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The Crappie Slide
by Ron Anlauf

The Crappie Slide Early season crappie location eventually gives way to what the middle of winter can bring, and often varies greatly from whence they came. The sharp shoreline breaks and deeper points and humps that held so many slabs early in the season typically dry up by late January, and the next hot spot may have no resemblance at all to early season honey holes. Now’s the time to take a look beyond what you can put a finger on, beyond structure of any kind, and look deeper, out in the middle of nowhere. Main lake basins and basin areas of larger bays are what we’re talking about, and can be found by taking a look at a map and identifying deeper areas where the bottom flattens out, near structure that had been holding fish. The move from structure to the basin is a typical mid winter move and could be called the “crappie slide”. The problem with working a “slide” is knowing where to start, and there are no easy short cuts to finding crappie gold. Unfortunately the only way to get the job of finding mid winter locations done is to get on your horse and ride, that is if your horse is a Ski-Doo. Depending on what’s available and the size of body of water you’re working on, you may have to look at a few acres, a few hundred, or a few thousand. Professional fisherman and Team Crestliner member Dan Plautz from Muskego, Wisconsin targets mid winter crappies and has found that they’ll show up suspended over deep water in close proximity to old weedlines and underwater points. “ Last year on one of the lakes I fish in northern Wisconsin we found crappies holding at about fifteen feet down over forty feet of water. Fifteen feet just so happens to be the same depth as the deep edge of a flat where they had be found earlier in the season. With an electronic depth finder and a thermos of water I can shoot right through good ice and will start looking outside of early season crappie spots and head toward deeper water and then parallel to the break and try to find fish holding up off the bottom. When you find crappies you don’t typically find one or two but rather a whole school, which readily show up on a depth finder.” On Minnesota’s current premier crappie fishery Red Lake, fish can be several miles or more off shore. According to Team Crestliner member and Red Lake aficionado Tracy Pogue of Bemidji, Minnesota: “The thing is they start and finish the season out in the middle of nowhere and can be a little tough to pin down. Even late in the season Red Lake crappies are found roaming the mid lake basin and don’t move shallow in masse until the lake thaws out and really starts to warm up. Red Lake’s basin runs from maybe twelve to fourteen feet deep and encompasses thousands of acres and the crappies can be anywhere. Although you can shoot through the ice with a depth finder, the fish are often holding tight to the bottom where they don’t readily show up. You can’t just simply look with your electronics and move on if you don’t see anything . The only way to know for sure if you’re on fish is to drill some holes and spend a little time angling, especially the bottom foot of the water column. I think they don’t suspend in Red like they do in other fisheries because of the lack of deeper water and most of the action does take place tight to the bottom.” Although you could overlook fish with electronics when you’re trying to hunt them down, they will show up on a good depth finder when you drop a bait over the top of them. With a three color flasher like the Marcum LX-3 you can watch your bait and see if and how fish are reacting to it. Bigger fish like a slab crappie will show up as a wide red band on the LX-3, and you can tell if anything worthwhile has come up for a look. Also, the zoom feature will help with identifying fish holding tight to the bottom and provides incredible detail. Suspended fish are another story and can be readily seen on an electronic depth finder like the LX-3, which means you can do a thorough job of looking without ever drilling a hole. Where you can run into trouble is when trying to shoot through busted up and layered ice. To get a clear picture you have to be able to get to the surface of the ice and it has to be relatively smooth.

StrikeMaster Lazer Mag Ultra Ice Auger


Lazer Mag Ultra

Without it you’ll have to drill a lot more holes, and demands the use of a gas powered auger like Strikemaster’s new four blade Lazer 224. The new Lazer 224 design cuts a smaller pilot hole which is then followed up by another pair of blades that finish the larger hole and does it all faster than any other auger. Regardless of whether you’re working crappies holding belly to the bottom or suspended over deep water, the techniques for putting a few on ice remain the same. That means small jigs tipped with small crappie minnows worked softly and slowly. Soft and slow can be the best way to go, and usually beats no action at all. A light jig like Northland Tackles #8 Forage Minnow Fry tipped with a small minnow slowly jigged up and down with tiny strokes can get noticed, and is what finicky slabs are often looking for. Sure you can drop a another bait down a hole suspended below a bobber and probably should, it’s just that being able to feel the actual bite is half the fun. A light jig on light line (like 2 pound test) with a small split shot lets you do just that, and takes less time to get down the hole than a bobber rig which can result in more fish caught when the bite is really on. See you on the ice.
Some of the Crestliner Pro Staff got together to ice
Some of the Crestliner Pro Staff got together to ice some giant crappies on the slide


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