Prespawn Crappie Tips, Road Runner Style
If forced to choose only one lure for crappie, it would have to be the Blakemore Road Runner; no matter how you fish this little spinner ' cast it, jig it, troll it ' it catches crappie
Since 1958, the Blakemore Road Runner has been catching crappie other species, including black bass, white bass, bream, saugers, walleyes, trout, stripers and more.
It’s my guess, however, the Road Runner is more popular with crappie fans than other anglers because it can be used so many ways to catch America’s favorite panfish.
The Road Runner is unique among spinner-type lures because the spinner is beneath a horsehead-type lead where it’s more easily seen by fish striking from the side or below. The blade rarely tangles with your fishing line like other types of spinners, nor does it interfere with hook-ups.
Several styles are available, including Original Marabou, Bubble Belly, Curly-Tail, Pro-Curly, Turbo Tail, Buck Tail, Crappie Thunder and Natural Science Trout/Panfish. Choose from Colorado or willow blade styles, bronze or Bleeding Bait hooks, sizes from 1/32 to 1 ounce, and every color of the rainbow. You can see them all at the TTI-Blakemore Fishing Group website, ttiblakemore.com.
Bert Hall, the Missouri Ozarks stream fisherman who invented the little spinner, also crafted the wise slogan, “You can’t fish a Road Runner wrong as long as you fish it slow.” In many cases, slow is best, but crappie anglers shouldn’t be buttonholed into fishing the Road Runner just one way. Depending on water conditions and the mood of the fish, this fabulous, famous, fish-catching lure can be fished slow or fast, deep or shallow, vertically or horizontally. The simplest method, perhaps, is just casting the lure and reeling it in at a snail’s pace—just fast enough so the blade turns. You also can drop a Road Runner beneath your boat and fish different depths with little hops and twitches that will get a big slab’s attention.
For some of the best action, however, you might want to add these variations to your Road Runner repertoire.
Brad Taylor’s Egg-Sinker Rig
Greenville, Mississippi crappie pro Brad Taylor uses a unique rig for nabbing prespawn slabs. “I put a 3/8-ounce egg sinker on my main line and loop the line through the weight four times,” he says. “Then I tie a Road Runner 12 to 15 inches below the sinker and tip it with a lively minnow. This creates a deadly combination. I use 16-foot B’n’M poles to get these rigs as far out in front of the boat as I can. Then I push them along swiftly to cover as much water as I can and catch these scattered crappie. This tactic produces good numbers of fish, including some heavyweights.”
Road Runner/Crankbait Combo
When crappie are suspending in open water over channel drop-offs and humps, or relating loosely to deep, submerged brushpiles, this rig, developed by Tennessee multi-species guide Jim Duckworth, is a good one for nabbing them. Duckworth ties on a Bandit 200 crankbait, then adds a 1/16- or 1/8-ounce Road Runner to the trailing crankbait hook via a leader line. The crankbait works like a depth planer to get the jig down to the level of the fish and then keeps it at a constant level. Duckworth locates a school of crappie or baitfish on his graph, then slow-trolls through it with his outboard or trolling motor.
When crappie are actively feeding, it’s not unusual to hang fish on both lures at the same time, Duckworth says. “But the Road Runner part of the rig really shines when the bite is slow. The flash of the spinning blade attracts even sluggish crappie.” Crappie may not hit the crankbait, but the lure serves as an attractor, getting their attention until the Road Runner buzzes by.
Ohio angler Russ Bailey often nabs crappie by “shooting” Road Runners under pontoon boats. “Pontoons provide shade attractive to crappie,” he says. “To catch these fish, I use B’n’M Poles’ 5 ½-foot Sharpshooter rod and a spinning reel spooled with 6-pound-test, Hi-Vis Yellow Sufix line. My lure is a 1/32-ounce Road Runner head with a Hot Grub body by Southern Pro Lures.”
Shooting requires practice to perfect but is easy to learn, Bailey says. The angler pinches the lure carefully, pulls the rod back like a bow, aims and releases, letting the lure fly beneath the pontoon.
“Shoot as far under the pontoon as possible,” says Bailey. “Then allow the lure to fall and watch your line closely. If the line jumps or moves, set the hook immediately. If you don’t get a strike as the Road Runner falls, use a slow, steady retrieve. It’s common to catch 10 to 20 fish under one pontoon.”
When the lakes they’re fishing are muddy, pro anglers Jim and Barbara Reedy of Charleston, Missouri, use Road Runner/live bait rigs to nab cagey crappie.
“In spring, we catch a lot of crappie on flats near creek channels close to spawning areas by spider trolling with eight 12-foot B’n’M poles rigged with 6-pound Vicious HiVis line,” says Jim. “Each pole is outfitted with one of B’n’M’s Capps & Coleman Minnow Rigs, but we replace the bottom hook with a chartreuse or orange Blakemore Pro Series Road Runner head tipped with a live minnow. This Road Runner’s willow blade gives it extra flash that helps in muddy water. And the HiVis line allows us to detect more bites we might otherwise miss.”
These are just a few of the many Road Runner techniques you can use to catch crappie wherever you fish. The variations are endless, and half the fun of using these wonderful little spinners is experimenting with different tactics until you find a method those big slabs just can’t resist. Try some Road Runners this season and see.