Vertical Casting

That’s what I call it, anyway. Others may have another name, or many other names, or may just consider it a variation or part of “vertical jigging”. Decide for yourself.

What is “Vertical Casting” – simply put, it’s letting out line until the bait hits bottom or is obviously deeper than the Crappie are suspended … then slowly reeling the bait back up. You are, in essence, “casting” straight down (vertical) and reeling straight up. I don’t call it vertical “jigging”, because I don’t impart any extra movement to the bait. I don’t jerk, jiggle, shake, or cause any added movement to the bait as I reel it back up. In fact, I try and keep the rod & reel as still as possible.

How do you “Vertical Cast” – disengage your reel and allow the bait to drop straight down to the bottom, or deep enough that you are sure the bait has dropped below the depth of the fish. Engage the reel and very slowly start reeling back in. Hold the rod lightly in your hand (don’t grip it tight, as that will wear your hand and arm out, and it may effect your ability to detect a light strike). The rod should be in a comfortable position, in relation to your body, but your arm should not be resting on anything. The rod tip should be pointing straight out from you and the rod should be parallel to the water’s surface (what’s commonly known as the 9 o:clock position). A good, smooth winding reel is essential. Reeling “slowly” means taking 5-7 seconds to make one full turn of the reel handle. The bigger the reel (or reel spool) or the faster the reel’s line pickup speed – the slower you’ll need to turn the handle. You want the bait to take several seconds to rise a foot up thru the water column. This will give fish, in the most neutral of moods, a chance to ease over and sample your offering.

Where do you “Vertical Cast” – anywhere … but, especially in places or under circumstances where normal, horizontal casting isn’t possible, or when fish are deeper than you can reach them with your normal casting (distance) methods. Some situations that I use a “vertical cast” are: blown down trees with branches that are too numerous or thick to get a bait far enough down in them (with normal casting methods)… deep brush piles … submerged standing trees with multiple branches …bridge/boat dock pylons … when there are overhead or overhanging obstacles that won’t allow me to make a cast or accurate presentation … and when it’s too windy to get a light bait on light line to sink deep enough to get to the fish. I also use it on cover that I’ve already cast to, to probe deeper into the cover, from the vantage point of directly overhead.

What “bait” do you “Vertical Cast” – normally I use jigs … tube jigs, grub/jighead, hair/feather jigs, and even jig/minnow. Most of the time I use a weedless jighead, but I do, on occasion, use a non-weedless one. The size of the jighead, or actually the weight, ranges from 1/64oz to 3/16oz – but, you can use heavier or lighter ones – depending on how receptive the fish are to them. Most of the time I’m using a 1/16oz … and since I’m using a free spooling “spinning” reel and light line – and I’m “casting” straight down – it seems to be an all around good weight/size. The “plastics” I put on my jigheads are from 1 inch long to 2.5 inches long … generally approximating the smaller sized baitfish of the lake.

What is happening during “Vertical Casting”, that causes a Crappie to bite? It is my belief that the fish see the bait as a forage fish or aquatic creature, rising slowly towards the surface. Possibly they see it as an injured baitfish, or just one that is feeding on the plankton or algae, and not paying attention to any predator threat. It’s one of the reasons I don’t impart any extra action to the bait. If you’ve noticed minnows around cover, they aren’t usually zigging and zagging … but, seem to just be slowly meandering among the branches and minding their own business. Crappie are not “dash and slash” feeders. They are, for the most part, “ambush” feeders that slip up from behind and under their prey … slowly, so as not to alarm the prey, but deliberately in a “stalking” manner. The slowly rising bait gives them ample opportunity to realize that this “meal” is an “easy target”, and they won’t have to expend much energy to capture it. And don’t worry about coils in the line, causing the bait to come to the surface in a circling motion. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – minnows seldom rise to the surface like a floating stick. They do tend to “circle” around and around and back and forth as they feed and or come up shallower.

How will you know when a Crappie has taken the bait? A hit, or strike, on a rising jig can come in many forms. You may get a yank, a “tic” (very light tap or yank), a feeling of mushy “weight” (like dragging up a leaf or chunk of moss), a sideways movement in the line, or your line may suddenly go slack (and you know the bait isn’t on the bottom). Any of these, and any other movement of the line or rod tip that you don’t cause to happen – could be a “hit”, and you should set the hook with a lifting of the arm and an upward snapping of the wrist. Holding the rod/reel lightly in your hand will telegraph even the lightest “bump”, so watch the line in conjunction with feeling with the rod, and you’ll soon figure out the difference between bumping a branch and getting a bite.

I didn’t “invent” this method, and take no credit for doing so. I just use it, with good results, and just gave it a “name” to distinguish it from like methods and variations of established methods – you call it what you like, but give it a try. I hope you have as much success with it as I do …Luck2ya … Crappiepappy

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