What a difference a day can make.

The crappie had been in the buckbrush and ambushing jigs swam slowly past the cover. A late-season cold snap had dropped the water temperature, though, and neither swimming jigs nor suspending minnows under floats beside the same cover was producing more than a very occasional bite.

Thinking the fish could have backed off the flat because of the cold, we then tried working submerged brush in little deeper water but in the same part of the lake and probing some deadfalls on steep banks that offered cover down to about 15 feet. Both produced a couple of fish, but nothing that approached the kind of bite Jimmy Abernathy had enjoyed the previous few days.

“Let’s try those shallow fish one more time,” Abernathy said after testing several deep spots, knowing I only had about an hour more to fish.

Upon arriving in the buckbrush-surrounded cove, I grabbed my float rig, traded the minnow hook and split shot for a crappie jig and set the stopper about two feet deep. I cast near the brush, lit the jig sink and hang for a moment, and then started working it by jiggling the rod tip and pausing. While I was paused, the float suddenly darted under. No nibbles. It was just gone. I set the hook and soon was reeling in a crappie.

A couple of casts later the same approach produced the same result, so Abernathy rigged another rod the same way, and it wasn’t long before his rod was bent to the weight of a fish. From there, it was like we’d turned on the crappie switch, and I won’t deny that it wasn’t easy for me to leave them biting. He ran me back to the dock when I had to leave and then hurried back to the same cove to fish the final 45 minutes of daylight.

“I caught several more after you left, including a couple of big, really dark fish,” he later told me.

Float Presentations

Fishing a jig beneath a float is an excellent approach anytime you want to present a jig at a specific controlled depth but want to slow the presentation way down. You can sweep it or dance it in place and then leave it hanging enticingly in front of the fish.

My guess is when Abernathy and I cast straight jigs, even with slow retrieves, the offering moved through the zone a bit too quickly for the mood of the fish. Why they wouldn’t take live minnows under floats in the same spots, I’m not really sure. That’s just how crappie are. Some days they prefer a jig. Other days, a minnow.

We were using slip floats, which is generally my preference for that approach because I can cast the rig easily whether the fish are holding 2 feet or 6 feet beneath the surface, and it’s simple to adjust the depth by just sliding the stopper. Mine was a small Thill America’s Favorite Oval. His was a 1/16-ounce-rated Crappie Cork. I like an oval-shape or a Crappie Cork better than a pencil shape for this applications because it’s easier to jiggle the rod tip and make the jig dance without dragging the rig away from the cover.

Our jigs were 1 ½-inch curlytail grubs on 1/16-ounce heads. We were both using light rods, reels and line.

The basic approach is elementary. Cast, allow the offering sink and then work it with some combination of rod twitches and pauses. Keys to maximizing success are finding the right depth and figuring out the best amount of jig movement and the ideal cadence for presentations. Sometimes the fish respond to longer rod movements that drag the rig a bit and make them chase. On that day they wanted it barely jigging, basically dancing in place next to the cover.

Experiment, and keep watching you float. The fish will let you know how they want it.