By now the hot early ice walleye bite has passed on many lakes and many ice anglers are looking for some biting fish.
One bite that is often good this time of the year is a deep-water basin bite for crappies.
Mid-winter crappies roam deep basins searching for food. Lots of the basin areas I fish are in the 20-to-30-foot depth ranges, some of the deepest water available in my favorite lakes. Other lakes, however, have deeper basins where crappies can be found.
While winter crappies do roam, they often stay in the same general basin areas. Anglers can often return to productive areas they found on prior trips, or in prior winters, and then drill holes to pinpoint the school.
Here is where having a good ice auger is important. The new K-Drill auger has taken the ice fishing world by storm recently as it is powered by a cordless electric drill, so with a charged battery it always starts. Plus, it is super lightweight and drills holes quickly, two key ingredients when searching the basin for crappies.
A good ice auger is important to crappie success, as is the use of a flasher sonar unit. Sonar allows anglers to see bottom, bait, and any fish approaching it. This is especially important when fishing crappies as these fish are notorious for suspending in the water column and coming through at various depths. Being able to see fish on sonar allows for quick bait adjustments to keep your offering at the fish’s level.
I have been using the new FLX-20 Vexilar flasher with excellent success this winter, as it has all the features I need, is easy to use and does a great job of showing crappies and my baits.
Finding basins holding fish and seeing them on sonar are two critical components to crappie success. The final component is bait presentations. Small jigging spoons tipped with waxworms or minnow heads are standard fare for catching winter slabs.
The past couple years, however, my crappie catches have gone up significantly by fishing small tungsten jigs tipped with plastics. In fact, plastics on jigs presented with a subtle quivering action have been downright deadly for me.
I rig an Impulse Bro’s Bloodworm on a small 1/28-ounce tungsten Mitee Mouse Jig and fish this combination at or just above the level the crappies appear. Denser than lead, tungsten-made baits are small in profile, yet they fish heavy. That is very important when several crappies come through, one is caught, and I quickly want to get back down to the school to catch more.
Various jig and plastic colors will work. My best success has come using white and pink color combinations.
Light line spooled on an ultra-light rod and reel combination completes my basin crappie set-up. I spool my winter crappie rods and reels with 3-pound Floroice as this is a fluorocarbon-coated line that resists freezing and stays limp and manageable even in the coldest conditions.
Head to the basin of your favorite lake and employ the tips suggested and you can probably get in on the mid-winter crappie fun. As always, good luck on the ice and remember to include a youngster in your next outdoors adventure!