The Honey Hole Tree sold by Bass Pro Shops.
On popular lakes the best crappie hotspots get pounded by anglers. It doesn’t take long before the big “slab” crappie are bite shy and little “dink” crappie are the only fish that hit. Every angler wants their own secret honey hole but few really know what is involved in making your own crappie hotspot.
There are a plethora of ready-made crappie habitat products available, from PVC porcupine balls to poly tubing trees. They work fine but can be quite expensive. They also might not work as well as natural materials. The smooth surface of the plastic provides a poor foothold that tiny organisms need to start the food chain. But a positive feature is the longevity of the material. The fish habitat put in place today will provide a fishing opportunity for many generations to come.
One way to avoid the expense of ready-made plastic habitat is to make it yourself. Some crappie clubs half fill five-gallon buckets with concrete and stab ½” poly tubing fronds into the wet cement.
Many slab hunters make their own structure with PVC pipe. http://www.crappie101.com/crappie-forums/charlies-big-ol-pvc-tree
The common material that most crappie anglers think of is sinking recycled Christmas trees but the gain is only short term. The thin branches quickly degrade and break away, and some feel that softwood tree resin is a repellent to fish.
Energetic anglers fasten large branches or even entire hardwood saplings to concrete blocks and then sink them in key locations. It doesn’t take long before roaming crappie move in to the new habitat.
Sunken saplings make nice structure - provided by Dr. Dugald McMillan.
One of the most common ways in our southern neighbors’ lakes is to drive a field of short wooden hardwood stakes using a length of rigid pipe. These stakes only have to be a few feet tall but a field of a hundred or more makes great crappie habitat. The porous wood surface quickly attracts microorganisms which in turn draws minnows, which draw crappie and other gamefish.
Many slab seekers like white oak stakes as they are very rot resistant and can last a long time. Other crappie pro fisherman use hickory stakes and even bamboo.
The author with a slab
While placing habitat can be done from any stable boat, many clubs use pontoon boats because of their large working platforms.
If you do decide to place your own habitat, make use of other structure nearby to give it extra drawing power. An example would be to place a stake bed or brush pile on near a bend in a creek channel, next to an underwater point or hump, or around an old stump row.
Once the honey hole is in place mark it on your GPS so you can go back to it time after time. You’ll be surprised on how big the crappie will get.
However, before you jump in your crappie boat and start sinking concrete block tied to tree limbs, be aware that there are regulations governing manufactured fish habitat on state and federal waters. The biggest issue is that fish habitat must not present a hazard to boaters or swimmers. Check with officials in your state and learn the requirements and regulations. Also keep in mind that the state biologists have certain areas that they do regular sampling from and any underwater structure could entangle or damage their gear, which is replaced with your tax dollars!
Crappie and shad around a sunken saplings.
One lake property manager in Indiana had a problem recently with a clandestine crappie structure dropper. The unknown angler was sinking concrete-filled buckets bristling with PVC pipes. Unfortunately he was placing them in shallow water and as the drought took its toll the PVC “punji sticks” started being exposed, causing a hazard to props and swimmers alike!
Before doing anything, contact the lake’s property manager and give them a written plan of where you plan on placing fish habitat and what it is going to be. They will go over your plan with the local fish biologist. If given the green light you usually have a limited period to place the structure and return with a map of it, with GPS co-ordinates to the property manager.
Add these tips, tricks, and techniques on making your own crappie hotspot to your game plan and you’ll be bring home slab crappie that others only dream of!
Important Tip: When sinking a bucket or concrete block use a rope to gently lower the habitat so it lands upright. This can be easily done by looping a long rope through the handle in the bucket or the hole in the concrete block. Once the habitat is lowered in place, let go of one end of the rope and pull the line back through the hole or handle.