Several years ago, a friend showed me how to catch crappie from underwater trees in Lake Oconee during the heat of August and September. The technique is not real complicated but without a little insight into the techniques from someone who has done it before, it can be a real challenge.

Crappie will stack up in underwater trees and brushpiles beginning in mid-June and will stay in those trees until late October or until a significant drop in water temperature occurs. August seems to be an excellent month to catch the crappie from the treetops if you can stand the heat.

After the cold weather arrives, the crappie will then spread out into open water and suspend in large schools where they will stay until early spring, so right now is prime time for treetop or brushpile crappie fishing on Lake Oconee and Lake Sinclair.

Lake Sinclair has only a few natural underwater trees but there are numerous brushpiles and imitation trees that have been constructed by anglers. The secret is finding those limited number of hotspots. Better treetop crappie fishing can be found at Lake Oconee unless you have an inside track to where some man-made brushpiles are located in Lake Sinclair.

Lake Oconee has hundreds of acres of timber that was flooded when the lake was constructed. The ones holding the treetop crappie are not visible above the water, and most of the good trees are in water 30 to over 60 feet of water. One of the best crappie trees I ever fished in Lake Oconee was is in 60 feet of water, and that tree comes to within eight feet of the water’s surface.

There are literally hundreds of trees in an individual plot but only a few trees in each underwater plot are productive. The crappie concentrate around the biggest trees in the plot and the tops of the best trees must come within 10 feet of the surface to be a good tree. As I have returned to the lake many times after being introduced to the technique, I have found this to be true.

The key is finding the best trees. Once you have found a good tree, catching the crappie is relatively easy. You want to look for trees with a huge trunk with limbs protruding out from the tree, and as mentioned earlier you want to look for trees where the tops come within eight to 12 feet of the surface. A Lake Oconee map that marks the underwater plots of trees will be a big help when beginning your search.

Ride over one of the plots using your depth finder and when you find a good looking tree, throw out a buoy marker and fish that location thoroughly. No matter the water depth or height of the tree, the fish will usually be eight to 16 feet deep (occasionally deeper but never more shallow). If you catch fish from a marked tree make sure you note its location and a GPS will help you return to fish good trees.

The real work comes in just finding some good productive trees. You might want to just go looking first and not even fish for the first few trips. Then return after you have found several promising trees and see if they pay off for you. Finding a few good trees takes some effort but you will be richly rewarded by the time spent in locating those good trees.

As mentioned earlier, using structure markers is an absolute necessity when you fish the treetops. Just drop the marker off to one side of the tree and use it for a reference to stay over the tree. Once you are over a tree, it is fairly easy to stay over the tree with only an occasional bump of the trolling motor. On a good depth finder, the tree will light up like a Christmas tree.

You may find two or three good trees in one plot and if so drop a marker over each tree and then just move from tree to tree. Just position the boat right over the tree and drop jigs or minnows down around and into each tree before moving to the next tree. If the tree is holding crappie they will strike almost immediately.

Most of the crappie will be anywhere from eight to 16 feet (this is the magic depth) below the surface, and it doesn’t matter if the tree is 30 feet tall or 50 feet tall. Many times the crappie will hit the jig on the initial drop. If nothing hits on the initial drop, you can work the water between eight to 16 foot by lifting and dropping the jig or minnow. Then just reel in and do another drop.

I use a 1/32 weight that I pinch on the line about six to eight inches above a 1/16-ounce jig head with a black and silver tube jig. Other colors and types of jigs will work but it is hard to beat the black and silver tube jig. For minnows just swap out the jig head for a good minnow hook. When using minnows, you might want to use a 1/16 weight to add a little weight.

If the July/August heat is too much for you to handle, just remember the crappie will stay in the treetops until the first cold snap of fall. It takes some work to locate and mark the best crappie trees but your efforts will be rewarded with some excellent fishing. Good fishing and see you next week.

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