April 12, 2021
Like most crappie fishermen, Jason Golding grew up staring at bobbers and waiting for a bite. Not that there’s anything wrong with dipping minnows for crappies, but there are other techniques that are more effective at times.
Golding, of Grenada, Miss., discovered one of them a few summers ago when he combined his casting skills with cutting-edge sonar technology, thus pioneering a new way to catch Grenada Lake's jumbo white crappies.
The Grenada Lake Charters fishing guide employs a technique known as "live-scoping," which uses a Garmin Panoptix LiveScope forward-facing sonar unit, paired with a Garmin 1242 display, to locate crappies and view them in real time.
Once he spots a crappie on the screen that merits a cast or two, Golding pitches a custom-made Southern Pro 2 ½-inch tube bait in smoke/neon glow with purple flake tipped with a lip-hooked live minnow. It's a lot of bait, but 3-pound slabs are fairly common in the northwest Mississippi impoundment where he guides.
For instance, in March, local guide Blake Cook set a Crappie Masters tournament single-day record on Grenada with a seven-fish catch of 21.82 pounds.
Live Scoping is primarily a summer technique that works best from June into October when the water is clear and warm. By mid to late summer, larger white crappies typically leave cover and structure and roam around the lake in search of baitfish species like shad. They might travel alone or in wolfpacks of two or three.
Watch Golding locate big slabs, then catch one in this video
Golding uses the Garmin Panoptix LVS32 transducer system, but the Humminbird MEGA360 and the Lowrance LiveSight system are other options. He usually fishes out of a pontoon boat, so he mounts the transducer on the shaft of the bow-mounted trolling motor.
The LiveScope shows all fish and other objects ahead of the transducer in a 20-degree cone, out to about 200 feet. The real-time display even shows the jig as it lands near a crappie.
Golding prefers an 11-foot B&M light-action spinning rod paired with a Bass Pro Shops Carbon Light 2.0 reel loaded with 2-pound-test braided line.
"Because you’re making precise casts, you want the bait to fall straight down from where it lands without any drag," says Golding. "The 2-pound braid works best for that, and no crappie is going to break it on that light rod."
Once the crappie’s distance and location have been gauged, Golding makes a cast slightly beyond the fish and then "drags" the jig past it before letting it drop. Typically, the crappie is suspended, and Golding keeps the bait either slightly above it or on the same plane. The minnow on the jig helps slow down its descent.
Accurately judging the size of crappies on a sonar screen is a skill acquired over time through on-the-water experience. Golding adds a split shot to his line a foot above the bait, which also helps him judge the size of a nearby fish.
How to tell a crappie from another species? Early on, Golding noted that crappies made a larger white flash on the screen, and concluded it was due to their oversize dorsal and anal fins reflecting bigger signals.
Whatever the reason, to Golding it’s a foolproof way to distinguish between a jumbo crappie and a carp or other fish.
"Live-scoping is still relatively new and can be complicated for somebody just trying it for the first time or two," says Golding. "It’s not a slam dunk by any means, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a darn good way to get those big, open-lake roamers that you probably wouldn’t have a shot at otherwise."