Like kids haggling over tasty little stocking stuffers, the key to finding crappie around the Christmas season is locating baitfish schools. Food is always important, for these voracious little line stretchers, but this time of year, Louisiana guide Dennis Tietje knows the crappie will be super picky.

“They’re going to hang on the break lines,” Tietje said of the crappie’s preference for river and creek channels. “They’re very easy to pinpoint once you find them.”

This time of year, cooler water pushes the crappie off the brush piles and out to the drop-offs. The deeper the better, Tietje said, but food is a must. No bait, no crappie.

Other factors affecting the early winter crappie bite include:

Early Breakfast: Anglers in the know make sure they’re on the sweet spots right at daybreak. The midday bite might may very well heat up for brief periods, but Tietje said that sunrise is the period of greater opportunity.

“What happens is during the middle of the day, the baitfish tend to move off the edges of the channel and suspend. I think if you had a more confined area, your bite would last longer. It’s not that the fish aren’t feeding, they’re just harder to locate.”

The Big Blow: A passing cold front will make you reach for another layer of fleece but in the deeper water where winter crappie gather, declining temperatures have less effect. The problem, Tietje said, is that the strong winds associated with the weather change can challenge boat positioning.

Go (from) the Flow: Occasional heavy rains may benefit bass anglers with warm, darker inflows. However, while those impacts have little impact on crappie depths, the current formed by this runoff will further complicate boat control.

Bottom line? You want to pick your days for early winter crappie, but find the bait on a calm, clear morning and it’s game-on.