Crappie guide gives crash course on building, sinking brush piles outdoors theeagle.com gas relief for babies home remedy

For starters, crappie are object nuts. They like to set up camp around anything that provides them with cover. Brush also provides a foundation for the formation of zooplankton and other microscopic goodies on which shad, minnows and other bait fish feed. Once the bait fish show up, the crappie are not far behind.

Johnston, 41, says brush piles are to crappie what corn feeders are to whitetail deer. Build one at a favorable location and there is a good chance you will draw a crowd. Brush piles also go a long way towards helping keep clients stay hooked up when other anglers might be struggling.

"Brush piles are a big part of my business, mainly because it helps concentrate the fish to specific spots," he said. "Without them the fish would really scatter out, and you would have to hunt and peck to find them. Brush helps take the guesswork out of it. It is pretty much a guaranteed catch so long as the weather is right."

Crappie like to gather around brush just about any time of year, but they become especially attractive from summer through fall. The fish usually begin gravitating to brush piles in 10 to 15 feet of water during late spring, soon after the spawn winds down. They move progressively deeper as water temperatures continue to warm.

Productive as they are, fish hotels are not easy to construct. Done right, it is a demanding chore that means hard work and dirty hands. It also calls for a little ingenuity on the builder’s part when it comes to selecting materials, putting them together, choosing a location and securing the goods to the bottom in a way that they will last for the long haul.

Johnston gets his brush from a friend’s private property, then transports it to the lake on a flatbed trailer and transfers it to his old wide draft flatbottom boat for distribution. He says it is important to sink the brush as quickly as possible after you cut it.

"If you wait longer than two days the leaves will start to curl up and turn brown," Johnston said. "Trees that are still green provide a lot more cover for shad and other forage than those with no leaves. In my opinion, the fresher the tree, the better off you are."

Some friends of mine built about a half dozen artificial fish trees a few years ago using scrap plastic including PVC pipe and 50-gallon plastic drums with openings carved in the sides. They created limbs by attaching copper or aluminum wire to the base, then adding gallon bleach jugs to the opposite end of the wire. The sealed jugs act as floats to keep the barrel standing upright on bottom. They anchored the barrels using 15-pound chunks of concrete.

The best depth range can vary from one lake to the next according to the season of the year and water level. On Toledo Bend, Johnston likes his piles situated at depth ranges of 20-32 feet. He usually prefers to have 10-15 foot window between the top of the brush and the surface. Sometimes the fish will suspend on top of the brush. Other times they like to loaf around the outskirts.

Johnson says woven polypropylene sandbags equipped with ties are a much cheaper alternative. He fills the bags for free using sand from the shoreline, then cuts a hole in both sides before tying them shut. He loops a secondary rope through the holes, which is used for securing the bag to the artificial base.

Any brush pile constructed using natural materials will rot in time. Johnston likes to pull maintenance on his sweetest spots about once year. He always makes sure to drop the new brush right on top of existing brush to avoid enlarging the size of the attractor.

Main lake points, humps and ridges are great places to sink brush. Problem is, these types of places are frequently visited by other anglers whose boats are equipped with good depth finders and GPS mapping systems. Odds are a secret spot created in an obvious location probably won’t remain a secret for very long.

Johnston prefers to sink his piles in places that are less conspicuous. He likes creek beds and river channel breaks in wide open water with no visible landmarks nearby. Main lake flats also can be good, so long as hydrilla is not overly abundant. He marks each spot using his GPS for future reference.

"Sinking brush piles is trial and error," he said. "It’s sort of like street corner convenience stores. One store might not see much traffic at all, whereas another one located a mile down the road might stay covered up with business all the time."