Power Tactics For Papermouths

Next time you're angling for crappies, stock up on these tried and true lures -- and the power tactics that will render them irresistible. (February 2008).

Photo by Matt Sutton.

When I was a youngster learning to fish for crappie, my uncles taught me that versatility often translates into success. If jigs enticed crappie, all was fine -- jigs it was. But if jigs didn't produce, it was time for another come-on. I learned that crappie are enticed by a wide variety of lures that nail slabs nearly as often as do minnows and jigs. To make the most of your crappie outings, give these lures and power tactics a try this season. Your crappie-eating friends and relatives will thank you.

CHARLIE BREWER

WEEDLESS CRAPPIE SLIDER

When properly rigged -- with the hook point of the special-made jighead buried in a grub -- the Crappie Slider does exactly what Charlie Brewer intended; it eliminates the aggravation of constant hang-ups in dense cover. The Slider -- available in a wide variety of colors and sizes -- has become one of the most popular crappie lures of all time.

Power Tactic: When spawning, crappie nest around stumps or logs in shallow water.

To catch these fish, use a fine-wire, double-armed spreader rig such as the ones made by Culprit and Eagle Claw. Snap a 1-ounce bass-casting sinker to the bottom of the rig and replace the crappie hook on each arm line with a Slider.

The sinker allows you to feel the bottom and find stumps, while the weedless jigs lessen snagging.

While wind-drifting or slow-trolling with an electric motor, work the rig vertically beside the boat, using a lift-and-drop action. When you feel the rig bump on a stump or log, raise it up and over.

You must be constantly attentive, raising or lowering the rig with your rod tip in order to maintain feel and keep the rig bouncing across cover objects without hanging.

JOHNSON BEETLE SPIN

The Beetle Spin is an incomparable crappie lure. Snap on the safety-pin spinner and use it to fish all sorts of cover and structure. The 1/32-ounce model is ideal for catching lots of crappie, no matter what their size. But when trophy fish are what you want, don't hesitate to try the 1/8- or 1/4-ounce versions, too. The crappie you hook are likely to be huge.

Power Tactic: It's difficult to fish a Beetle Spin at the snail's pace often needed for sometimes-lethargic February crappie. But you can combat this problem -- and target suspended fish -- by rigging a sliding bobber above the spinner.

Place a bobber stop on your line at the depth you want to fish. Then add a bead below the stop, followed by the sliding bobber. Finish the rig by tying the spinner at line's end.

When the bobber hits the water, the Beetle Spin's weight will pull line through the float until the bobber abuts the bobber stop. Your bait is now at the depth you selected, and you can easily adjust the depth by moving the bobber stop up or down.

The benefit of this rig is that it allows you to slow your presentation and keep the spinner in the strike zone. Use a variety of retrieves -- small twitches, a slow steady retrieve or long pulls interrupted by a few motionless seconds -- until you determine the best pattern.

MISTER TWISTER

CURLYTAIL GRUB

The undulating tail of this classic gets the attention of every crappie. You can buy grubs alone or pre-rigged with jigheads or spinners. They come in three sizes ideal for crappie -- the 1-inch Li'l Bit, the 2-inch Teenie and the 3-inch Meenie.

Power Tactic: This is one of my favorite cypress lake lures. Cast your curlytail right into the broad buttress of a cypress tree, let it roll into the water and immediately start a smooth, steady retrieve through the knees that surround the tree.

LUHR JENSEN SHYSTER

I've probably caught more crappie on this polka-dotted, feather-tailed in-line spinner than any other lure. I started fishing Shysters almost 40 years ago, casting and retrieving in ponds stocked with crappie. The treble hook tends to snag a lot, but if you learn to work the lure close to --but not in -- the cover, crappie will rush out to hit it on the pass.

Power Tactic: The Shyster is one of the few crappie lures that seem to work best with a fast retrieve. Buzz it past stumps. Rip it over brushpiles. Troll it behind your boat. Be ready for the hard strikes it produces.

COTTON CORDELL

LITTLE MICKEY

Few crappie can resist this 1 1/2-inch, 1/4-ounce jigging spoon. The dressed treble with red thread offers a tempting target.

Power Tactic: The Little Mickey is ideal for fishing standing timber in 15 to 25 feet of water. Use a long, sensitive jigging pole with an attached spinning or underspin reel to lower the spoon beside a tree. Let the lure slide down, maintaining contact with the wood. Crappie often are close enough to touch the tree, which gives them a sense of security.

Give the spoon a short sideways snap every two feet, then let it fall a foot on slack line. Flicks of the wrist load the long pole, making the spoon hop erratically. If the spoon reaches bottom before a strike, move the lure up slowly in controlled fashion, stopping briefly every few feet.

BILL LEWIS LURES

TINY TRAP

I like fishing lipless crankbaits for crappie and one of my favorites is the 1/8-ounce Tiny Trap. I often use it when crappie are suspended around deep ledges, bridge pilings, sunken islands, bluffs and isolated brushpiles.

Power Tactic: Lower the lure to the target structure. Reel up slack, then begin a delicate upward sweep of your rod tip to activate the lure.

Move the rod tip as little as 12 inches or as much as 36 inches, experimenting as you fish to determine if crappie have a preference. Then slowly drop the rod tip, letting the lure free-fall back down.

If a slab crappie is nearby, he might surprise you. The Tiny Trap draws smashing strikes.

SMITHWICK ROGUE

A 4 1/2-inch crankbait is too much for crappie to handle, right? Wrong! You won't catch many small crappie on the venerable Smithwick Rogue, but 2-pound-plus slabs find this big baitfish mimic absolutely irresistible.

Power Tactic: When crappie are near the bottom on deep structure, try enticing them with a Carolina-rigged Rogue. Use the 4 1/2-inch, suspending model in a shad-like color. Place

a 1/8- to 1/4-ounce tungsten weight above a barrel swivel on your line, then tie a 3- to 4-foot leader from swivel to lure.

Crawl the Rogue across the bottom. Barn doors unwilling to dart out after smaller prey find it hard to resist this sizeable entrée.

REEF RUNNER CICADA

This bladebait is a favorite of crappie anglers in many areas and is available in a dozen colors and sizes from 1/16 to 3/4 ounce.

Power Tactic: You can vertically jig a Cicada to create a subtle swimming/fluttering motion to interest active crappie, or retrieve it with rips and runs to produce dynamic action that will stimulate slabs in need of wake-up calls.

(Editor's Note: For an autographed copy of The Crappie Book by Keith Sutton, send a check or money order for $17.45 to C & C Outdoors, 15601 Mountain Drive, Alexander, AR 72002. For credit card orders, visit www.catfushsutton.com

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