Outdoors column: Tips to land those mid-winter slabs

Crappie fishing has been good from the word go on a lot of lakes and right now is as good a time as any to check it out.

Crappies usually play nice and if you can find them you can catch them and that is why so many anglers target them during the hard water period.

Danny Erickson of Stanchfield used the tiniest of lures to nail this big slab.
Danny Erickson of Stanchfield used the tiniest of lures to nail this big slab. Submitted photo

If they’re going to bite then finding them has to be the key and location isn’t all that tough.

For the most part deeper water is where a good deal of the action takes place.

A deeper flat or basin area next to a shallow shelf is a starting spot, so is a deeper hole in the middle of a shallower flat.

A break line or drop off next to deep water is another potential hot spot, but the action might be restricted to lowlight periods and even well after dark.

Whatever the case, you should be prepared to move at least a short distance one way or another to try and get on the fish. It can mean plenty of moves and lots of holes drilled to get it done.

The thing is if you’re on the fish you can easily see them on a depth finder like the Humminbird Ice 55.

If there are enough crappies in the neighborhood they’ll show up as several thicker red lines stacked up on top of each other and can run from close to the bottom to five or 10 feet or more off. A single mark can be a crappie, but it’s the clusters or numbers that will hold the most biters.

When there are more there is competition whereby the most aggressive try to inhale a bait before another fish beats him to it. Competition is definitely a good thing and a real key to the hottest action.

Teeny tiny jigs tipped with plastic bodies are top crappie getters like the Fiskas Tungsten jighead tipped with a little Atom Micro Nuggie or the standard crappie minnow.

Tungsten is heavier than lead and allows for smaller baits that sink faster and provide better feel. Technique is extremely important if you hope to get your share of the slab fest and one of the big keys is keeping the amount of action you impart to the bait to a bare minimum. Light little twitches of the rod tip is about all you need to get their attention and all that’s required. Too much commotion and you’re going to spook fish and spooked fish simply won’t bite. See you on the ice.

Ron Anlauf is a contributing writer to the Outdoors page.