Get that jig to a Wylie crappie in February

Guide Jerry Neely catches February crappie on Lake Wylie by tight-lining jigs or minnows along creek channels.

This month is for tight-lining

If guide Jerry Neely of Bessemer City, N.C., had his druthers, he’d be tight-line fishing the creeks for crappie this month on Lake Wylie along the North Carolina-South Carolina border.

“You can catch crappie either tight-lining or long-lining. But I’d rather be tight-lining,” said Neely ( “I’ll definitely tight-line early in the month because that method is more effective in cold water. Later, when the water warms, long-lining becomes an option.”

For tight-lining, Neely sets out as many as 12 B’n’M rods, six in the front of his boat and six in the back to limit the possibility of crossing lines. The rods are 10-, 12-, and 14-feet long. So Neely can sample various portions of the water column. But he anticipates catching suspended crappie mostly in 16 to 25 feet of water.

He pairs them with light Shakespeare reels spooled with 6-pound line, so he can detect subtle bites from unaggressive, cold-water crappie.

“I always use a 1/2-ounce egg weight and lower the jig or minnow at different depths until I establish where the fish are holding,” Neeley said. “I keep a steady eye on my electronics for forage and fish.”

Finding the fish

Neely impales a live minnow on a No. 6 gold hook. He might add a tiny split-shot about 14 inches above the hook if more depth is needed, or if it’s windy.

He uses 1/16- or 1/32-ounce jigs in yellow, green and sour grape. And he uses bare, blue or red jigheads in the same sizes and adds a minnow to each one.

The creeks he fishes vary from year to year.

“You never know what the weather and water  conditions will be,” he said. “Whatever the creek, I move slowly  at 1/2-mph down the middle of the creek, or I’ll favor the sunny side. I  look for the warmest water I can find in selecting a creek as well as concentrations of fish and forage. Creeks with a slight tinge are better than creeks with clear water.”

Neely tight-lines above the fish or brush because crappie often rise to take a bait. Later in the month, he might long-line some.

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