Deep Water Crappie

crappie fishing

Deep Water Crappie
Li'L TUFFY Swimbait


The key to finding deep water crappie is fish locating electronics. Electronics have come a long way since your grandfather’s flasher unit. I even had one of those paper graphs in my first bass boat. The first time I located a fish I turned and cast to the spot and caught a 3 pound bass. I thought then, man these fish finders don’t lie. That paper graph fish finder was short lived and I upgraded quickly to a more advanced fish finder even though it too was far, far from today’s fish finders. You can locate deep water crappie with a low cost fish finder today better than the high end units 20 years go.

This article will focus on tips and techniques for locating and catching deep water crappie using any of today’s electronics mainly because I don’t have the newest technology myself. I do have a couple units one is a Lowrance side imaging 7 inch and the other is a Garmin 7 inch on the bow with chirp technology and I will be explaining all the advantages of both in an easy to understand and follow presentation that any crappie angler can follow.

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I want to add that units today are much more affordable than just a few years ago. You can get a 9 inch side imaging unit today for half of what my 7 inch unit cost me just 7 years ago. Also the lower price point fish finder have some great features. They often have the same great technologies that the higher end units have by way of transducers and screen quality. So let’s take a look at some ways to locate deep crappie with your fish finder. If your fish finder has mapping all the better. I’ll explain how to use mapping to locate probable areas that hold deep crappie. A map can help you narrow down the search for deep water crappie on your home lake.


The first step to locating deep crappie is to know their behavior and why they went deep in the first place. Learning the crappie’s behavior can be your first step in finding them. If you now why a crappie goes to deep water you can figure out when or at least have a good idea. Here is a few behaviors commonly observed by crappie anglers no matter the body of water they are fishing.


Most crappie anglers know that crappie move to deep water during summer and again in the winter. Locating crappie in deep water is the same either season, but how to catch deep water crappie varies drastically, but that’s for another article.

To keep it as simple as possible crappie move to deep water because the food moved out there. Crappie always follow the food, except during the spawn when spawning takes precedence. When the shad go deep the crappie go with them. So as the water heats up in the summer and cools off in the fall crappie will migrate, with the baitfish, to deeper water. There is usually a route that these shad and crappie take each year. Once in the Spring to spawn and back out for the summer. Then back in during the fall and back out in the winter months. Learning this migratory route that crappie take to and from deep water can help you stay with the crappie all year long. 


Creek channels are always the first place to look for crappie. They travel from deep water to shallow and vice versa. Crappie use these creek channels to travel into spawning coves and to follow the baitfish throughout the crappie season. These creek channels can be no more than ditches left from creeks that ran through the area before the lake was flooded. A channel with just a 3 foot difference in depth will be the crappie’s chosen route. These channels offer easy movement while keeping a little deep where they feel more secure. The creek channels also offer the crappie current breaks. Just like a creek not under water a submerged creek bed still directs current. Locating channel swings and drops can be dynamite spots for crappie that are moving to or from deep water.

Use your electronics to get a look at what is in these current breaks. You can catch crappie in these areas even if there is little or no cover as long as the crappie are on the move. You can sit in these swings or drops and pick crappie off as they move along the channel. The best spot however, will have at least some cover. You would be surprised how many crappie will hangout on a single stump. These spots along the crappie’s travel route is a spot you want to mark on your map on your fish finder.


This is the time to use your mapping on your fish finder to narrow down your search. Today’s mapping software is remarkable. Even the factory mapping on most of today’s units are super accurate. It will help you locate these features and catch more deep water crappie. Like anything else the more you study your body of water the easier it will be to pinpoint these highly productive areas around deep water.

I know, this article is supposed to be about how to catch deep water crappie. Understanding the way crappie migrate to and from deep water will only help you find them out in deep water. Sometimes crappie will be swimming around willy nilly feeding on the shad that are doing the same. Other times they will bury up in brush and become hard to catch. Usually this happens when there is a cold front. Locating brush in deep water is great and you should mark it all because you never know when there might be a pile of crappie in it.


Look for a brush pile or stumps in a creek channel that dumps into the main river channel. This can be a gold mine for catching deep water crappie. Fish this cover thoroughly because it’s a magnet for deep water crappie. Usually this cover will hold other fish and bait because it’s such a great place for them to hang out in deep water. Use your mapping feature to locate pockets and channels just like you would on shore. The same thing is often happening underwater and holds fish for the same reasons.


It is easy to see if the crappie are scattered out and in schools. You will see them on your fish finder seemingly not in any particular place. Remember your fish finder does not lie. If you don’t see fish on your fish finder you won’t catch one. I say this with a grain of salt. Oftentimes, crappie will bury up in brush piles and are not visible on your fish finder, but they are there. I say not visible on your fish finder. I’m mainly talking about those suspended crappie swimming willy nilly throughout the water column. I love it when I see this because it means that crappie are feeding in deep water. These crappie can be caught, as long as you stay on the move with them.

I’ve attempted to stay put and let the schools of crappie come to me. Unless there’s some type of cover to pinpoint and keep your bait near I’ve found that when the crappie are swimming up in the water column, it’s best to keep moving. You can create a preferred route to follow. After catching a few fish mark those spots on your mapping unit. You’ll find that there is more of a pattern than first thought. It might be contours on the bottom, like ledges , ditches and creek channels. It might also be that the crappie along with the baitfish are swimming from brush pile to brush pile.

By moving between these points of reference you can catch crappie in deep water going, coming and at the brush pile. Of course this is just one example of how to catch these deep water crappie on any giving day. There is many other variables. By fishing a certain area and learning the area intimately, you can figure out what the crappie there prefer each season.

The best way I feel to target deep water crappie that are swimming in open water is by spider rigging. Spider rigging is an efficient way to cover water, present multiple colors and sizes of baits and at multiple depths. While there is usually a certain depth range that deep water crappie are hanging in, that range can be wide. To have baits at all those ranges can help you catch more deep water crappie. Also if you are targeting those bigger deep water crappie you might learn the depth range that they are most likely to be and adjust all or some of your rods to that depth.


Deep water crappie are often buried in brush and don’t want to move. Try single pole jigging for these deep water crappie. A single pole with a jig is a great way to lower your jig into the brush with the crappie. Start by gently jigging your jig just above the brush. Sometimes the crappie will come out and get it but often you have to go in and get them. You can stay over the deep crappie cover by using your electronics or a marker buoy. When using a marker be sure to set it several feet from the brush or cover that you’re fishing. This will keep you from getting tangled with your buoy line. It will also keep your buoy weight out of the cover and scaring the crappie.

I try to get away with a 1/4 oz jighead when single pole jigging for crappie, especially deep water crappie. Sometimes a smaller jighead will catch more deep water crappie if they’re being picky. When they are buried in the cover they are usually being picky and the heavier jighead will help you feel the cover and maneuver the jig within it without getting hung. If you do hang up on something the heavier jighead will help in dislodging the hook point. This keeps you single pole jigging for crappie without spooking the whole school out of the cover. Remember, tap the cover gently with your jighead. This subtle disturbance in deep cover can trigger strikes from deep water crappie that might not have otherwise bitten. Single pole jigging for crappie is a fun way to catch deep water crappie and feel that thump that they are famous for.


When single pole jigging for deep water crappie more times than not you will be vertical jigging some sort of cover. Crappie cover is often referred to as brush piles. This is fine when describing your deep water techniques for crappie, but crappie cover can be so many things. Stumps are awesome deep water crappie cover and perfect for vertical jigging with a hair jig or plastic bait. Using your electronics you can stay above a big stump in deep water or shallow and pick off several good crappie from a single stump. Locate several and you can make a milk run between them. As you catch a few and run the crappie off the stump go to another one and do the same.

By the time you make it back around to the first stump in the lineup more times than not there are more crappie to be caught. Of course this doesn’t happen all the time depending on the situation sometimes you catch a single crappie and that’s it but if the timing is right and there are enough crappie in the area you can catch a lot of crappie this way. Other crappie cover to consider is bridge pilings, road beds and old foundations. Foundations provide lots of cover for all kinds of fish here on my home lake Kentucky and Barkley lake.


Fall Crappie

About Ken McBroom 307 Articles
Ken McBroom is an accomplished outdoor writer and photographer. Growing up in Lynchburg Tennessee allowed him many opportunities afield as a boy and young man. Later in life, after Desert Storm, Ken’s wanderlust took him to Alaska to live and work and experience the last frontier. Married now with two beautiful children, Ken now calls Kentucky home where he continues to communicate our American outdoor traditions and the lifestyle it offers.

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