If you’re only fishing for crappie in the winter, spring, and fall, then you’re missing out on prime opportunities to fish without competition from other crappie anglers. Crappie can be difficult to catch in summer – especially from the bank – but find a good pattern and you can still fill a stringer.
To catch crappie from the bank in summer you need to find deep water near the bank and some sort of structure or cover that the crappie can hang on. This may sound difficult or even impossible, but almost all lakes have this near the bank somewhere. Many people just overlook it! So follow these instructions and see if you can catch the elusive summertime crappie from the shore.
How to find deep water to catch crappie
Most fisherman know the farther from the bank you go, the deeper the water generally gets. This is absolutely true in most cases, but few lakes just gradually get deeper at the same rate from every bank and have the deepest water exactly in the center. Instead, much like land above water, some slope gradually and some slope drastically.
The difference is you can’t see it from the bank. This is where a depth finder comes in handy for boat fisherman, but without a boat you might not have one. If you are serious about summer crappie fishing – or fishing from the bank in general – you should consider a castable depth finder. These are great to find depths from the shore as you cast out the device and it links to your phone – providing you a live look at what is beneath.
Using the Navionics WebApp for crappie holes
But should you decide you don’t want to spend the money on one – there are other options. Using the Navionics Webapp if you are shore fishing from a major lake is a great option. Open the link and search the map to your area and find the lake you are looking for. If it has the data, it will show you a topographical map of what is below the water you can’t see. It’s a must search for any lake that you have the ability to find.
Reading these to find deep water near the bank is very simple – look for where the lines are closest together. Each line represents a water depth – usually in an increment of feet. So if every line is 3 feet deeper but spread wide, it’s a gradual taper. If lines are tight together, it drops 3 feet very quickly. The more quickly it drops, the deeper water you can reach from the bank.
So look for anywhere where there are extremely tight lines within casting distance from the bank. You aren’t looking for the deepest water possible in the lake, just where it is obviously deeper than everything else around it and an area you can cast to. These are prime areas for crappie to hang out in the summertime.
Using Google Earth to find fishing structure
If you aren’t lucky enough to have your lake information on the Navionics Webapp – you can turn to another tech solution to gain information – Google Earth.
Simply download the software here and follow the setup instructions. Then, load the program and you can type in the address of any lake you want to fish. You will receive a satellite view of the lake as if you were in an airplane above it.
This in itself is very powerful as you can often see changes in water depth solely by looking for the color of water. For muddy lakes – often the more muddy the shallower the water. The more blue the deeper. Even for clear lakes, deep areas are often a darker blue and shallow areas are lighter.
But the key functionality Google Earth provides is to look at historic images of the lake. Many lakes fluctuate in water levels and some are even drained. Follow the instructions located here and you can view images years in the past which may show a point in time where the lake bottom was visible. Use these images to find anywhere that there are steep dropoffs from the bank. Or, if the lake level is noticeably lower on one shore and not the other – the shore where you didn’t notice a drop off is the deep water. It’s so deep that the dropoff wasn’t noticeable even when the water dropped- a prime location for summer crappie.
We’ll get into it more later – but use this technique to also find brush piles or any natural cover on the bottom of the lake that can’t normally be seen. If the lake is down and you see treetops coming up from the water, it’s still there when the water rises. Fish on them and you might find a bunch of crappie holding tight to cover.
Natural features you can see are key to finding crappie from the bank
If you don’t have any of the options above, you’ll have to rely on what you can see above water to inform you about what is underneath. While slopes can change underwater unexpectedly, in most cases you can tell what is below the surface by looking above it. Is there a gradual slope or sandy beach the bank? It’s probably not deep by the bank there. But is there a steep drop to the bank, maybe with rocks or other natural features? It may get pretty deep quickly.
Try fishing those areas where it naturally looks deeper and you’ll be able to find some holes. I recommend outfitting a line with a heavy weight – something about a ½ ounce – and just casting to areas and count down how long it takes to reach the bottom. Try fishing in those areas where you counted the longest – that’s where the deep water – and crappie – likely are.
The crappie aren’t necessarily in the very deepest part, but they’re likely around it. So if you’ve found the deep areas you can cast to using any of the methods above – lets go on to the specific areas where you might find crappie.
Cover versus Structure - How Crappie relate to both
Once you’ve found the deep water you can reach from the bank, you’ve probably eliminated 90% of the water. Now it’s time to get down even further by finding the deep water that has cover or structure. But lets first define cover and structure.
Cover is a specific object or surface in the water that fish hold on to. The best example of this is a brush pile. A fallen over tree. A boat dock with pilings in the water. Any hard surface that is abnormal in the water that fish can hold to.
Structure is the contour of the lake under the water like we saw in Navionics. It’s how the land under the water fluctuates and creates ceratin areas fish hold. Points, channels, and pockets are all examples of structure. These are the places that fish hang out because the way the land is underwater naturally leaves them in these areas.
It’s important to understand they are different but work together. A brush pile in the middle of nowhere may hold fish or may not. A channel swing also can hold fish. But a brush pile ON a channel swing? That’s almost certainly holding some summertime crappie just waiting to be caught.
Good cover that holds crappie all summer
So what cover are you looking for to potentially hold crappie? The best case scenario is that you will find a brush pile you can cast to or a similar wooden-type structure. In a lake near me, christmas trees were dropped in the lake and hold crappie (and many other fish) in summer. A tree that was flooded and remained at the bottom may also hold crappie.
Brush piles and submerged trees always hold crappie
Finding these without a depth finder is tough. You can try google maps like listed above, and sometimes Navionics Webapp will even have a few identified. But if you aren’t lucky enough for those you’ll have to do some searching with a heavy-weighted lure you don’t mind losing. Try casting to areas and letting your lure sit on the bottom and then drag it in. If you find a place where you get hung up for several feet – try fishing it with your crappie bait. But if you can’t find brush piles or submerged trees in your water don’t worry. This is only one structure that will hold crappie all summer long.
Bridge pilings are a great crappie attractor
Another great crappie holding piece of cover is bridge pilings. If you are on a lake where there are bridges over sections of water – they are very likely to be holding crappie in the summer months. Generally this is deeper water naturally due to the way bridges are built and the long concrete pilings in the water are great cover for crappie to hold on. Better yet, they often have areas you can pull off the road and fish. Just make sure that you are doing so legally and never fish off a bridge. It’s much too dangerous and not worth the risk.
Boat Docks can hold crappie too
If you can’t find submerged wood and don’t have any bridge pilings, boat docks with old wooden supports are also likely to hold crappie if they’re in deeper water. Much like bridge pilings, the submerged hard wood is great cover for crappie to hang around during the heat of summer and easily reachable from shore.
Make your own cover for crappie
Maybe your lake is just a barren wasteland and there is no discernable cover in sight. This is rare, but can occur. If you have the ability, make your own cover! Throwing out a few christmas trees in deep water and marking their location so only you can remember them is a great way to create secret honey holes. This likely won’t help you for the immediate year you place them, but over time fish will congregate to them. Especially if there is no other cover in sight!
Structure and crappie
Cover is the first thing I look for when crappie fishing in the summer before fishing structure that looks like it should hold fish. Ultimately I find that cover is both more important and less easy to find than a channel swing, point, or other structure element. But if you have multiple pieces of cover and can’t figure out which one to fish, look for the ones that have structure around them.
A structure like a point or channel swing are sure to attract crappie. This is because channels are the way that fish navigate lakes. They are often referred to as the “roadways” below the water. If the channel swings near the bank where you can cast, you are likely to be putting your bait in the area where these fish are normally travelling.
Look at the image to the left, and you can clearly see the channel swinging right near the bank within casting distance.
Swings also hold fish because it is a natural stopping point along their journey. As are points (example to the right), pockets, and other structural changes. Fish seldom travel constantly, and between summer and winter usually spend time going from one structural change to another until they reach their destination, such as the deepest part of the lake in summer and the shallowest part in spring. So focusing on these areas where fish often stop is sure to put you in good locations to catch crappie.
Again, focus on the deepest part of the structure. Fish just on the edge of channel swings near the deepest parts. If there is a point you’re fishing, fish on the deeper side of it. And if you can find cover that is near structure – really fish it hard. It almost certainly has a few fish on it.
Baits for summer crappie
With all that information, you should know where to look to catch crappie. Now you just need to know what to throw! There are many options but I think your best bet for crappie fishing from the bank is a jighead with a minnow imitation.
Slip bobbers with live minnows are always great for catching crappie, but are often difficult to throw from the bank and get into the right depth every time. A jighead which falls naturally and allows you to control the depth each time is much easier. Also, since you are likely searching for the cover you’re throwing near it helps you get a feel for when you’ve reached the bottom or are near the brush pile.
Ultimately you won’t want to be on the bottom though, you’ll want to be just above the crappie’s noses as they often feed upwards. So think about where you are fishing and where you believe the crappie are.
Let’s say you are fishing a brush pile. In the summer, the crappie are likely hiding in the brush pile for shade, protection, and to ambush prey. So you want to be close to the brush pile but not in it. Just a few inches above would be perfect so you can jig your bait and entice the crappie to come out of the pile and eat your lure.
Similarly if you’re fishing a bridge piling or dock support – they are likely to be in the shady areas created by cover and are sitting towards the bottom but not on it. You want to be a few feet off the ground and jigging in the shady areas where crappie are most likely to be hanging.
So thread a jighead that can get to the necessary depth but as light as possible. For me, this is usually a ¼ ounce head. I have had great success with Road Runner Jigs like these. But any small minnow-like soft plastic will work. Just reach your desired depth and jig lightly in place as best you can, reeling in slowly.
When you do catch a fish, try and memorize the exact location and throw in the exact same spot. Crappie are extremely finicky at times and sometimes want a bait in one precise location and don’t swim far, especially in summer, to get it. As much as a few feet can make a difference.
With this information, you know everything you need to go catch crappie from the bank this summer at your local lake. Just remember to first find the deep water where crappie will be hanging in the heat of summer. Then, try to search for cover that the crappie may be holding to like a brush pile or dock piling. If you have a lot of cover to choose from or none at all, then look for structure to see if there are points, channel swings, or other natural significant depth changes under the lack that might congregate crappie. Then it’s as simple as tying on your jig and reeling them in!