One of the best times to catch slab crappie on High Rock Lake is during December. The fish are packing on the protein as they prepare to make it through the bitterly cold winter weather.
For fishing guide Shane Walser of Yadkin Lakes Crappie Guides (336-978-3737), this month is one he’s been looking forward to since the dead of summer.
“If you don’t mind the cold, this is a great time to be on the water. There’s very little boat traffic, and the crappie get schooled up in tight schools. You can catch a lot of fish and have a lot of fun doing it,” he said.
His top tactic this month is tight-lining, also known as spider rigging. It involves fishing with long, limber rods placed in rod holders, then trolling slowly through likely fish-holding areas. The mouths of creeks are key spots that Walser focuses on.
“Especially in the wintertime, these fish really pull out of the creeks and stay in the creek mouths. They school up in big groups of 75 or 100 fish. You can find them pretty easy on your depthfinder, and they can be pretty easy to catch,” he said.
But that doesn’t mean they bite all day long.
Double hook rigging
“You can’t be afraid to leave fish this time of year. If you find a big school it can be tempting to just stay put until they start to bite. But if you aren’t catching any, you need to leave and find another school, because somewhere on this lake this time of year, the fish are biting,” Walser said.
Keep that first school in mind, though.
“Come back to that school later in the day and you’ll probably catch them in a feeding mood. But don’t be afraid to leave them for other fish when they have lockjaw,” he said.
Walser uses a double minnow rig, which is made up of a 3/4-ounce egg sinker. He ties a minnow hook on the end of the line, then pegs the egg sinker about 8 inches above it. On the other side of the sinker he uses an 18-inch leader that he ties to a Jenko three-way swivel. A 6- to 8-inch leader is used off that swivel and terminated with another crappie hook. And the mainline going back to the reel is tied to the third eye of the swivel.
He uses jig bodies on the hooks or live minnows, and sometimes he uses both at the same time on one hook or both hooks.
“If you’re going for numbers, minnows will do the trick. When targeting bigger fish, the soft plastic jig bodies are best,” he said.