Stay shallow for Jordan Lake’s September slabs

Finding baitfish in shallow water is the key to catching Lake Jordan’s crappie right now. (Photo by Brian Cope)

Find baitfish on brushpiles and ledges

While many crappie anglers are looking deep for slabs, Capt. Travis Bradshaw of Pigpen Guide Service stays shallow on Jordan Lake this month.

“You can catch them 40 and 50 feet deep right now, and some anglers do. But I like to focus on smaller coves, where plenty of crappie are anywhere from 8 to 14 feet deep,” he said.

Bradshaw (919-669-6989) said it’s just easier for him to catch them in those depths in a more timely fashion.

“Fishing in those deep waters, you’re spending a lot of time just getting your baits down and keeping them on the fish. And those deep schools are the ones being targeted quite heavily by other anglers. So those fish are feeling lots of pressure,” he said.

Bradshaw uses “old school” electronics, without Live Scope.

“It’s just a matter of locating schools of baitfish around brush piles and ledges in these smaller coves,” he said.

When scanning his depthfinder, he’d rather see baitfish schools than schools of crappie.

“Just because you find a school of crappie doesn’t mean they are feeding. But if you find baitfish, that’s where the hungry crappie will be. And you may have to wait a few extra minutes for the crappie to appear and begin feeding, but they’re bound to eat, so that’s where I want to be,” he said.

Bradshaw’s favorite techinque this time of year is to mark a few baitfish schools, then troll very slowly from one school to the next, then the next.

Trolling and catching slabs

“I will anchor sometimes, but I find that trolling slowly will give me access to more baitfish schools, which gives me a better chance of running across crappie that are in a feeding mood. I’d rather present my baits to multiple groups of fish than to only one group of fish,” he said.

He trolls with anywhere from eight rods to a dozen, and he mainly uses small minnows as bait on a lightwire hook with a split shot about a foot above the hook.

“When I hit an area that results in a few fish, I’ll immediately troll back in the opposite direction, then back again. That often puts several fish in the boat in a short period of time, including some slabs. And when you hit a few spots like that during half a day of fishing, your numbers can add up right quick,” he said.

Bradshaw likes to start as early as possible, but he doesn’t let the mid-day heat run him off the water. He said anglers that do so miss out on a lot of crappie.

“These fish are eating throughout the day, no matter how hot it gets. You will experience a lull here and there, but even in the hottest part of the day, you’d be surprised at how many crappie will bite. The key is just being around baitfish because when crappie are around them, something just triggers them into eating at certain times, for whatever reason,” he said.

And as long as you’re there, in the right areas and with the right bait, you’ve got a leg up on anglers that have packed up and headed home.

About Brian Cope 2745 Articles
Brian Cope is the editor of Carolina Sportsman. He has won numerous awards for his writing, photography, and videography. He is a retired Air Force combat communications technician, and has a B.A. in English Literature from the University of South Carolina. You can reach him at

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