds are great places to find crappie. Crappie can be deep inside the weeds but are much more likely to be on the edges. Slow trolling, casting and casting a slip-float are good tactics. Once the strike zone is found, the best method can be selected so baits can be concentrated to the high-percentage spots.
Truman Lake fishermen know the importance of a good fence row. The rows were left when the lake was built and provide a long edge for crappie to use as a holding or travel structure. The rows are excellent because they provide both horizontal and vertical edges.
Vertical jigging dominate so baits can be placed up and down, or sometimes pitched, and worked at different depths with a minimum of hang-ups.
Most fishermen don’t think of shade as an edge. However, snags, bridge pilings, and docks are all shade producing structures. Sometimes a crappie will hold behind a snag on the shady side; or along a dock within the shade next to sunny water. Whether it’s for concealment or for comfort due to their big eyes, crappie love shade. It’s simple and quick to check to see if active fish are present in a shady spot.
A drop-off creates an edge. It’s a perfect place to catch crappie. Today’s electronics makes ledge fishing much simpler than in previous decades. Almost any technique works when fishing a ledge dotted with cover. Getting a bait to the fish in the cover is the key.
Ledges are also good when pulling crankbaits. Crappie will sometimes hug a ledge but other times they simply use it for a reference. They’ll often suspend directly up over the top. I’m guessing that a nearby edge gives them a good reference for their position and it’s a known structure where schools of baitfish like to roam.
Edges are wherever you find them. It can be a mud to clear water line, mud bank intersecting riprap, or a typical ledge. More fish can be brought to the boat by taking note of obvious and subtle edges.