March and crappie fishing go together like peas and carrots, but while many anglers fish for crappie, far fewer consider chasing the popular panfish from a paddleboat.
Across the Carolinas, you will find March crappie moving from late-winter staging areas into tributary creeks and even to spawning grounds; the spawn usually starts the last week of the month.
What better way to creep and crawl around logs, stumps and between boat docks than from a small, extremely maneuverable kayak?
A popular tactic for tracking crappie movements during late February and early March is by trolling, sometimes called long-line trolling — not to be confused with slow, vertical trolling, aka spider-rigging. While most anglers believe trolling requires the use of an trolling motor, a paddle- or foot pedal-driven boat achieves the same results.
Trolling with multiple rods means rod holders will be a necessity, and the gear tracks and mounting balls and brackets available in the after-market kayak world provide numerous choices.
Anglers who prefer to troll or drift from the front of the yak can do so by installing a rack to hold rods out in front.
Once crappie begin committing to the shallows, kayaks are one of the best ways to get into wood-choked, backwater areas with a single pole and jig every fishy looking spot. These areas are often protected from current and wind, so boat positioning is simple. Use a hand paddle to scull between spots and an 8- to 11- foot jig pole to reach out and dangle a jig on 3 or 4 foot of line.
Another area where plastic boats outshine even the tried and true john boat is around boat docks. The plastic makeup of the kayak makes for a quieter presentation and is much more maneuverable.
Shooting docks, the practice of using a flexible, light-action rod to sling-shot jigs into the recesses deep beneath a pier or dock goes hand in hand with kayak fishing, as the angler is as low to the water as possible without wearing swim trunks.
Shooting refers to holding in one hand the bait, a small crappie jig, while holding the line tight to the spool of a spinning reel with the other.
Bend the rod over and hold the jig between your thumb and fore finger under the reel. Release the jig and simultaneously release the line, which sling-shots the bait forward, parallel to the water, causing it to skip up under the platform or whatever you’re shooting at.
Make sure to work the boat dock from all angles. Crappie won’t take long to show their presence, so once a dock has been shot, quickly paddle on to the next one and starting shooting it.
Starks’ best day
What was scheduled as a bass-fishing, meet-and-fish outing on South Carolina’s Lake Russell in March 2015 turned into a kayak perch-jerking outing for several members of the Upstate SC Kayak Fishing Club, including Bryan Starks from Simpsonville who landed a nearly 3½-pound crappie.
“The morning was rainy and had turned off cold but several of the members said they had heard the crappie were biting ,so my dad and I packed our crappie rods,” Starks said. “Most of the club members were trolling jigs, trying to catch crappie.”
Starks was long-line trolling a jig-and-minnow combination from his Hobie Outback kayak around standing timber in Latimer Creek when one of the four rods bent over. Much to his delight, he had hooked the biggest crappie he had ever seen.
“I was using a Stump’s Jigs & Flies hand-tied jig with a minnow on a hook tied in-line, kind of like a stacker rig, above the jig. The jig was 1/16-ounce in pink/silver/blue pattern. I was long-lining in water around 26 feet deep with a lot of submerged timber. The jig was trolling maybe 6 to 8 feet deep.”
During the lunch time break, Starks was curious what the big crappie would weigh and had another club member, Ronnie McKee, weigh the fish on his handheld digital scales. The fish weighed 3 pounds, 7 ounces.