When crappie finish their spawning rituals, they head to deeper water and look for two things: Food and cover.
Brush piles provide both, no matter what reservoir you choose to fish. And that means brush piles can be a dynamite way to ensure summertime limits.
But there’s more to creating effective brush piles than just loading up some wood and dropping it into the depths.
Living the Dream Guide Service’s Jerry “J.T.” Thompson spends a lot of time putting clients into position to dangle baits around brush piles on Toledo Bend, and he said it’s imperative to keep green cover for crappie.
“People talk about PVC trees and man-made structures, but nothing works like green trees,” the guide said. “As soon as that green hits the water, the life cycle begins. Grass shrimp come in and lay eggs on the leaves, and the crappie come in and start feeding. The shad spawn in there, and the crappie come in to feed.”
And, of course, the greenery provides maximum cover for crappie when they’re not gorging themselves.
“I can show you pictures (from down-scan electronics) of crappie just jammed up in those tops,” Thompson said.
The first thing he and his fellow guides do when creating a new pile is locate premium locations.
“I like ridges that drop into deeper water,” Living the Dream guide Lamar Peterson said.
On a recent brush pile-building foray, Peterson pinpointed several ridges in 17 to 20 feet of water immediately adjacent to 35-foot depths.
“See how it drops off sharply?” Peterson said, pointing at the contour map on his GPS unit. “I want to be right on the edge of that.”
The LTD crew cut serious trees, some as long as 20 feet tall. They tie cinder blocks to the bottoms, while closed jugs tied in the limbs in the tops of the trees keep them standing tall in the water column.
“I don’t like my trees laying down,” Thompson said. “That’s why we like tall trees: Even when they wilt they will be 6 to 8 feet from the surface.”
So why a standing tree?
“Crappie like to get in the shade, so when it’s standing up they can tuck in there,” Thompson explained. “If it’s laying down, they can’t.”
If a tree tops out at the surface, they simply break off the limbs. Then, it provides plenty of clearance once it wilts.
It’s important to note that a brush pile is only effective until the leaves fall from the trees.
“Once the leaves are gone, it won’t hold fish,” Thompson said.
So these guides put a lot of time and effort into revitalizing their piles.
“We do this three times a week from the time the trees green out until the fall,” Thompson said.
Oddly enough, he doesn’t place piles around existing cover like stumps or flooded trees.
“A brush pile is a lot more effective when there’s nothing else around,” Thompson explained. “In fact, I’ve screwed up some really good stumps.”
He said he believes adding brush to such natural cover changes water flow and creates something crappie don’t like. So if he finds a stump or natural flooded wood on a contour, he leaves it alone and sets up brush piles elsewhere.
“Sometimes you can’t do no better than what God did,” Thompson said. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”