Guide William Sasser said that crappie in Clarks Hill Lake must be huddling together for warmth, because lately, he has been loading coolers for his clients by targeting deep brush piles around the mouth of major tributaries. Even better news is that the overall size of the crappie he’s catching is better than what he normally gets during the spring spawn.

“I tell my clients I know they’re going to have a good day when we pull up on one of my brush piles and I can clearly see 200 crappie holding in the top of the tree,” said Sasser (706-589-5468). “Not every tree is like that, and it takes a little searching, but once we’re on it, we don’t have to move again.”

For Sasser, catching crappie throughout the winter is not nearly as tough as finding people who are willing to brave the cold to catch them. He plans his winter trips throughout the year by sinking brush piles in water up to 45 feet deep. Standing the trees on end, he typically finds crappie suspending right in the top of the tree at around 16 to 18 feet deep. To catch the fish, he first has to find the right tree.

“We will not fish a tree unless I can mark it on my graph and clearly make out good numbers of crappie,” he said. “I use a Lowrance unit with structure scan, so seeing fish is easy. The problem is that some trees hold none or very few crappie, and one or two trees will hold hundreds. Naturally, that means a lot of riding and looking before we ever wet a line.”

Once he’s found his spot, Sasser will approach the tree from downwind, motor over top of it, drop anchor and play out line until the boat settles directly over the tree.

“I don’t tie off until I feel the anchor line brush the tree,” he said. “Believe it or not, when we start dropping live medium minnows straight down on light spinning tackle, the rods closest to the anchor line get the most bites. I don’t know if the rope gets them stirred up or what, but after we get anchored, we start putting pound and pound-and-a-half crappie in the boat, one right after the other.”