July 27, 2018
I love crappie fishing. I’ve been chasing slabs for four decades on waters nationwide and have learned many tricks for catching these often persnickety panfish. But every time I go fishing with a fellow crappie enthusiast, I realize I’ll never learn all there is to know about nabbing these good-eating members of the sunfish family.
When I fish with an angler for the first time, I always learn some new fishing tip I can add to my crappie-fishing arsenal. And the more I learn, the better a crappie fisherman I become.
Here are a few of the many summer fishing tricks I’ve picked up in recent years that could help you be a better angler, too.
Little Ledges Can Equal Big Hauls
“Big drop-offs offer a wide range of depths and crappie-fishing opportunities,” says crappie book author Tim Huffman of Poplar Bluff, Missouri. “However, when you find a small 1-foot drop on a long, sloping bottom, you may have yourself a super hotspot.
“A small 1-foot drop gives crappie plenty of height for hiding and is something different they can use for a reference spot. The big bonus is that other anglers aren't likely to swarm this spot. Enter this drop on your GPS or triangulate using good landmarks.”
Shoot Some Docks
“When shooting docks, use light spinning tackle such as a Wally Marshall 4-foot, 6-inch Dock rod combo with 6-pound-test line and a 1/16-ounce Road Runner lure,” says renowned Texas crappie expert Wally Marshall, aka Mr. Crappie. “Docks that have big sun decks, a lot of shade, night lights and mounted rod holders tell me the folks that own the dock are fishermen. Look for brush piles and vertical structure around the docks. Fish the darkest corner under the dock; it’s the area where most crappie will hang out.”
Fine-Tune Your Fish-Finder
Arkansas crappie guide Darryl Morris says many crappie anglers never correctly set their fish-finder’s sensitivity so they can properly pinpoint crappie.
“Most units have two sensitivity settings: one for the unit overall and another for the fish ID,” says Morris. “If your unit is set correctly, you should be able to get a sonar return on a small jig but not identify it as a fish.
“To do this, drop a jig into the unit’s cone. Turn your sensitivity down until it disappears and then back up until it reappears as a fine line on your screen. As you move the jig up and down, turn the fish ID sensitivity down until it stops identifying it as a fish. Your unit is now set, and you can have confidence what you see is true.”
When fishing lakes that stratify in summer, Tennessee crappie pros Steve Coleman and Ronnie Capps use a double-crankbait rig to catch crappie holding in the thermocline. The rig features a 2-3/4-inch Rapala Jointed Shad Rap and a Bandit 200 or 300 series crankbait trailing the main line on 30- and 36-inch leaders. A 4- to 6-ounce bank sinker at the line’s end carries the rig to the proper depth.
“Using the two different styles of crankbaits keeps the lures separate when you’re trolling this rig,” says Coleman. “The bottom lure digs deeper, while the top lure is lighter and stays higher.
“Our experience shows it’s best to troll at a speed of 1.5 to 2 miles per hour, or just fast enough so the end of the pole vibrates,” he continues. “The crankbaits produce reaction strikes, and this speed is ideal so the crappie hook themselves. We fish these rigs on four to six 12- or 14-foot B’n’M Pro Staff Trolling Rods set in holders at the front of the boat. This allows us to follow bottom channels and other structure on a GPS when trolling. These are great rigs for huge summer slabs.”
You also can cast and retrieve a single crankbait for big-crappie action. Oklahoma crappie guide Todd Huckabee does this using a Carolina-rigged, suspending Smithwick Rogue.
“When big crappie go deep in winter, they’re eating a lot to prepare for the spawn,” he says. “During summer, these same deep-water crappie are lazy. If you drop a lure like a jig, often it’s not enough to entice them. They don’t seem interested in eating something unless it’s bigger. That’s why I use the Rogue.
“You make this rig with a 1/8- to 1/4-ounce tungsten weight above a barrel swivel on the main line,” Huckabee continued. “Then tie a 3-foot leader from the swivel to the crankbait. Cast it, let it sink, then crawl the lure across the bottom. Big crappie find it irresistible.”