Eufaula Crappie Bite Even On “Slow Days”

Capt. Ryan Nix finds a way to make wintertime crappie bite deep in the brush on Lake Eufaula.

Andrew Curtis | December 31, 2023

Above: GON freelance writer Andrew Curtis (right) and Andrew Dismuke (Diz) with a stringer full of Eufaula crappie caught just a few weeks ago. They were fishing with Capt. Ryan Nix (pictured on the left in the below photo).

We met at the Cool Branch Park boat ramp just south of Georgetown on a recent cold, clear morning. Captain Ryan Nix was waiting and ready to go as my friend Diz and I pulled up.

Ryan has made a living on the water, retiring from the U.S Coast Guard after 20 years of honorable service. Being from southwest, Georgia, Ryan knows Lake Eufaula extremely well and has fished there since his early childhood. Now, he is back home where he feels that he belongs, running Family Traditions Fishing Adventures guide service, as well as being the towing port captain for TowBoatUS Walter F. George.

“I doubt y’all have done the kind of fishing that we are going to do today,” he said.

I was puzzled by the comment since I have done plenty of crappie fishing all over Georgia, but he was correct; I had never fished quite like we were going to this day.

We hopped into his boat and struck out west from the boat ramp, heading toward the Alabama side. The water was low and dangerous to anyone not familiar with the lake. Submerged timber lurked seemingly everywhere, and sandbars rose up unpredictably in the middle of the lake and remained concealed by the water’s placid surface. All of these structural and topographic variations, though, make this lake a prized body of water for fisherman.

Ryan traveled through the potential hazards with ease and slowed as we approached our first destination, a brushpile in 25 feet of water that Ryan had marked on his GPS. He quietly slipped the trolling motor into the water and said, “Watch the screen.” The screen he referred to was the Humminbird Solix 12 Fishfinder/GPS Chartplotter paired with the Humminbird MEGA Live Imaging Transducer. Ryan recommends using a screen cleaner like Captain Gary’s Electronics Display Cleaner to keep the fish slime off the screen in order to see more clearly.

Crappie fishing has changed a lot in the last decade. With the use of good electronics you get a live picture of the fish down below. That intel can now turn a slow day of fishing into a cooler full of crappie. Winter is a great time to find them bunched up on trees, and depending on the day, they may want live bait or artificial baits.

As he slowly floated over the target brushpile, the screen lit up with a wad of green blebs hovering off the lake bottom.

“There’s our fish!” he said. “Now, it’s one thing to find them and another thing to actually catch them. We may have to coax them into biting today.”

Demonstrating for us, Ryan grabbed a B’n’M Diamond Series 10-foot rod equipped with a Daiwa Fuego 1000 spinning reel. On the end of his line was a 1/4-oz. jig head fitted with a grape-ape Reaper Tail soft bait. Ryan uses 1/4- or 1/8-oz. Eyehole scent-holder jigs from Leland’s Lures, which hold the crappie nibble in the jig head for scent additive. He gets his baits from Brush Pile Baits and says that his four hot colors are grape ape, classy monkey, watermelon and pimp daddy.

He smoothly let the jig down into the water and pointed to the tiny green bleb on the sonar screen to indicate his lure. We watched on the screen as the jig descended toward the large green ball of fish near the bottom. Just before his lure got to the fish, he stopped it and hovered it right above them.

Several of the green blebs, indicating individual fish, broke away from the school to inspect the lure. Gently he twitched the rod tip, but the fish did not bite.

“That’s the thing about crappie… they sure are finicky fish. Let me change it up,” Ryan said.

He reeled in his line, picked up another pole with a size 2 gold aberdeen hook positioned about 8 inches from a size 5 split-shot weight holding a 1/4-oz. egg weight. Ryan prefers the larger hook size like the No. 2 because it is less likely to be swallowed and is easier to unhook the fish, so he can get his bait back into the water quickly, but a smaller hook can be used, too. Next, he flipped open the lid to his aerated minnow cooler and baited a small minnow (about an inch and a half in length) by passing the hook through both eye sockets. Gently, he inserted his rig into the water and let it down, tracking it on the sonar screen. Like before, once he suspended the bait above the ball of fish, several fish pulled away to investigate the setup.

I noticed that he kept the rod tip still, preferring not to twitch it. I asked why.

“Obviously, these crappie are not aggressive today, so I don’t want to do anything to spook them,” he said. “What I will do is very slowly pull my bait up and let the minnow do the work.”

While he ever so slowly raised his rod tip, the fish on the screen followed the bait up to about 10 to 12 feet of depth. Then, one of the crappie could stand it no more, and Ryan hooked the fish and reeled it to the boat.

“It’s important to not set the hook,” he instructed. “All you do when you feel them bite is just slowly pull the rod tip up.”

The front of Ryan’s boat was equipped with the Millenium Sidekick Double Seat with Marine deck Chairs, which allows two fishermen to comfortably sit at the front to easily view the sonar screen and be able to reach the Millenium Spyderlock Gen 2 rod holders, if multiple rods are set.

Diz and I picked out our rods, baited the hooks with the minnows, took our seats, and let our baits down, watching the screen the whole time. It reminded me of a video game mixed with reality. We figured out that if our minnows went too low and into the mass of fish, the crappie would seem to avoid the minnows. But if we hovered it right above their heads, a few were willing to investigate. However, this did not always elicit a bite. The key I realized was to very, very slowly pull the minnow toward the surface to entice the semi-interested crappie to bite.

After catching a handful of nice-sized crappie, we saw some bigger fish come onto the screen. Diz hooked one and fought the fish to the surface. It was a channel catfish, and Ryan shook his head. “Time to go to another spot,” he said. “Sometimes the catfish will move in and take over.”

We motored to the mouth of a cove on the Alabama shore and came to a dock on the point. The water depth off the end of the dock was 20 to 25 feet. A brushpile could be seen on the Humminbird screen. Ryan panned the transducer around until he found the green ball of fish he was after.

“Let’s try a spoon,” he said.

The spoons he likes to use are Kastmaster 1/4-oz. or 1/8-oz. in silver or gold. At that, he gently let a gold spoon into the water and viewed it on the screen as it sank toward the targets on the bottom. Lightly bouncing his rod tip, he danced the lure just above the crappie. A few fish seemed interested, but just as quickly returned to the big school.

“OK, let’s drop some minnows down on them,” Ryan said. “These fish are not wanting to cooperate, but we are going to make them bite.”

Ryan was right indeed; we would make them bite, even on a “slow day!”

Crappie can be finicky in January. One day they may want live minnows on a hook and split-shot, and other days they may prefer artificials, either jigs or spoons.

After catching several crappie near this dock, we motored back out to the middle of the lake.

Ryan slowed the boat and said, “This is what we call The Pecan Grove. Just look at the sonar screen.”

An abundance of concealed trees came into view on the screen. Ryan quietly trolled over the submerged forest until he saw the green ball he was looking for.

“Here are the fish, boys!”

We stared at the largest school of fish that we had seen yet. Again, we were in about 25 feet of water. Ryan unhooked the minnows on our lines and rebaited with lively ones. It is important that the minnows are frisky to entice the crappie to bite. Diz and I let our baits down to a level just above the wad of fish. Instantly, several fish came to check out our minnows, and we hooked up on a double.

“It’s killing me that these fish won’t bite anything artificial. Let me see if I can change that,” said Ryan.

He picked up his rod with a 1/4-oz. Kastmaster silver spoon and let it down into the water quietly, watching it descend on the sonar screen. Just above the school, he gently danced the lure. Once a few fish came close, he continued to lightly twitch the spoon while simultaneously raising his rod tip to bring the spoon up slowly. His rod tip suddenly bent hard, and Ryan reeled in a good-sized crappie.

Handing me the rod with the spoon, he said, “Here, you try this. It’s funny how some schools act differently. These fish here may be more willing to bite artificial lures.”

I mimicked how he had done previously, and within 30 seconds, I hooked a crappie on the spoon. Between the spoon and minnows, we pulled out our best numbers in this location. We also added a nice 2-lb. spotted bass to the pot, using a minnow.

“Running a guide service like I do, I have to be careful not to overfish a single location,” said Ryan. “Often times that means leaving a spot while the fish are still biting, but don’t worry, I have plenty more brushpiles we can hit.”

As noon approached, we realized the crappie were actually biting more willingly. We began to catch fish on the 1/4-oz. Eyehole jig with purple ape Reaper tail. So, even though the morning began with minnows strongly outcompeting artificial lures, by the end of the trip, the artificials were holding their own.

It is safe to say that without modern technology that day, I would have caught very few fish, if any, had I been by myself. But staring at our impressive stringer of fish, you would never be able to tell that we had fished on what I would call a relatively “slow morning.” Invest in the correct equipment and you should be able to master the art for yourself. However, if you want to increase your odds of catching a lot of crappie on Lake Eufaula, I recommend you contact Capt. Ryan Nix with Family Traditions Fishing Adventures. Even if the crappie “aren’t biting,” Ryan will find a way to fill your cooler!

Capt. Ryan Nix of Family Traditions Fishing Adventures can be found on Facebook or reached at 850.630.0833.

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  1. Eric Hicks on December 31, 2023 at 10:22 pm

    If Ryan can’t put you on the fish then nobody can!!! Great article!

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