Fish Bass Baits for Cold-Weather Crappie
What Kind of Tackle Works – Jigging Spoons with Charlie Ingram
Editor’s Note: Forget those jigs and minnows to crappie fish this month. You can catch more and bigger crappie when you bass fish for crappie in cold months than when you usetraditional methods. Yes, you can catch and release 100 crappie per day using jigs and minnows, but you won’t catch slab-sized crappie. I took my first course in bass fishing for crappie when I fished with Charlie Ingram of Eufaula, Alabama, a bass-fishing guide who explained, “Like many other dedicated bass anglers, I fish for bass in cold weather in brush piles, standing timber, river ledges and creek channels.”
Several years ago, Charlie Ingram noticed he also caught plenty of crappie in the cold. “When I did catch a bass on the spoon, generally a 3/4-ounce Hopkins jigging spoon, it would weigh from 4 to 8 pounds,” Ingram says. “Too, I took numbers of crappie on my jigging spoon where I found schools of crappie in the standing timber.” Ingram realized that as his transformation from wintertime bass angler to a cold-weather crappie fisherman took place,he caught some of his biggest crappie ever. He developed a technique of crappie fishing that paid off in slab dividends inthe cold, besides sometimes catching bass, hybrid striped bass, white bass and catfish. Ingram would have bass in his front live well to show his buddies. Then he’d release the bass at the boat dock to return to their favorite haunts in the lake to fight another day and pull his boat out of the water to go home, never telling anyone about the 50-crappie limit in his back livewell that he would clean for his family to eat. “That’s what I enjoy about winter fishing – catching crappie,” Ingram reports. “I can catch bass and release them, but I also can catch crappie and take them home to eat.” Let’s take a look at Ingram’s wintertime slab strategies.
Ingram fishes with a 3/4-ounce Hopkins jigging spoon in cool weather for several reasons. “A heavy spoon will drop straight down to the crappie, won’t be carried by the current and will get down faster than either a minnow or a jig. Too, I can feel the spoon going down and my moving it up and down.” Ingram also likes the heavy spoon because most of the time, he fishes right in the thickest part of the cover or over and through treetops. If the hooks of the heavy spoon get hung up in the wood, he simply shakes the spoon and dislodges the hooks from the trees. “However, before I put a jigging spoon in the water, I gently pass a file over the tips of the hooks to dull the points to keep the hooks from sticking in every limb, twig and brush that spoon touches,” Ingram explains.
Ingram also dulls the hooks since a sharp, big hook will cut a large hole in the paper-like mouth of a crappie, and with any slack in the line, the hooks will fall out of its mouth. “I catch quite a few bass when I crappie fish, although everyone knows a dull hook will cause you to miss many bass,” Ingram comments. “However, when the bass strikes the jigging spoon, it actually swallows the spoon. So, I lip hook very few bass when I’m fishing this jigging spoon in the wintertime.”
Ingram uses 14-pound-test Stren Line and an Abu Garcia bait-casting rod and reel, the same tackle he utilizes for bass fishing to catch crappie and also land any other fish that takes his bait in cold weather. Other tackle that’s critical for successful wintertime crappie fishing includes his depth finder and trolling motor. The depth finder enables him to see the fish and/or the cover where the fish concentrate. Usually the crappie will hold tight to the cover. If you don’t bounce the spoon off their noses, you probably won’t catch the fish. Realize too that the crappie will move, and you must be able to travel with them by utilizing your trolling motor.
Tomorrow: Where Charlie Ingram Finds Cool-Weather Crappie