They shoot docks, don't they? Crappie fishing made easy.
By Frank Sargeant, The Huntsville Times
on November 20, 2011 at 7:25 PM
Lee Pitts likes to shoot fish in a barrel.
Well, not exactly, but the amiable guide says that shooting docks in fall and winter comes very close.
"You know the fish are under there, and all you've got to do is get the lure to them," says Pitts as he fires a tiny, inch-long Bobby Garland jig 20 feet under a low-hung Neely Henry dock.
The little lure sinks a couple of feet, the 4-pound-test line jumps, and Pitts sets the hook on another fat crappie.
"A lot of people don't want to go through the trouble of getting down low and learning to make a good shot under a dock, and that leaves a lot of fish back under some of them that you can catch if you learn to do it," he advises.
The heart of the technique is making a "bow-and-arrow" cast with a little five-foot-long, light-action spinning rig.
Pitts opens the bail on his spinning reel, then takes the lure in his right hand, squeezed between thumb and forefinger with the hook carefully pointed outward. He then holds the line with his left forefinger and draws back on the lure until the rod bends almost double. He crouches low to the water, putting the rods tip almost under the surface, and lets the lure fly.
The spring of the rod sends it scooting along just inches above the surface, shooting up to 30 feet back under a dock that may be only 18 inches off the water.
"When you make a good shot, all you have to do is put the reel in gear, raise the rod a little and let the line just draw it out a little as it sinks--you'll get bit before it ever hits bottom," says Pitts--and proves it again by landing another fish.
He says he likes jigs in 1/24, 1/32 and 1/64th ounce weights, about an inch long, pale pearl with blue or green back.
"Sometimes I twitch the rod a little, but generally crappies like the lure moving slow and steady," he says. "Sometimes you can feel a little thump when they take, but sometimes the line just goes slack or moves sideways and you have to keep an eye on it and set the hook pretty quick."
Though there are plenty of crappies under the docks at Neely Henry and Weiss year around, he says best fishing is late January to the end of April, when the fish move to the shallows to spawn.
He also catches lots of fish at other seasons by fishing channel edges. Areas where water drops from 10 down to 14 often hold fish if there are stumps or trees on it, says Pitts. For this, he likes a 12 foot pole, 10 pound test line and an ounce weight, above which dangles a single size 6 hook with a Missouri minnow. The heavy weight allows him to maintain contact with bottom.
"For that kind of fishing you want to keep it vertical," says Pitts. "If you let it drag back of the boat, it snags but if you keep it going straight up and down by lifting and then dropping as the boat drifts, you rarely get hung up."
We also found some slabs on a single log projecting from a hump at one side of the channel. Water was about 10 to 12 feet deep and the fish were right against the log.
Lee's biggest ever crappie went 3 pounds 12 ounces. Four-pounders come from Weiss every year. Neely Henry doesn't produce so many giants, but has thousands of smaller panfish, Pitts said.
For more on crappie fishing, visit www.weisslakecrappieguidealabama.com.