Advanced Seasonal Structure: Stumps at 20’
by Tim Huffman
The depth of winter crappie may be 15, 20, 30, 50 or deeper. The purpose of discussing 20-foot deep stumps is to combine active crappie with an easy-to-fish depth. The crappie holding to stumps in 40 feet of water are more difficult to fish than the ones at 20 feet. Without a doubt, not all waters will have November crappie at 20 feet, but when it does, you have a great opportunity of fast action and fun fishing.
What is easy fishing? Everything is relative. Crappie in the 20-foot range are not too spooky so you can likely get close without scaring them. The easy part is primarily bait presentation. It takes less weight and effort to get a minnow or jig down to 20 feet while maintaining control than when putting baits down to 35 feet. Whether using vertical presentations or casting, getting baits to the fish is usually not a problem.
Most expert fishermen will say, “Nothing improves a fisherman’s success more than buying good electronics and learning to use it.”
A decent graph is needed for November fishing 20-foot water. Companies and pro fishermen may say you need one of the very high-dollar units, but today’s electronics are so good a modest-priced unit with sonar, GPS and electronic mapping will do the job. The sonar is for looking at depths, cover, contours and fish. The GPS is for marking spots so you can return to them quickly on your next trip. The electronic mapping is important for navigation safety and for finding channels, flats, drops and other structure features. One additional feature will add to your success by reducing search times, that option is Side Imaging or Side View.
Using a map, idle along ledges in the 20-foot range (18-22 feet) while looking for stumps, logs and brushpiles. Deep stumps are often present even in the older lakes. If not, look for other wood cover that has floated in or been placed by fishermen. Toss a marker buoy or make waypoint on your graph..
Jigging and spider rigging will catch fish this time of year. Multiple poles certainly improves the odds of success. However, a simpler method can work, too.
Casting is possible when working the 20 foot range. Fish may be on bottom or suspended at the top of the stumps so bites may be from 14 to 20 feet. Vertical presentations have made casting almost an extinct choice, but it is fun, easier to set up than multi-pole fishing and returns a fishermen to the basics. Casting is great for hopping spot to spot.
A known crappie-holding stump or set of stumps is best fished from an anchored boat. Fishermen who have a trolling motor with spot-lock can use that feature. The key is to remain stable so casts can be pinpointed. After a couple crappie are caught, returning a cast to the same place can be the difference between catching or just fishing. Active crappie are known to hold in a spot the size of a bucket and baits must be presented to the spot to catch them.
Baits for November casting should include plastics with a little action. A Kalin’s Triple Threat, Bobby Garland Swim’R and Charlie Brewer Slider Grub are examples of typical casting plastics. Crappie may prefer a bait with less action or one with more action, like the Garland Stroll’R. A 1/16-ounce head gives a slow fall but will still get to the strike zone. Wind or bouncing bottom might call for a heavier 1/8-ounce head. In general, the lighter the better so you can keep it slow without it sinking too rapidly. Testing different weights and bodies is always a good idea until you learn which ones the fish prefer.
Flash is often best in warmer water, but it’s never a bad idea to try a Road Runner with a gold willow leaf blade. The added attraction might be what the fish want on a particular day.
Factors for Casting 20’ Stumps
Strong Cold Front: Not a big problem in November, plus the fish are deeper making them less susceptible to the pressure changes. The best tip for slugging fish is to downsize and slow your presentation. This might be the best time to tip with a tiny minnow.
Clouds/Rain: Not a problem for the fish. Light penetration will be less so darker baits will work best. Rain in cold November can be terribly uncomfortable for the fisherman.
Sun: Look for light penetration to put some fish tight to cover while others might move up and suspend over the cover, depending upon their mood. A wildcard is to check very shallow water in the afternoon where sun is bright and warming the water.
Wind: A light wind and ripple is good for making fish less spooky. Too much wind makes boat control a problem. Casting is difficult in the wind so vertical presentations are best.
Current: The stronger the current the more important it is to find other location with less current.
Fishing Pressure: Pressure isn’t terrible like in the spring but more and more fishermen have learned about the good fall and early winter fishing so you may not have the lake to yourself.