How to create effective crappie brush piles

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, 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,” Thompson 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.

Brush pile location is important — it’s hard to beat a ridge next to a steep drop-off.

“I can show you pictures (from down-scan electronics) of crappie just jammed up in those tops,” Thompson said.

The first thing Thompson and fellow guides do when creating a new pile is locate premium locations.

“I like ridges that drop into deeper water,” 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 crew cut serious trees, some as tall as 20 feet. They tied 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 said. “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.

Green trees offer crappie everything they could want, from maximum cover to abundant groceries. Cinder blocks help keep the trees in place.

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.”

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About Andy Crawford 279 Articles
Andy Crawford has spent nearly his entire career writing about and photographing Louisiana’s hunting and fishing community. While he has written for national publications, even spending four years as a senior writer for B.A.S.S., Crawford never strayed far from the pages of Louisiana Sportsman. Learn more about his work at www.AndyCrawford.Photography.