Category Archives: Crappie Fishing

Proper Equipment and Fish Correct Depth to Catch Crappie

Use Proper Equipment and Fish Correct Depth to Catch Crappie with Roger Gant
from The Fishing Wire

Editor’s Note: Roger Gant of Corinth, Mississippi, has fished Pickwick Lake on the Tennessee River for more than 40 years. Some fishermen haven’t recognized Pickwick Lake, located on the Alabama/Tennessee/Mississippi border, as a crappie lake. However, Gant guides on Pickwick Lake more than 200 days a year and consistently catches good limits of slab crappie. Here’s how he does it, from noted outdoors writer John Phillips.

* Have the proper equipment for the time of the year you plan to fish. Many crappie fishermen don’t take the time they need to make sure they have the very-best equipment they can purchase for the time of year they plan to fish. If you use too large a line, your jig will float too high in the water for crappie to take it. If your line doesn’t have the strength you need, you’ll break the line when you set the hook. I’ve found that I can set the hook hard on 8-pound-test MagnaThin line (http://www.stren.com/stren-line-monofilament-stren-magnathin/stren-magnathin/1347942.html), yet the small line will cut through the water so that my jigs run at the proper depths. You need an extremely-soft rod with enough backbone to hold itself upright. When sight-fishing for crappie, I look for the bite on the tip of the rod. So, I must have a sensitive rod to show me even the lightest crappie bite. I like a B’n’M 6 1/2-foot crappie jig pole (https://www.bnmpoles.com/c-13-bucks-series-jig-poles.aspx).

I fish with Quantum’s casting reels (https://www.quantumfishing.com/reels) that have bearings in them and reel smoothly. I use casting reels on spinning rods because most casting rods have a trigger or a hump on the butt of the rod. But, a spinning rod has a straight handle. When the rod’s on the deck of the boat, the reel faces down. I place my rod and reel in this position when I use my style of trolling. I also use casting reels, so I can count the line down to the proper water depth to catch the fish. I put a white piece of tape on the rod 1 foot from where the line comes out of the reel. My fishermen can pull the line off the reel out to where the line crosses the white tape. Each time an angler pulls the line to the white tape, he or she knows his jig will go down one more foot in the water. By having the jigs troll at exactly the water depth where the crappie hold or slightly above the crappie, then we catch more crappie. I believe you can pull line off a bait-casting reel easier and more accurately than you can a spinning reel.

* Fish in the exact depths where the crappie hold to catch more crappie. By constantly watching your depth finder and searching for fish and structure, the depth finder will tell you at what depth you need to troll your jigs. Once I determine the depth of the structure I see on the depth finder, I know how deep to tell my fishermen to let their jigs down, so they’ll pass just above the structure. If I see crappie holding above the structure on my depth finder, I can tell my fishermen how much line to pull off, so that the jigs will pass at the depth where the crappie are holding or slightly above them. If I see crappie 15-feet deep, I can tell my fishermen to let their jigs touch the water and then pull off 14 feet of line. I know that when I slow troll, those jigs will pass about a foot above the crappie. If the fish don’t take the bait, I may tell my fishermen to pull off 1/2-foot of line. Because of the tape, the fishermen know how far to pull the line and can get the jigs down closer to the crappie.

To learn more about crappie fishing with Roger Gant, call him at 731-689-5666 or 662-287-2017, or go to http://visitmississippi.org/events-and-points-of-interest/super-pro-guide-service-26669.

To learn much more about crappie fishing, get John E. Phillips’ Kindle eBooks, and print and Audible books by going to http://johninthewild.com/books/#crappie or to www.barnesandnoble.com for Nook books. To receive and download for free “The Crappie Catchers’ Cookbook,” by John and Denis

Deep cover keys summer crappie success

Deep cover keys summer crappie success–why not make your own?

Editor’s Note: Here’s a nice little story on summer crappie fishing and building your own fish attractors from the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission that could apply pretty much anywhere the fish are found.
from the Fishing Wire

Each spring, anglers comb the shallows at DeGray Lake in Hot Spring and Clark counties, probing tiny jigs and minnows at any likely looking spot in search of crappie. Rarely do anglers leave empty-handed when the dogwoods are blooming and the fish are spawning. But once summer’s heat sets in and the fish move out of the shallows, most anglers hang up the jigging poles or use the same tactics as spring, leaving the lake with hungry stomachs and a bare live well.

John Duncan, owner of www.yoyoguideservice.com, says catching crappie once the spawn has ended can be just as good as when they’re on the beds. Anglers just have to switch to deep-thinking mode. Once the water’s surface temperature begins to creep into the 80s, crappie seek the comfort of cooler water found a little deeper.

“If you just look across the surface, there doesn’t seem to be hardly anything to hold fish, but it’s a different world under the water,” Duncan said. “The Corps [of Engineers], the Game and Fish and some local anglers have sunk a bunch of brush piles throughout the lake, you just have to look for them.”

The latest electronics can be extremely helpful in finding brush piles made of branches and woody cover, but can be tricky to read when searching for brush made of bamboo or river cane, materials extremely popular with crappie anglers.

“If you’re using a side-imaging depth finder, wood will show up easily, but bamboo brush piles may only look like a shadow on the bottom,” Duncan said. “Sometimes you have to go right over it before you can really see what it looks like.”

Anglers who can’t afford high-dollar electronics still can find plenty of offshore options for crappie, it just takes a little more effort and elbow grease. A five-gallon bucket, some hand-cut bamboo and some fast-setting concrete is all it takes to create your own brush piles and place them wherever you want. Channel edges, points, drops and mid-lake humps are all good spots to set up as your personal crappie hole.

Glowing Crappie?

Glowing crappie may help Arkansas GFC evaluate stocking success

PINE BLUFF – Black lights and phosphorescent fish – throw in your standard mod Peter Max poster, some Hendrix on the turntable and maybe a lava lamp, and it would seem like someone’s living room circa 1970. However, more than four decades later, black lights are less a living room showpiece and more useful in the hands of biologists looking for “glowing” crappie to determine how effective a pond-stocking program can be.

As part of a grant administered by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, Greyson Farris, a master’s student in the aquaculture program at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, is studying the AGFC’s crappie stocking program using fingerlings from two hatcheries: the Joe Hogan hatchery at Lonoke and the William H. Donham hatchery in Corning. Late in the fall of the past two years, about 180,000 fingerlings – half of them white crappie from Lonoke and the other half black crappie from Corning – were treated with chemicals that allow researchers to track the fish after stocking in eight Arkansas lakes, according to JJ Gladden, a biologist at the Lonoke facility.

During the first year, the fish were marked with the U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved oxytetracycline, or OTC, in which the fingerlings absorb in a six-hour bath. The chemical is absorbed in bony areas such as the ear bone. Last fall, the fish were also treated with OTC, but Farris then used another marking agent, calcein, a phosphorescent dye, in another, shorter treatment before the fingerlings were taken for stocking.

The key difference between using calcein over OTC is that fish tested for the presence of the marker do not have to be sacrificed in the process.

“As far as I know, nobody has ever done the calcein marking with crappie,” Farris said. “They’ve done it with largemouth bass, perch, walleye.”

Fish captured for testing that were marked with only OTC have to be cut open for their ear bone, or otolith, to be examined under special light. The nature of calcein, Farris says, is that it’s absorbed not only in the bones but in the fins, around the eyes and mouths, and it offers a vivid green appearance when seen under black light and with specific glasses. Using the calcein as a marker required the AGFC to request a special license from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but the process for marking the fish was far easier, Farris said. Instead of a six-hour soak in OTC, the fingerlings were hit with a 30-second bath of salinized water (about 40 parts per 1,000, he said), a fresh water rinse, then a seven-minute soak in the calcein-water mixture. The salt water bath drew out most of the water from the fingerlings – making them “sponge-like,” Farris said – which then soaked up the calcein.

OTC is a proven method in marking fish, in use for more than 40 years, Farris said. The question is, how long will the calcein last in a crappie? Farris said calcein in fish has been shown to degrade over time in sunlight. However, crappie tend to stay deeper in lakes and the fish’s nature is to not turn on its side; the underbelly of the crappie should be least likely to see much if any photodegradation, Farris said. And in fish he’s tested both at UAPB and in pond nettings, he’s found calcein.

All this is to show how effective a stocking program can be for a lake such as Lake Saracen in Pine Bluff, one of the eight lakes in Farris’ study. Other lakes in the study are Lake Des Arc, Lake Charles, Lake Poinsett, Calion Lake, Irons Fork Reservoir, Sugarloaf Lake and Beaverfork Lake. So far, he has found growing crappie that were AGFC-stocked in six of the lakes. “It’s great to see how many fish are surviving on a month-to-month scale,” Farris said. “Most of the time when you stock ponds or lakes, you don’t know if you’re having a benefit to the Commission unless you have a creel survey or stocked fish come up into your nets. You have to kill the OTC fish, and that’s not beneficial in the long term. Also, every OTC-marked fish will take 15 minutes of lab time, at least, to check. You can tell immediately if you have a calcein-marked fish. Fisheries biologists are better off in the long run, getting it cheaper, faster and easier.”

Calcein marking costs more, about $5,000 to mark 90,000 fish compared to $1,000 for OTC. But the tested fish live. And, “any measure of a stocking program is a measure of success,” Farris notes.

Because of warmer autumns the past two years, the fingerlings weren’t ready for the treatment and stocking until November. Farris tested the lakes through the winter and said he will resume through the summer and fall, netting about 250 crappie per lake to find if they were part of the stockings.

“The objective was to find a way to look at these fish without having to kill them, stock them, see them in the nets with [black lights] and see if they were the fish we stocked,” Farris said.

Lake Weiss Crappie Fishing

Fishermen have a dilemma this time of year. Its hard to decide whether to go fishing for crappie or bass. Both bite good during March and you can usually catch a good many of either species. Its hard to decide which to try to catch.

Last week I got to go with experts at catching both. They don’t have to decide, each of them concentrates on one species only all year. I met Mark Collins at Weiss for crappie fishing and Mike Morris for at West Point for bass. Each of them will be featured in articles in both Georgia and Alabama Outdoor News April issues.

Mark Collins has been guiding full time for Lake Weiss crappie for 23 years. He knows how to catch crappie there year round and spring is one of his best times for catching large numbers of fish as well as big fish. This time of year he is trolling for them from his center console boat that will hold up to four fishermen and he runs three rods per fisherman, including himself, the legal limit on Weiss.

Driving into the area around Lake Weiss you will see signs proclaiming Weiss is the “Crappie Fishing Capital of the World.” It has long been known for producing a lot of very big crappie. The lake has perfect habitat for crappie and local businesses, Alabama Power and the state of Alabama all work to keep it good and make it better.

Statewide in Alabama there is a nine inch size limit on crappie to protect the smaller fish and let them grow. On two lakes, Weiss and Logan Martin, the next lake downstream on the Coosa River, both have ten inch limits to help produce quality fish.

Mark is a board member of the Weiss Lake Improvement Association, an organization that works to improve habitat for crappie and other fish on the lake and promotes fishing there. One of the things they have done is put out brush piles made of cane. The GPS co-ordinates for them can be found on his website: http://www.markcollinsguideservice.com/habitat-sites-locations.html. Not only do those brush piles give fishermen a good place to fish, they offer crappie and other species a place to live, feed and grow.

Mark scared me but impressed me at the same time. I was to meet him at noon Monday and ride along that afternoon with him and a guide client. About the time I go to Carrollton he called and said there was no reason to come, the fish were not biting and he had canceled his guide trips.

His website says “No fish, no pay,” one of the few guides that will do that. But he says he wants happy clients that will come back for repeat business so he will call them if the fish aren’t biting.

Fortunately for me, he was out fishing trying to figure out what to do to catch fish. I met him at Little River Landing and Resort, the only full service marina on the lake. They even have rooms to rent and a small restaurant. He had caught about eight crappie that morning, a couple of them over two pounds, so we had fish for pictures for the article.

Eight crappie over ten inches long sounds like a decent catch to me but Mark expects to have 30 fish per person limits each day for his clients. If you want to go out with one of the best guides on the lake you can contact him through his website or call him at 256-779-3387.

Crappie Fishing at Lake Walter F. George in September

Walter F. George has long been known for its excellent crappie fishing. In September night fishing is very good for them. Tie up under any of the bridges on the lower lake like the one in White Oak Creek, hang a light over the side and fill up your cooler while crappie fishing at Lake Walter F. George in September.

Areas of standing timber are also good, like the mouth of Bustahatchee Creek. Anchor near the old creek channel over the timber and put your light over the side. It is a little more difficult to position your boat than it is under a bridge and you need two anchors to hold your boat steady.

With a depthfinder you can usually see the fish and know what depth to fish. Without one, drop a minnow or Hal Fly jig down to nine feet and work it at that depth for a few minutes, then drop down another foot. Keep slowly changing depth until you start catching them.

Light line is the key. Four pound test fluorocarbon is best but you may have to go to six pound to land bigger fish, especially in the timber. Try different color jigs and different size minnows until the fish pick their favorite and then offer it to them.

What Is Dropshotting for Crappie?

Get The Drop On Crappies – Dropshotting for crappie

Crappie caught dropshotting

Crappie caught dropshotting

Drop shot rigging not just for bass anymore

Drop shot rigging is a staple presentation of serious bass fans from coast to coast. But it remains a largely overlooked option for anglers pursuing other species of gamefish, including crappies.

That’s unfortunate, because in the right situations, drop shotting can yield banner catches, and even outfish textbook strategies.

“Drop shotting is a great choice whenever the fish are relatively close to bottom and you want to cover water a little faster, or with more precision, than you can with slip bobbers or vertical jigging,” says veteran fishing guide and lifelong panfish fanatic Scott Glorvigen.

Case in point: the late summer to early fall crappie migration.

“When crappies abandon withering shoreline weedbeds and head toward the main basin where they’ll spend the winter, they often follow bars and points that serve as travel corridors on their way out to deeper water,” he explains.

Drop shot rigs excel at presenting a tantalizing softbait or minnow at or just above the level of fish, and allow anglers to customize the speed of retrieve and amount of animation, without fear of the rig falling to bottom or drifting out of the strike zone.

Glorvigen admits his fall panfish epiphany came while chasing bass on a north-central Minnesota lake.

“I was drop shotting bass with a 6-inch worm on a long finger bar leading from a shoreline saddle straight into the basin,” he recalls. “I was catching bass, but noticed on my sonar there were a lot of crappies and bluegills mixed in with them.”

Glorvigen credits the ultra-sensitive readings from his Lowrance Elite 9 CHIRP electronics for revealing the difference between bass and panfish.

“I was also catching the occasional crappie here and there, which told me that drop shotting might be a winning presentation in this scenario,” he adds.

To tempt more crappies into biting, he traded the bass-sized worm for a more panfish-appropriate, 3-inch Impulse Angleworm from Northland Fishing Tackle.

Small crappie dropshot baits

Small crappie dropshot baits

Panfish-sized softbaits excel on drop shot rigs.

He also down-sized the business end of the setup to a size 4 VMC Spinshot Drop-Shot Hook. “The Spinshot hook is great for drop shotting because it spins around, allowing the bait to move freely, without causing line twist,” he says.

After threading on the worm so the tail remained free for maximum gyrations, he added a live crappie minnow for extra attraction.

“The plastic bait’s constant movement and water displacement makes it easy for crappies to find it, even in stained water, and the minnow is icing on the cake,” he explains. “Plus, if the minnow comes off halfway through the retrieve, I still have a chance to catch fish because the plastic is still in place.”

Glorvigen’s rigging also included a 7-foot, medium-light Lew’s spinning outfit spooled with 10-pound-test Northland Bionic Braid mainline and an 8-pound-test monofilament leader tethered to the hook’s lower line tie.

“The setup works great for crappies, and can still handle the occasional big bass that grabs the bait,” he says.

Leader length was tailored to how high crappies were above bottom. “On structure, the fish were close to bottom and an 18-inch leader worked the best,” he says. “But when they occasionally moved off to suspend over deeper water, leader lengths up to 36 inches produced fish.”

Glorvigen compulsively keeps sinker weight as light as possible when drop shotting panfish, and this was no exception. “It’s important to use the lightest weight you can get away with, so you can feel the fish but they can’t feel the sinker,” he explains.

Glorvigen says pencil-style weights ranging from 1/8- to 3/16-ounce were perfect in the 11- to 19-foot depths he was working.

Once rigged up, he’d cast out, let the sinker settle, and then tighten the line for a direct connection that allowed him to detect bottom as well as subtle bites.

“You can move the rig across by reeling, drifting or using your trolling motor to slowly cover key areas,” he notes.

No matter which means of propulsion you choose, Glorvigen recommends toning down the amount of action you give the bait.

“If the bait jumps around too fast, it’s hard for them to hit it,” he cautions. “I’ve had the best luck with a more subtle approach than what I’d use when bass fishing. Simply shaking and gently twitching the worm is enough. If you get too aggressive, the number of fish drops off dramatically.”

High-quality sonar and GPS can help you find and catch fall crappies.

Find crappie on depthfinder

Find crappie on depthfinder

Glorvigen notes that a good GPS chartplotter is a big help in mapping out structural thoroughfares and waypointing key areas that hold the most fish.

“Custom mapping systems like Lowrance’s Insight Genesis, which allow you to map structure in fine detail, can really help you get the lay of the land and learn why the crappies are attracted to certain areas over others,” he adds.

While the fall crappie transition is a great time to throw drop shot rigs, Glorvigen says there are plenty of other times it pays to keep an open mind on the water.

“Anglers get stuck in our ways and pigeonholed into certain presentations,” he says. “But it’s always good to experiment, adjust, and pay attention to what the fish are trying to tell you, all the way from early spring to last ice.”

Check out this video for more of Scott’s drop shot tricks.

CONTACT INFORMATION
Glorvigen & Glorvigen LLC – 29 County Road 63, Grand Rapids, MN 55744
sglorvigen@wired2fish.com – 218-301-9072

How Can I Catch Crappie On Lake Lanier?

Slab Crappie Time On Lanier

Lake Lanier is a 38,000 acre Corps of Engineers lake just north east of Atlanta. Since Atlanta draws much of its water supply from the lake, it has been in the news a lot the past year because of low water levels. It is also one of the most popular recreation lakes in the US.

Mention fishing at Lake Lanier and people immediately think of spotted bass and stripers. But the lake has an excellent population of crappie and a few fishermen have learned how to catch them. You can often catch 100 crappie a day at Lanier this spring and 200 fish days are possible.

Todd Goade lives in Buford and loves all kinds of fishing. Last year he finished third in the point standings on the Bulldog BFL Trail. He enjoys tournament fishing and when he is not fishing the BFL or another bass fishing trail he often will be catching crappie at Lanier.

Last spring he teamed up with Alan Gee to place second in the Crappie, USA tournament on Lanier. Todd and Alan fished the pro division and weighed in a seven crappie limit that weighed 9.83 pounds. Although they caught over 200 crappie that day, they did not catch the big fish that would have increased their weight. Catching and culling through 200 crappie is a fun way to spend a day on the lake.

There are several reasons Todd likes crappie fishing at Lanier. It is more relaxing than bass fishing so it is a nice change-up. The tackle is simple and easy to use. Crappie are excellent table fare and are hard to beat no matter how you cook them. And you can catch a lot of fish. Who wouldn’t like feeling a fish at the end of your line every few minutes.

Todd says there are a lot of pound to pound and a half crappie in Lanier but two pounders are hard to find. The Crappie, USA tournament results from last March bear this out. There were only five crappie brought to the scales weighing over two pounds and big fish for the day was a 2.31 pound fish. But who can complain about catching crappie that weigh over a pound each? And that is scale weight, not “guesstimate” weight.

Todd has learned how to catch Lanier’s crappie and the way he does it will work for you. Shooting docks with jigs is the way he likes to catch them. You will need a boat, light spinning rod and reel loaded with 4# test line and a couple of cards of Hal Flies.

“In April it seems like every crappie in Lanier is under a dock,” Todd said. Since there are so many docks on the lake and so many crappie under them, targeting docks is definitely the way to go. And you can catch crappie under docks all year, not just in the spring.

Little River and Wahoo Creek are the areas Todd usually fishes, especially early in the spring. It is good year round but the water warms first further up the lake and those areas turn on first. Later in the spring the docks down the lake will be better as the water warms there. There is a little more color in the water further up and that causes it to warm faster.

Water with a little stain in it is good. Todd likes to be able to see his jig down a foot or two but no more. Stained water warms seems to make the fish hit a little better since they don’t get as good a look at the jig. You can catch fish from extremely clear water but a little stain will help you catch more. Muddy water is tougher, too, so try to find stained water.

Any dock on Lanier can hold crappie. Todd says you should start fishing an area and keep records and notes of where you catch good fish. He will often hit a bunch of docks in the morning then return to the ones where he caught fish later in the day.

Early in March the crappie are likely to be holding on deeper docks toward bigger water. Docks with at least 17 feet of water under them are best. As the spawning urge takes hold when the water starts to warm the crappie will move back into the docks in coves and pockets and will be under docks with as little as six or seven feet of water.

“The dogwoods bloom and the crappie spawn is the old saying,” Todd told me. When the water temperature is 62 to 64 degrees I expect most of the crappie to be back in pockets in shallow water spawning. But not all spawn at the same time. They move back in waves so you can find some fish in different depths most of the time.

By late April after spawning the fish will move back out, holding on the same docks they used as they moved in. And some docks will be “honey holes” and hold crappie better than others. Sometimes you can pick these docks out by looking at them but you usually have to fish to find them.

Covered docks are best and the more stuff overhead the better, according to Todd. Pontoon boats are especially good. Older docks seem to be better. A boathouse with a pontoon or boat lift under it can be excellent. Brush piles under and around the docks sweeten them, too.

Todd seldom fishes an open slip in a boat dock. Crappie want something over there heads and an empty slip is way too bright. If there is a brush pile under the slip it might be worth hitting but usually he just goes to the next slip where a boat or lift offers lots of cover over the fish.

Seeing green algae growing on boats, dock floats, posts and boat lifts means the dock is likely to be better. Baitfish feed on the algae and are attracted to docks with it. Crappie eat the baitfish so they are more likely to be under docks where there is a lot of food for them.

To shoot a jig under a dock you need a five to five and a half foot spinning rod with a light tip. Todd likes an All American 5.5 foot rod and teams it with a small Pflueger President reel. The reel needs a smooth drag and the small spool helps the line come off faster.

The line is very important and Todd chooses 4# test Trilene Fluorocarbon Professional Grade. This line is tough for its size, invisible in the water and works well on his spinning reel. A limp line is necessary for small reels and thin line helps the light jigs sink better.

Todd uses Hal Flies for all his crappie fishing. He likes the 1/24 ounce jig best and he starts with a white or white and chartreuse jig. One with some pink in it is good in clear water, too. Many colors work well and some jigs with reds and yellows attract bites, especially if there is a little color to the water.

Hal Flies have feather tails and Todd bites off a little of the end of them, making them just a bit shorter. He says he is not positive this helps him get more hits but he does it anyway. It is worth trying, especially if the fishing is tough. You never know what might help.

Quietly approach a dock you want to shoot and get in close. Your boat will usually be just a few feet from your target. Kneeling or even sitting on the boat deck helps you get on the right level to shoot under the dock. A quiet trolling motor is best and Todd often uses his hand to move the foot control to position the boat. If you are in the back of the boat you can often just sit on the deck and stay in the right position for shooting the dock.

Boat position can be critical. Sometimes fish seem to want the lure moving in a certain direction, especially if they are holding on a brush pile right in front of the dock. Experiment with different angles and let the fish tell you what they want.

The bigger crappie usually hold in the hardest area of the dock to get your jig into. A narrow opening between dock floats and a boat lift float or pontoon float may mean you have to hit a six inch wide, four inch high hole, and you need your jig to go as far back as possible. Remember, the more stuff overhead the more likely the crappie are to be there, and the further back and darker the spot the more likely bigger crappie are to be holding.

Open the bail on your reel and drop your jig down to the last guide above the reel. Grab the head of the jig between thumb and trigger finger with your free hand. While holding the line at the reel with your finger, pull the tip of the rod down to make it bow. Aim the rod at the opening you want to hit and release the jig. As it flies toward the target, release the line at the reel.

It takes some practice to do this but is easier than it sounds. You will go high and hit the dock or go low and hit the water too soon but a little practice will have you putting your jig in spots impossible to reach any other way. Sometimes your jig will skip on the water and you can get it even further back, especially if there is not much clearance between the water and the top of the gap you are shooting.

When your jig hit’s the water flip your bail shut and count the jig down. A 1/24 ounce jig on 4# line will sink about a foot a second. Todd says he counts “One Mississippi, Two Mississippi” to keep a consistent space on his count. You need to know the depth your jig is at when you start getting bites.

Start by counting down to six and then slowly reel your jig back. No action is needed on the retrieve. Actually, jiggling your rod tip may hurt the chances of a bite. If you have ever watched a small minnow swim along it does not move much, it just glides along. That is what you want your jig to do.

Try a few shots with a six count then try eight, ten and even 12 counts. Watch your line carefully at all times. If it jumps as the jig sinks, set the hook and reel in the fish. Just remember where it was on the strike and start using that count. Crappie usually hold at about the same depth on most docks.

When Todd fishes with a partner they try different counts with one reeling in at six and the other at ten then both changing. That way they can cover different depths quickly. They will also try different colors. Once the fish tell them what depth they are holding and which color they like best both will concentrate on those keys.

Another trick Todd uses is to let his jig fall an few inches just when it passes the end of the float or edge of the boat he is fishing. Sometimes a crappie will follow the jig and that little drop will trigger a hit.

As you reel in watch your line, too. If it jumps or if you just feel it get heavy, set the hook. Don’t use a break-their-jaw hook set, just sweep the rod tip and the light wire hook in the jig will go into the soft mouth of the crappie.

Play the fish slowly and carefully to the boat. Crappie aren’t called “paper mouth” for nothing. It is easy to pull a hook out of a big fish, even with four pound line. And you don’t want to break the light line.

Often you will shoot over a bar or part of the dock under water. When you hook a crappie with your line over something, go to it with the boat and get it. You can not pull a decent fish over anything with such light line.

Some people worry about getting a hook in their finger while shooting a dock. Todd says that has never happened to him. Holding the jig by the head turns the hook up and away from your fingers so it will not hook you when you release it. And it won’t come flying back at you if you try to pull it loose if it gets hung. Four pound line will almost always break before that happens.

Todd will shoot his jig into openings on a small dock seven or eight times then move on. He tries a few shots at different depths but says crappie usually hit pretty quickly if they are there. There is no need to waste a lot of time if you are not getting bit. But if you do catch one fish you are likely to catch several.

Don’t hesitate to go back to docks where you caught fish earlier. Crappie will often move in and out around the dock and will be easier to catch at different times. And Todd says watch your depth finder. You will often see a school of crappie near a dock, or brush out from it. When you spot either back off and work your jig through that area at different depths.

Schools of crappie often look like balls of baitfish on your depth finder they are so close together. Baitfish may be present, too, and that is a good sign. Always keep an eye on what is under the front of your boat.

Bass boats are fine for shooting docks but their high decks are a drawback. A lower, smaller boat allows you to get down to the water level easier and make better shots under docks. If you are in a small boat just put in near where you want to fish since Lanier can get so rough.

If you want to try your luck in a crappie tournament, Crappie USA has a tournament on Lanier on March 15, 2008 and West Point on March 29, 2008. There is also a tournament on Weiss on March 8, 2008 and Hartwell on April 5, 2008. You can enter the Amateur Division for a $75 per team fee or choose the Semi-Pro Division at a higher cost. Cash prizes are paid in each division but are higher in the Semi-Pro side.

Crappie, USA was formed in 1996 and purchased the “Crappiethon” tournament trail. They hold 45 tournaments in 20 states each year. Each region has at least six spring and two fall tournaments. The Georgia tournament last fall was on Oconee.

To fish in their tournaments you must join their American Crappie Association organization for a cost of $25 per year. You can get more information about Crappie, USA and their tournaments at http://www.crappieusa.com/

How Can I Catch More Crappie This Spring?

Catch More Cold-Water Crappies this Spring

By Dr. Jason Halfen, www.thetechnologicalangler.com
from The Fishing Wire

Nice spring crappie

Nice spring crappie

The author with a brace of cold water slab crappies

As winter fades slowly into spring, crappies and other panfish begin a predictable transition from thermally stable, deep water basins toward warming shallows where the food web of the lake is beginning to bloom. This general movement may take a number of weeks, and can be easily interrupted by unstable spring weather. However, in general terms, during the weeks after ice cover leaves the lake (or water temperatures begin to rebound from wintertime lows), crappies are on the move with shallow water as their ultimate destination. This is a movement that will eventually lead to spawning, but reproduction is not driving this initial transition; feeding is!

Many anglers will impulsively head to the shorelines and back ends of soft-bottomed bays as soon as surface temperatures begin to increase. While some panfish may be found in these waters, the vast majority of the population, and nearly all of the quality fish, are most likely to be located in transition areas between the deep water basins and shallow spawning grounds. They will remain here until the shallows become consistently warm.

My most important tool for locating cold water crappies is my Humminbird ONIX system equipped with Side Imaging. I will patrol transition areas between deep water basins and shallow feeding (and eventually spawning) grounds until I locate large numbers of fish. I am specifically looking for large collections of white “spots” against an otherwise darker background; these represent schools of crappies that are in transition from deep to shallow water.

Side imaging shows crappie

Side imaging shows crappie

The Side Imaging feature of my ONIX10ci SI system reveals schools of cold water crappies.

Technology can help you catch crappie

Technology can help you catch crappie

The Minn Kota i-Pilot Link system illustrates saved Spot Lock locations with Anchor icons on my ONIX display.

For example, in this screen capture from my ONIX10ci SI system, there are two groups of crappies (circled in yellow) in deep water (10-18 feet), as well as a large group of crappies on the right side image, patrolling a deep weed edge (circled in red). Notice that the shoreline is nowhere in sight; these are transitioning crappies that have not yet reached the shallows. Side Imaging is such a powerful tool for finding fish that I will not stop to try to catch fish until I identify those fish using Side Imaging.

Precise boat control is important for staying on top of these groups of transitioning crappies. I make extensive use of the Minn-Kota iPilot Link Spot Lock feature when targeting cold water crappies. When crappies are actively feeding in a specific area, like the deep weed edge illustrated above, I use the Spot Lock feature to hold my boat in position near the school, so I can focus all of my attention on presenting baits and catching fish. If I lose contact with the school, or if the biters turn from slab crappies to “Tiny Tims”, I will reposition the boat by 10-20 feet along the weed edge until I make contact with the school again.

You can see an example of this Spot Lock/reposition cycle in this screen capture from my ONIX system, as I adjust my boat’s position along the weed edge. Remember, the fish are here to feed, and much like a herd of cattle, they will graze in one area until the food source is exhausted. Then, they will be on the move again – it’s your job to stay with them.

A classic technique for targeting cold water crappies is to dangle a lively minnow above their heads, suspended from a bobber. Allow me to encourage you to try something different this spring: fish exclusively with subtle soft plastics rigged on light jigheads. I rely on the Ratso from Custom Jigs and Spins to put spring and early summer crappies (as well as bluegills and perch) in my boat. The subtle action of the Ratso’s tail is an outstanding trigger for cold water panfish, and the small profile is an excellent mimic for the insect larvae and other invertebrates that constitute the primary forage in these warming waters of early spring.

Take a kid crappie fishing

Take a kid crappie fishing

Share spring crappies with a youngster, and gain a fishing partner for life!

Cold water crappie fishing offers some of the most consistent and reliable opportunities of the year to catch fish. Take advantage of this period to share the outdoors and your love of fishing with a young person. If you invest a little time and effort to find fish with Side Imaging, and position your boat for effective bait presentation using the i-Pilot system, your young guest will reap the benefits of your efforts and reward you with smiles, laughter, and maybe even your first fish fry of the season. So shed those winter coats and enjoy some spring crappie fishing with a youngster today!

Dr. Jason Halfen owns and operates “The Technological Angler”, a media company dedicated to helping anglers learn to use their onboard technology to find and catch more fish. Their first full-length instructional video production, “The Technological Angler, Volume 1: Success with Side Imaging”, was the winner of the 2014 AGLOW awards-in-craft competition in the TV-fishing division.

“The Technological Angler, Volume 2: Integrated Technology” teaches anglers to harness the power of 2D sonar, Side Imaging, Down Imaging, 360 Imaging and the i-Pilot Link system, to find and catch more fish.

March Madness and Fishing

March Madness is here, but that means something totally different for fishermen. To us it means crappie are in the shallows spawning, bass are moving shallow and are much more active and being on the water can be downright comfortable after the miserable cold winter. And catching will be good for at least the next two months.

You can fill your limit of 30 crappie quickly most days by dabbling a minnow or jig around shoreline bushes or other wood cover. They can also be caught by trolling shallow stump flats and drop-offs. This is a great time to fill your freezer with these good tasting fish.

Bass are about as easy to catch as they get. You can catch them on crankbaits, spinnerbaits, worms and jigs. Go about half way back in a cove or small creek and start casting to any wood or rock cover in fairly shallow water and you will catch fish.

Stripers and hybrids are feeding better, too. They start running up rivers in area lakes and also congregate near the dam. They can be caught by trolling or jigging spoons or jigs over deep water, and you can often find gulls diving on fish feeding on or near the surface.

The fishing reports from Georgia lakes I post on my site each week reflect this good fishing. All say fishing is good right now, and they offer a variety of tips on what to fish on that specific lake, where to fish and what to expect. They will say the fishing is good until at least early June.

And my favorite way to fish is about to get right. I love to cast a topwater plug, and as soon as the water temperature hits 55 degrees I will start using a popper or buzzbait. It will be even better when the temperature goes above 60 degrees, but you may be surprised at the strikes you can get when it is still a little colder.

Yesterday the Flint River and Spalding County clubs had our youth/buddy tournament at Jackson and today the Sportsman Club is fishing our March tournament at Oconee. Then on Thursday I go to West Point for three days of practice and the FLW Top Six on the following Monday and Tuesday. I will miss fishing only three days out of 11 so I will get in almost enough time on the water.

Both the Flint River Bass Club and the Spalding County Sportsman Club are sending six man teams to the tournament so 12 of us will be there competing for individual and team prizes. I really enjoy fishing the Top Six each year and hope this is a good one.

What Is Casting for Crappie?

Casting for Crappie
from The Fishing Wire

Casting for crappie

Casting for crappie

When it comes to catching crappie, spider rigging is popular along with long lining. However, just casting for crappie is the number one tactic for many crappie anglers.

As with all fishing, catching crappie by casting requires that you put yourself where the fish are, whether you’re in a $40,000 boat or walking the bank.

For crappie anglers in most areas, the best time to cast for crappie is in the springtime when the fish are up shallow spawning. Crappie will get up on the bank searching for spawning areas and make nests around cover or structure. Making target specific casts to cover and structure is the best way to catch these crappie.

“Casting is a great way to get the bait or lure in front of the fish without spooking them when they’re up shallow,” says B’nM’ crappie pro staffer Brad Taylor.

It’s not just Brad Taylor using a spinning rod and reel when casting for crappie. His daughter, Allie Bre, one of his favorite fishing partners, also loves to cast and catch crappie. “It’s a great time to take out your children and let them cast a live minnow or lure by themselves without having to help them and they can honestly catch a fish by themselves,” said Taylor.

One of Taylor’s favorite crappie fishing spots is the renowned Grenada Lake in Mississippi. “Early in the year, I like to fish the grass on Grenada Lake since there is no structure to speak of here. I usually fish with a live minnow or Southern Pro Lit’l Hustler 1 ½-inch tube rigged on a 1/32- or 1/16-ounce jig head,” said Taylor.

For live minnows, Taylor uses a #2 Eagle Claw 214EL light wire hook and #4 split shot. “Since the water is muddy on Grenada Lake, I can rig up with 8 pound test line when fishing with live minnows or even tubes,” said Taylor.

Crappie caught by casting

Crappie caught by casting

Taylor likes to rig with a cork and keep the tube lure just above where the crappie are located.

“Most the time on Grenada, I’m in about three feet of water catching them,” said Taylor.

Casting light offerings can be challenging for the novice angler. However, a spinning reel can help eliminate some of the problems associated with casting especially live minnows or lightweight lures. Spinning reels have a fixed spool that doesn’t rotate. Instead the fishing line flows off the spool by being pulled from the weight of the lure.

One reel especially effective for this duty is the WaveSpin spinning reel (www.wavespinreel.com) with a unique star-shaped spool lip that the company says is much less likely to cause tangles than conventional designs. Reportedly the design can also increase casting distances due to reduced line drag. The revolutionary spool features a row of teeth all slanted in one direction with gaps between the teeth reducing friction at the same time eliminating tangles. The reels have aluminum spools, all metal gears, over-sized line roller, infinite anti-reverse and an exclusive 10 disc drag system.

Two anglers that don’t have any problems casting spinning rods and reels are B’n’M’s pro staff manager Kent Driscoll and B’n’M’ pro staffer/Grenada Lake fishing guide John Harrison (www.crappie101.com) who fish together in crappie tournaments. Both like to cast spinning rods and reels especially to stake beds. Stake beds are man-made structure commonly constructed from wood or PVC pipe to attract crappie.

“When fishing stake beds, we approach them going into the wind because we can control the boat better and that lets us keep our distanced from the stake bed,” said Harrison.

“We use live minnows, live minnows rigged on a jig with a soft plastic body or a 1/16-ounce jig. Normally, we will just cast past the stake bed and twitch it, pause, twitch, pause retrieve back through the stake bed,” said Driscoll.

Rod and reel for casting for crappie

Rod and reel for casting for crappie

When it comes to crappie rods Taylor, Driscoll, and Harrison like using the B’n’M’ Poles Sam’s Super-Sensitive 7-Foot Crappie Rod (www.bnmpoles.com) or Buck’s Graphite Crappie Spinning rod. Both are lightweight graphite rods design just for casting live minnows or casting lures.

Spinning reels and rods make casting live minnows and lures so easy any angler can do it. Then it’s a matter of cleaning the fish and heating up the cooking oil.