“Fish don’t mind the cold”
Whitey Outlaw, co-host of Father and Son Outdoors TV, hasn’t seen many boats on Santee in the past few days, thanks to the nasty weather. But he’s seen plenty of crappie on the end of his fishing line. The cold, damp weather hasn’t slowed the fishing down at all.
“A lot of people don’t like fishing in this type of weather. It’s brutal, but if you find the right shoreline in the right cove, it can break the wind and will be less unpleasant. And the fish — they don’t mind this weather at all, especially this time of year,” he said.
Outlaw likes fishing out of Bell’s Marina, and said that’s an especially good place to fish this time of year. The boat ramp is in a cove that’s protected from the worst of the weather. That cove is big enough to fish all day in, and the big water is right around the corner when the weather calms down enough to give it a try.
“But there’s plenty of fish right here close to the boat landing. That will keep you out of the wind, and if the weather gets too bad, you can just beach the boat and go inside the marina to get out of the weather and get a bite to eat or a cup of coffee. This is an all-around good spot to fish out of, but if the weather has you thinking you don’t want to fish at all, you should give this marina a try. Most anglers are surprised at what they can catch within sight of the boat ramp and without getting into the worst of the weather,” he said.
Fish are feeding up for winter
Outlaw said the crappie are feeding up for the upcoming winter, and the recent cold snap has really prompted them into biting.
“I like to use a Charlie Brewer Slider on a Rockport Rattler jighead. The tail on the Slider gives it a lot of action. You wouldn’t think a lure so small could have so much action, but the tail on it will have it spinning like a helicopter blade when you drop it straight down. And the Rockport Rattler jighead has a rattle built into it. So this combination appeals to the fish’s vision and their hearing. That’s a deadly combination,” he said.
Outlaw has caught many of his fish at the base of cypress trees, and he’s also caught his fair share around sunken debris. He said the crappie are beginning to spread out a lot more than they have been for the past few months, but he said knowing your electronics will help you find them.
“They get spread out and are less concentrated on the same brush piles they’ve been on since the beginning of summer. But they’ll still bite, and with today’s electronics, you’ll find them if you’re not scared to get out in the weather,” he said.
Outlaw uses long, crappie-specific fishing rods from B ’n’ M Poles to get his lures to the fish without getting his boat so close that he spooks them. That’s often the difference between catching fish and getting skunked.
Small details make big differences when fishing this time of year
“A lot of times, anglers will be just out of the reach of fish. You’ve got to know your electronics and be able to recognize how far out the fish are. If they’re 14 feet in front of the boat, you need a rod that long to reach them. Don’t just assume you can move within 10 or 12 feet of the fish and use a shorter pole. You’ll spook the fish trying to get closer to them a lot of times,” he said.
A good net and the right fishing line are also keys to Outlaw’s success with crappie. And his line choice runs counter to what many in the fishing industry have made so popular in recent years.
“Braided line is all the rage for so many anglers. But it’s just not the right line for crappie. Crappie have soft mouths that tear easily. You can’t catch a crappie without noticing a tear in its mouth. The thing you want to do is minimize that tear. If it gets too big, the fish will shake the hook lose before you get it in the boat. Crappie anglers lose fish probably more often than any other anglers lose other species. It’s unavoidable because of the physical nature of the fish,” he said.
So instead of using braided line, which doesn’t stretch, Outlaw uses Slime Line Champion Super Stretch monofilament, which has the unique benefit of stretching far more than any other fishing line. It also returns to its normal length without losing any of its original strength.
Bundle up for the weather and you’ll catch plenty of fish
“With this line, you can set the hook just like with any other fishing line. The stretch doesn’t affect it on the hookset. It comes into play when you’re fighting the fish and it wants to jump or make a run. The stretch gives you that little bit of extra time to get your net out there and scoop it up. You don’t have to horse it in. It allows you to keep pressure on the fish without tearing its mouth. Normal monofilament stretches 12 percent, and stays at its stretched length. It also weakens every time it stretches. Super Stretch will stretch up to 33 percent, without decreasing in strength, then retreats back to its original length. It’s a game changer for crappie fishing,” he said.
Outlaw loves crappie fishing this time of year, and said as long as you can handle the cold weather, you’ll have the lake all to yourself on most days.
“You get bundled up with the right clothing and the weather isn’t a big deal. And the fish don’t care if it’s cold, windy, or raining. They’re biting, so they’ll make it worth your time,” he said.