Fishing 411 TV
All fish live by seasonal patterns that dictates where they are found, what they are feeding on, the types of cover or structure they seek out and of course how fishermen are most likely to catch them. Crappie are no different. These fish spawn in the early spring, usually in or near submerged weeds, wood and other cover. Soon after spawning, these fish abandon the shallow where spawning habitat is most abundant and begin searching out deeper water for their summer haunts.
Slab crappie like this one held by the author are often caught trolling jigs or crankbaits in combination with in-line boards. When crappie suspend in the summer time, they are prime targets for trollers who know how to control their gear and present lures at precise depths.
In some bodies of water, moving deeper is as simple as slipping out to the edge of deep water weed lines or pulling into submerged trees. In other bodies of water, crappie don’t have adequate cover to relate to so they simply suspend over open water.
If a fishery has pelagic forage species such as emerald shiners or shad, there is a very good chance that the adult crappie in the population will spend their summer months relating to nothing more than roaming schools of baitfish. This means that a school of fish can be here today and gone tomorrow, but it also means that for anglers who understand how to target suspended crappie, the fishing can be red hot.
Small jigs (1/32, 1/16 and 1/8 ounce) tipped with soft plastics have caught so many crappie over the years, it’s pretty much a given that we need to talk about jig pulling first. Most anglers simply long line these jigs straight out the back of the boat, using varying lengths of rods to spread out the jigs and cover as much water as possible.
Because these jigs are small, they only sink a few feet below the surface and are best suited to targeting fish in the top 10-15 feet of the water column. The Precision Trolling Data “Crappie Version” features all the Dive Curve data commonly used by anglers who pull jigs for open water walleye. With the help of this simple to use phone app, anglers can determine exactly how much line to play out and how fast to troll to target crappie and other species using jigs.
Dale Voice of Cadillac, Michigan is an avid crappie angler who spends lots of time pulling jigs for slab crappie.
While most anglers pull jigs as flat lines, a growing number of anglers are using small planer boards like the Awesome Crappie Board produced by Off Shore Tackle to spread out jig lines even more. The beauty of these small boards is they are easy to use and and it’s even easier to tell when a fish has been hooked!
Because the boards only weight a few ounces, a struggling fish causes the board to pull back noticeably. It’s as easy to tell when a crappie has been hooked on one of these boards as it is to tell when a fish pulls down a bobber.
Crankbaits are the second way suspended crappie are commonly targeted in the summer season. Because crankbaits can be easily used to target specific depths by manipulating the line diameter and lead lengths, a host of crankbaits are popular with crappie anglers.
The crankbaits most anglers gravitate towards when fishing crappie are smaller baits designed to imitate shad. Some classics in this category would include the Berkley Flicker Shad series and Rapala Shad Rap, but just about every crankbait manufacturer makes a 5, 6 or 7 size shad bait that will catch crappie.
The baits many anglers don’t think about when fishing crappie are a host of larger bass sized cranks including the Bandit 300 series. These larger baits dive deeper making them more versatile for targeting crappie that might be suspending 15, 20 or more feet below the surface.
Plugs are most effective when paired up with in-line planer boards that help spread out lines and cover massive amounts of water. In states where there are no limits on the number of lines an angler can fish, it’s common to see crappie trollers pulling four or even five lines per side of the boat!
Jig pulling is often practiced using various rod lengths that help spread out the lures behind the boat. Saddle style rod holders like this Cisco Fishing Systems set up are ideal for long line crappie trolling.
When crappie start to suspend over very deep water, often it’s necessary to use in-line weights in combination with jigs or crankbaits to get those lures deep enough. The Tadpole Diver produced by Off Shore Tackle is the perfect tool for getting cranks and jigs deeper. These nondirectional divers are designed to dive, but they do not plane out to the side of the boat. Anglers can fish Tadpole Divers as flat lines or they can marry them up to in-line boards to gain more outward lure coverage.
A five to six foot leader attached directly to the back of the Tadpole is about perfect for fishing either jigs or crankbaits.
SUMMING IT UP
Summer time is a great time to target both black and white crappie using trolling tactics. Not only are crappie abundant, they are considered by many to be among the best eating of all the panfish.