January is my favorite time of the year to get out and catch some fish for the freezer. The water on most Tennessee lakes is cold and most fisherman are at home enjoying the warmth and other activities. Along with the lack of fishing pressure on most local bodies of water, comes the opportunity to stock up on a supply of your favorite fish. I usually target Crappie during January and my favorite choice of spots are marinas if you can gain access to one.
The cold water is the start to the pre spawn Crappie season which usually starts around March, depending on the climate during any given year. Which means around almost any structure you can find that’s in or adjacent to deeper water, the Crappie will start gorging themselves with bait to prepare for the spawn. Also, this structure absorbs the heat from the sunlight and slightly warms the water around the structure. Best bait is live minnows with your rod rigged with #2 light wire gold hook, small float, and enough split shot sinkers to just barely keep the float above water. This keeps the wind from pushing your float around and gives the fish biting it a sense of little resistance when taking the bait. Just remember to start out with your float shallow and then go deeper a little at a time until you find the depth they are holding. As a general rule of thumb, crappie will come up in the water column for bait but won’t go down to get it.
Small tube jigs and hair jigs can also produce nice numbers of fish. If possible, have a variety of colors to offer, because when fishing with jigs the fish can be picky on color from one day to the next. When fishing with jigs this time of the year, make sure you slow your presentation because of the cooler water temps. The good thing about catching pre-spawn crappie is that the majority of the fish will be larger in size and can be caught bank fishing around piers, boat docks, boat ramps, and other structures, making it fun for all fishermen including those without a boat. So, grab your rod, some jigs or minnows, bundle up and get out there for a quiet and peaceful day of fishing.
“Keep Those Poles Bent and Those Reels Cranking!”