When I was a youngster learning to crappie fish, my uncles taught me versatility brings success. If the jigs we tied on enticed a few "specks," all was fine and dandy; jigs it was.
But if jigs didn't produce, it was time to root through the tacklebox for a different come-on. Thus was I corrupted into crappie fishing with all sorts of lures. And thus did I learn that spoons catch crappie almost as often as jigs and minnows. Spoons are among the best lures for catching crappie on deeper structure and cover throughout summer. When properly pumped, cast, trolled or fluttered, these flashy metal lures wiggle like baitfish with the bends. Crappie are attracted by this action, and big catches of big panfish result. Spoons include a big family of lures in many shapes, sizes, colors, weights and hook configurations. There are two primary groups of spoons, however: 1) casting and trolling spoons, which have a curved body, and 2) jigging spoons, which generally have a flatter, thicker body. When you are fishing open waters where hang-ups aren't much of a problem, casting and trolling spoons can be used. Jigging spoons work best when fishing standing timber and other crappie cover that's best plumbed using a vertical technique. To improve your chances of "spooning up" some crappie, here are six tips to try this season.
Make it Rattle
If you're night fishing or fishing where the water is extremely turbid, consider adding some power-boosting sound effects to your spoon. You can do this by using super-glue to attach a small fishing-lure rattle to the spoon. The added sound will help crappie find your lure, making your catch rate rise.
Here's another alteration that can turn a plain-Jane spoon into a crappie-catching machine. If your spoon has a plain treble hook, replace it with a feather-dressed treble. Or add a plastic tube body, minnow or scent bait to the hook to coax more hits.
Work the Weeds
In waters with deep aquatic weedbeds, crappie often stay near the greenery, ambushing passing baitfish. A weedless spoon such as a 1/4- or 1/2-ounce Johnson Silver Minnow is a great enticement in this situation. Position your boat above a weedbed's edge, then work the outside border and interior pockets. Retrieve the lure just fast enough to maintain a constant side-to-side rocking action.
Bridge pilings in deep channels also attract summer crappie. Using sonar, ease along the pilings and spot fish concentrations, while also pinpointing the depth of the fish. Then back your boat away from the bridge and cast a concave casting spoon beyond the pilings, allowing the lure to fall to the correct depth before beginning a slow, jerky retrieve. Lift your rod tip while cranking, then lower the rod tip momentarily and let the spoon fall on slack line before cranking again. Keep the lure close to the pilings, and work the area thoroughly, as big schools of crappie frequent these areas.
A 1/4-ounce jigging spoon is ideal for fishing standing timber in 15-25 feet of water, a tactic called "dipping." Use a long, sensitive jigging pole with a 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 at every two feet of depth, then let it fall a foot on slack line. If the spoon reaches bottom before a strike, move it up slowly in controlled fashion, stopping it briefly every few feet. Fish it slowly all around the pole, then move to the next pole. Dynamite!
Nab Short Strikers
If you feel hits but are unable to hook the fish, short strikers may be the problem. Catch them by adding a crappie-jig trailer behind the spoon. Tie a 6- to 8-inch piece of light mono to the spoon hook then add a 1/64- or 1/32-ounce crappie jig to the tag end. Or remove the spoon hook and tie the jig rig to the split ring. The smaller offering darting behind the larger spoon often entices wary crappie. These are just six ideas that can help you spoon up more summer crappie. Experiment yourself to determine more. Crappie are readily enticed to bite by anglers who learn the best ways to work these venerable lures.
Autographed copies of "The Crappie Fishing Handbook" by Keith Sutton can be ordered by visiting www.catfishsutton.com.