December slabs: a depth perception

When fishing on a typical December day — a post-front, bluebird day — make sure to get your minnow right into the brush.

Guide Dave Hilton spends a lot of time catching crappie on Lake Marion, and he’s learned specific tactics to improve success and describes them in his unique style.

Hilton said post-frontal days typically become more common in December, and crappies will often retreat from the edges of the brush and bury deep in the cover. Despite the potential to snag more often, he wants to get the bait into the cover with the crappie.

“Get the bait into deep, thick cover, so fish can see it,” he said. “The good news is that when I get it deep in the brush it often results in a quick bite. Some of these fish are buried so deep in the brush they’d need a possum for a mailman, so to catch him I know I have to deliver that the minnow right to their mouth.”

Hilton said that late-November and through December is prime big-fish time, but naturally, not all the fish are going to be slabs. Sometimes, changing locations is necessary.

“Crappies are always moving around, and brush piles will consistently hold crappie,” he said. “But often the big fish will leave, and other smaller crappies may move in. When the bulk of the fish on a brush pile are small, even if we’d been catching slabs recently, it’s time to move to another spot. This happens in the summer as well as winter, but when the crappies we’re catching still have milk on their lips, it’s time to move.”

When fishing brush in any depth of water Hilton said a lot of things can happen when a crappie is hooked, and only one of them is good.

“Playing a crappie in a brush pile is risky business because about the only good thing that can happen is getting the slab out of the brush, into the boat and in the cooler,” he said. “Then, you can play with it. To make that happen when the light-biting rascal is hooked, snatch him out of that brush like you’re hungry. Some fishermen are so slow the crappie will be drawing Social Security before they get the fish to the boat.”

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Terry Madewell
About Terry Madewell 715 Articles
Award-winning writer and photographer Terry Madewell of Ridgeway, S.C., has been an outdoors writer for more than 30 years. He has a degree in wildlife and fisheries management and has a long career as a professional wildlife biologist/natural resources manager.