Most fishermen understand the basics for targeting crappie before and during their spring spawn, but when fish leave spawning grounds and head to deep water, what’s the deal?

According to guide Steve Pietrykowski for Fishski Business Guided Fishing in Clemson, S.C., you look back at the path used to move shallow and fish it in reverse, hitting the same brush piles in medium depths and then deep water.

“Crappie will go right back to the places they came from,” said Pietrykowski (864-353-3438), who guides for crappie and striped bass on Lake Hartwell along the Georgia-South Carolina border. “You just follow the brush piles they used moving in as they move back out.”

Pietrykowski first looks for brush piles in 6 to 8 feet of water, then 10 to 15 feet and finally 20 to 25 feet. But he approaches them differently.

“If I can mark fish around a brush pile on my depth finder, I’ll throw out a marker buoy,” he said. “If they’re anywhere out to, say, 10 to 15 feet, I’ll stay off to the side; I’ll move out to about a cast away and float a bait into them.”

Pietrykowski uses a sliding bobber and either a live minnow or a jighead with a mini-tube, cast it upcurrent of the brush pile and let it drift in over the fish, waiting for his float to disappear.

“If they get down to 20 or 25 feet, a lot of times, you can get right on top of them and fish a live minnow straight down, or you can get on the upwind side and drift back over the brush,” he said. “If there’s no wind, you have to pull back over them with your trolling motor.” 

Braid best for cork setup

South Carolina guide Steve Pietrykowski has a special setup when he’s using a cork. He ties a fluorocarbon leader to a barrel swivel on which the cork rests with a split-shot and hook or jighead below.

But he uses 6- to 8-pound braid on his reel, running a bobber-stop up the line, and then running the line through the cork and tying to the barrel swivel.

“One big plus in the spring is that braid won’t twist as much,” Pietrykowski said, “and it floats better. I use fluorocarbon everywhere else, but with a slip cork, braid will stay on the surface.

“It won’t sink and pull the cork over the way fluorocarbon will.”