Push and Pull Up an April Mess of Lake Weiss’ Spawning Slabs

Some of the top Weiss tournament anglers reveal tips for April crappie.

Joe DiPietro | March 30, 2011


April is a great time to target spawning crappie on Lake Weiss. Here, Scott Echols, of Eva, Ala., displays an average keeper next to a 2-lb. slab.

Lake Weiss has long been revered by anglers across the Southeast for some of the best crappie fishing in the region. This reputation is due to both the numbers and quality of fish in the lake. In April, when the fish have moved up on the banks and are spawning, anglers can experience some of the best fishing this excellent crappie lake has to offer.

As the water warms up into the mid 60s, fish will be in shallow water spawning. They will also be eating well, which makes them easy to catch. For most Lake Weiss crappie anglers, the spawn will mark the beginning of the best time of year to fish for quick limits and big slabs, which sometimes come close to or break the 3-lb. mark.

Anglers can find a lot of ways to get into crappie while they’re spawning, but no doubt there are a couple techniques that stand out among all others in terms of effectiveness. The two best ways to target crappie right now are known as pushing and pulling.

“This lake is so diverse; you can fish for crappie on deeper ledges, on shallow flats, you can shoot docks, or you can push or pull,” said tournament angler Scott Echols, of Eva, Ala. “But to me, the best way to fish for them is going to be by pushing or pulling.”


“Pushing is one of the best ways to target shallow-water crappie in the spring,” Scott said. “It’s one of my favorite ways to fish. Of course, I’m a shallow-water fisherman, so I really love it. I think there are some fish that stay shallow all year long. I’ve caught crappie in 3 feet of water in December, and I’ve caught them in 3 feet in July.”

Scott’s idea of pushing consists of setting up on the bow of the boat with several 16-foot trolling rods with small baitcasting reels on them. On Lake Weiss, anglers are limited to three rods per person. Otherwise, Scott said he’d likely fish with more. Scott’s pushing rigs are spooled with 10-lb. test, high-visibility line.

Scott then tacks on a 3-inch-long, oblong foam cork and a split-shot a few inches above a small minnow or minnow-tipped jig. The weight needs to be just big enough to keep the cork up at about a 45-degree angle.

The next trick to pushing is going the right speed, which Scott said should be between 0.5 to 0.6 miles per hour. It’s a slow troll compared to longlining for crappie, and the lines should pretty much fall vertically into the water.

As far as setting the depth to fish, Scott recommended situating the bobber between 12 and 24 inches above the bait or jig, depending on how shallow you’re fishing.

“You want to have the bobber high enough above the minnow to keep you out of the brush while your minnow is also just above those spawning fish,” Scott said.

The bobbers are fished directly off the bow. Drop the rig in the water, and set the pole in a rod holder. Scott literally trolls the boat right to or over any structure or cover the fish might be in. That’s the beauty of pushing. With those long rods off the front of the boat, the angler can push baits into whatever shallow cover the fish happen to be in, even if they are right on the bank.

While fishing with the pushing technique, it’s crucial to keep a close eye on the cork. The fish usually hammer the bait pretty hard, but there can be times, particularly in cloudy water or after a significant weather system has rolled through, that the fish bite a little softer.

“Sometimes that crappie will come up and catch a minnow and sit with it,” said Scott’s father and tournament teammate Roger Echols, of Somerville, Ala. “When they do that, the cork won’t go under. Instead, it’ll just lay over on its side.”

Of all the ways to catch crappie on Lake Weiss, Scott and Roger both named pushing as their favorite.

“I like it so much because I love to cork fish,” Roger said. “It’s probably because that’s the way I was brought up.”

“I’m not going to say it will always work, because it’s fishing. But I just love pushing,” Scott said. “There’s something about seeing that cork go under that I love.”


Pulling is another trolling technique Scott employs for spring crappie on Weiss. It’s different from pushing, but it can be just as effective, if not more so, because it allows the angler to cover more water faster. Scott said a lot of people call it longline trolling.

When pulling, Scott uses 16-, 14- and 12-foot long spinning rods with small ultralight reels, per the three-rod per angler maximum on Weiss. The line Scott uses for pulling is 6-lb. test, high-visibility line.

“The heavier the line is, it’s actually going to keep the bait up,” Scott said. “So, we use 6-lb. line so we don’t have to let out as much line to get the bait down.”

Scott pulls 1/16- and 1/32-oz. jigs. Keeping a wide variety of jig bodies on hand is important to successful pulling.

“You never really know what type of jig the fish are going to want,” Scott said. “I’ve had a lot of luck on blue and black, blue and white, and blue and chartreuse jigs on Weiss. But the fish can change at any moment.”

Scott’s large tackle box of jigs includes everything from marabou jigs and tube jigs to curly tail jigs and split-tail jigs. The variety of color patterns is just as wide and varied.

If pulling proves to be a little slow on any given day, Scott said he’ll sometimes tip the jigs with minnows. But, usually, he can get by without it.

When pulling for crappie, using a steady retrieve to bring fish to the boat keeps from jerking the hook out of their paper-thin mouths. Here, Scott reels a fish in.

Once the rods are all rigged up for pulling, Scott and Roger set up on opposite sides of the boat. The rods are laid out according to size, with the longest up front and on the outside. Then the rods are staggered in size as they go back toward the stern and in toward the center of the boat. The rods are put in rod holders in this way to keep the lines away from one another.

Pulling is a faster way to fish for crappie.

“It’s a good way to locate fish,” Scott said. “You can cover a lot more water pulling than you can pushing. Plus, you’ll probably lose more fish pushing than you do pulling. Once you hook one pulling, you’ve pretty much got him unless you do something wild.”

In general, Scott said he usually pulls for crappie at a speed between 0.9 and 1.2 miles per hour.

“Pulling is probably the most commonly used tactic to catch crappie on Lake Weiss,” Scott said. “It’s definitely a good way to catch them.”

While pulling, Scott lets out between 30 to 60 feet of line, depending on the location of the rod. To adjust the depth of the lure, anglers can simply let out more line to get it deeper or reel in line to set it more shallow.

One similarity with pushing is that you want to pull the lures just over the top of structure holding the fish.

“Especially in muddy water, you want to put the bait right in front of the fish,” Scott said.

Once a fish hits a line that’s being pulled, anglers should give them just a second to commit.

“Most of the time, the fish will hook themselves and come up to the top of the water,” Scott said. “Once they’re hooked, you want to reel them in slowly and keep good steady pressure on them.”

Scott also recommended letting the movement of the boat help adjust the position of the lures being fished.

“Sometimes we’ll zig-zag the boat to pull the jigs up on one side and let the other side fall deeper,” he said.

Roger added, “That’s one good thing about pulling a jig, you can change it up quick. There’s all kinds of variables to this kind of fishing.”

Scott, Roger and I fished Lake Weiss on a sunny, warm day. We put in at Riverside Marina and headed just a short distance toward the top end of the lake into a backwater cove. Scott and Roger immediately started pushing three lines each. On Scott’s boat, he has two seats in the bow with rod holders for two anglers. They used minnow-tipped jigs under their floats to help locate fish.

The depthfinders stayed on during the entire time we fished. As with most crappie anglers, Scott said he likes to mainly target areas with plenty of brushpiles and downed trees. On Lake Weiss, there is no shortage of woody structure.

“Electronics are a must-have when fishing this way,” Scott said. “Not only does it help you locate fish, but it also helps you find structure and stay out of water that is too deep or too shallow.”

After a few passes over a shallow point, one of Roger’s corks stood up, wobbled and lay back down. He went to grab it, set the hook, but the fish had spit the jig. We continued to work our way through the cove and noticed a friend of Scott’s was having luck. The boat nearby managed to catch a few nice slabs using the pushing technique.

Scott then pulled up the trolling motor, and we headed back toward an island near Riverside Cove. Once we got there, we set up to start pulling. Scott sat up on the bow of the boat, while Roger and I fished off the back of the boat. As we pulled a variety of jigs, we each had a couple pops, but none of the fish really took the bait.

Scott started to mention other good springtime crappie locations on Lake Weiss like the Chattooga River and Little River areas, the vicinity around Godfrey Island and other backwater coves in the upper end of the lake. Before long, we were headed off to the backside of Godfrey Island.

Then we started pulling jigs at a good pace, and before long Roger and I heard Scott holler. His spinning rod had a good bow in it.

“These crappie sure do fight,” Scott said. “Sometimes an 8-incher fights like it’s 2 pounds.”

After a quick fight, Roger took the net and helped Scott by scooping up a nice slab of about 1 1/2 pounds.

We spent the next few hours pulling through the same area of the lake. The fish were agreeable, and we managed to catch a fish or two on just about every pass.

“One thing I love about crappie is the challenge,” Scott said. “To me, crappie are a lot more finicky than other fish like bass. Plus, I like to eat them, too.”

All the water we fished during the day was shallower than 6 feet.

Lake Weiss is known for all the brush and driftwood it is home to, particularly after any fluctuation in water level. To help avoid hanging in all the limbs and leaves, Scott recommends using sickle hooks.

Another important tip Scott offered for anglers in April is to have a driftsock on board.

“In the springtime that wind is going to blow,” he said. “You’ll save a lot of time and trouble if you use a driftsock.”

The biggest fish to come to the boat during our day went close to 2 pounds. In general, Scott said if he’s going to keep fish, he tries to keep the smaller fish. The 10-inch length limit on Lake Weiss puts most of the fish Scott keeps between 10 and 13 inches. He releases the larger fish to spawn.

“This can definitely be a hard lake to fish,” Scott concluded. “It’s been one of my favorite lakes, and it’s been one of my most hated lakes. But in the last few years, it has been a good lake again.”

Scott builds and sells custom rod holders. For more information, visit

Angler Profile

• Scott and Roger Echols have fished Lake Weiss in Crappie USA, Crappie Masters and the Super Slab Series tournaments, in addition to various local club tournaments for many years. Last year, they placed first in three of four tournaments they fished on Lake Weiss.

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