From the Locks to the Rocks

By Capt. Craig Hensel

What’s going on guys and gals! Captain Craig here with AWOL Fishing Charters. Let’s dive right into what has been going on in my neck of the woods. So most of you know the weather around here has been all over the place. We have had record breaking highs and record breaking lows and everything in between. We have all come to the realization that here in North Carolina we can expect to see all seasons in one day no matter what month of the year it is.

With these weird weather patterns, no rain, clear and breezy days and lots of sunshine, the Cape Fear River has made some drastic changes. We also have record low water levels in the past couple of months due to the lack of rain as I mentioned before. The water clarity is the cleanest it will ever be, and it has thrown a monkey wrench in how we normally fish. With that being said we have had to change our tactics up a bit. We have been running a lot of Crappie trips here lately with this back and forth transition from summer to fall and a hint of winter temps. I mean what is going on!!

So let’s talk about our tactics. We have noticed with water temps going up and down and the clarity out of this world at 8 feet of visibility, crappie spook very easily. We have noticed them holding tight to structure at 14-16ft and 12ft on a good day. We have also noticed in watching the Livescope that these fish have become very picky. When we drop baits we are noticing that they are not chomping at the bit to eat. These fish are quick to investigate the bait and do a full-on inspection to make sure it is what they want. We have had to put in the work to get these fish to bite for sure. Some days they won’t touch a minnow or a threadfin shad but will choke on a jig.

I have found that running a 1/16 oz. chartreuse jig head topped with a Bobby Garland bluegrass color jig better be tied to a rod or two if you want to produce numbers. I can’t tell you how many times these jigs have pulled me through a tough day of live baiting these crappie off of structure. I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep a jig rod in the water. If you’re not doing this, give it a try. I know it’s easy to sit back and slow troll live bait, or Livescope a brush pile and drop baits in their faces, but guys if you are noticing the fish being finicky towards live bait, give a jig a try, you may be surprised and end up closing the lid on the live bait for a while.

I’m not going to say that one color trumps another by any means. There are a ton of colors out there. I have found that the size of the bait makes more of a difference in the conditions I have been fishing. If your bait shop is like our local bait shop, when you buy small minnows you might be getting a mixture sometimes of small, medium and maybe a large here and there. Try all different sizes don’t just throw the smallest. Sometimes these fish like a little bigger bait to gulp. These are just a few tips I have learned in the past few weeks fishing for these finicky crappies.

With all that being said, get out there and get on these fish. Like I said, we have had to put in the work, but it has not been hard to pull off 2-300 fish trips. Now we boat a lot of 8-10 inch throw backs, but we are coming in with a good mess of 12-13 inch crappie. Just keep at it guys. It is getting closer and closer to the best time to be crappie fishing. Don’t wait for those dogwoods to bloom, get down to your bait shop and grab some minnows and jigs, or if you’re like me, catch your bait while you’re out on the water. Get yourself a good cast net, I suggest a Lee Fisher Bait Buster cast net. Get a hold of some small 1-2 inch threadfin shad, a good bait tank and have a good time.

If you’re interested in a trip give us a call at 910-916-3138, or visit us on Facebook at AWOL Fishing Charters, or go to our website Until next time, keep those lines tight, drags set, and catch a BIGUN!! We will see you guys on the water!

Captain Craig Hensel, AWOL Fishing Charters with Capt. Craig Inc. – 910-916-3138