Crappie diem

Small but scrappy, the speckled perch (aka “crappie”) fills the gap between simple panfish tactics and more advanced bass pursuits.

Soaking minnows under corks and waiting for a freckled friend to find your bait may be the most common approach to crappie fishing, but anglers in the know realize that sometimes you have to take the game to the fish. Two diverse tactics with a common goal accomplish just that. Pulling (aka "trolling") enables anglers to cover water to find active fish, while pushing (aka "tight-lining," or "lead-lining") holds a tantalizing group of baits right in front of the speckled perch that you've either marked on sonar or suspect to be holding on weeds, docks, etc. Kind of a "tweener" fish that links the low-impact panfish routine with the bass world's more advanced search and presentation strategies, crappies offer a high level of sport, scrappy fights and some of the best filets you'll find in freshwater. Here's a look at how crappie experts get those filets from the lake to the skillet. Getting pushy An effective tactic for when you've found fish or a likely point of habitat such as a dock or weedline, pushing is an excellent finesse technique for crappie fishing. Leveraging the power of persuasion much like a drop-shot rig wears down a curious bass, spreads held on target make it easy for lethargic or otherwise indecisive crappies to find and attack your baits. Small jigs, often tipped with minnows are the common offering for crappie.Probably the most common bait for pushing (and pulling) is a 1/16- to 1/32-ounce jig, usually tipped with live Missouri minnows, hooked bottom to top through the lips. This combo keeps the minnow tethered without nullifying its real-life appeal. Natural smell and taste also help the cause. Usually conducted off the bow, pushing relies on a vertical presentation. To keep light baits on target, anglers rig weights above their jigs, thus explaining the "tight-lining" and "lead-lining" tags. Options include sliding an ounce or 2-ounce slip-sinker onto the main line and then connecting the leader with a small barrel swivel, or simplifying your presentation with an in-line sinker, sprouting swivels at both ends. For optimal versatility, crappie pros often choose a three-way swivel, pre-rigged with a weighted leader hung from the bottom ring and the bait leader tied to the side ring. A main-line snap swivel clips to the top ring, thereby allowing quick changes in rig setups. (Tip: Use lighter line on the weighted leader. If your rig snags on bottom structure, you can break it off without losing all your tackle.) Varying depths and conditions, as well as occasional tangles, often require retying. That's part of fishing, but wrapping premade leaders around plastic, wooden or rubber spools and packing them in plastic storage boxes minimizes down time by keeping replacements conveniently accessible. Be sure to mark spools with details of rig size, length and arrangement. You can also group like rigs together for easy identification on the boat. Generally orchestrated from the bow, Furthering the descriptives, the common sight of multiple rods protruding from horizontal racks gives crappie boats a certain arachnid appearance captured by yet another moniker - "spider rigging." Adjusting rod holders to keep rod tips within inches of the surface makes it easier to spot a hookup. Brightly colored rod tips further aid in strike detection, and adding corresponding colors to rod handles ensures that you grab the right one. Pulling strings When you need to cover water to find a hot bite, lay out a spread of baits and "pull" them over likely areas. Eliminating water is part of the calculation, but so is the location of aggressive fish, ornery enough to chase down a moving target. Complementing standard jigs, the inherent motion makes bladed lures like the classic Road Runner very effective. With either, experienced crappie trollers maximize their presentations by running multiple baits from each line with a dropper loop rig. Form this rig by slipping a 1/16-ounce jig onto your line about 2 feet from the end. Make a loop in the line with the jig in the center, and tie a double overhand knot (pass the jig through the knot both times), which leaves the top jig hanging about 5 inches from the main line. Finish the rig by tying a 1/32-ounce jig to the line's end. So arranged, the heavier front jig runs lower than the lighter jig at the end. Anglers fishing solo may opt for a stern deployment, with a sonar unit, GPS and livewell situated within easy reach. This keeps all elements close at hand, while occasional forward glances ensure a clear course. An autopilot is understandably invaluable to lone crappie hunters. Mounting a speed sensor to a trolling motor head helps crappie trollers maintain their optimal rate.When boat setup and manpower allows, lateral rod deployment enables you to stagger rod lengths to spread out the lines and avoid tangling. On port and starboard, start with the longest rod and the longest bait positioned forward and work back with progressively shorter rods and shorter bait lines. This minimizes the likelihood of a hooked crappie running across the spread and fouling other lines. Speed control factors greatly, and crappie pros are fanatical about determining and maintaining their optimal number. GPS units are helpful, but some install speed sensors to their trolling motor heads to further refine their operation. If windy conditions push you along too quickly, dragging heavy link chains secured to the stern with ropes will decrease boat speed. Another chain benefit: Stirring up the bottom flushes out grass shrimp, and that often stimulates crappie feeding. Finding a competitive edge Beyond the basics, committed crappie catchers employ a host of edgy tricks to turn more fish toward their lines. Baits to "dye" for: When crappies are finicky - usually as a result of seeing too many of the same jig colors - savvy anglers will modify their plastics by dipping all or part of a jig tail in colored dye (chartreuse, pink, orange, etc.). Spice it up: Garlic spray jazzes up a jig and minnow with a scent crappies have to inspect. Multiple rods set on either side of the outboard engine allow anglers to troll, or That's a wrap: High-visibility lines help anglers keep track of pulling spreads, but they also make it easier to wrap and unwrap long crappie rods in low light. Smell of success: A ventilated scent dispenser filled with a turkey baster and mounted to the trolling motor shaft releases fish-attracting aroma that the propeller spreads through the water. Rod watch: Wrapping rod tips with brightly colored tape helps an angler detect light strikes. Some wrap their rod handles in matching tape to ensure they grab the right one. At times - the spring spawn, for example - catching a limit of crappies requires little more than soaking a few minnows on the right spot. The trick, of course, is finding those "right spots" before anyone else. Even then, fishing holds few guarantees. Cold fronts, crowded water and cantankerous crappie attitudes all hold day-wrecking potential when you depend on your quarry coming to you. Nevertheless, fish must eventually eat. So when they won't visit the dining table, send them a round of room service - either pushed or pulled.

Tags: tips-and-techniques  david-a-brown 

/news/2015-05-04-top-10-patterns-from-lake-texoma

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Texoma

With his win on Lake Texoma, Del Rio, Texas, pro Ray Hanselman made Rayovac FLW Series history by sweeping the Texas Division. Hanselman did most of his damage with a Strike King Sexy Frog, although he made a few flips and pitches here and there with plastics. Recent rains had pushed Texoma to about 2 feet above normal pool, and Hanselman used this to his advantage by targeting overlooked areas that had been muddy during practice. Working flooded brush in the backs of secondary coves, he found bedding fish, as well as postspawners ready to chew in the clearing water. Most of the other top 10 finishers also targeted a mix of spawning and postspawn fish. The changing water level, plus a mild cold front that pushed through the first day of the event, made for tough fishing under mostly high, bright skies. Anglers reported super-tough conditions, and many struggled to get daily limits. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-02-hanselman-trifecta-tops-texoma

Hanselman Trifecta Tops Texoma

Del Rio, Texas pro Ray Hanselman made history on Lake Texoma with a victory that completed his sweep of Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division. With victories in the previous two divisional events on Lake Amistad and Sam Rayburn Reservoir, Hanselman caught a 5-bass limit that weighed 18 pounds, 9 ounces today and finished with a tournament total of 58-13 and a 12-pound winning margin. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-02-big-day-one-catch-sets-up-lejeune-s-texoma-win

Big Day One Catch Sets Up Lejeune’s Texoma Win

No doubt, co-angler Ryan Lejeune, of Eunice, La., would have preferred two more days like his first, but a big opening effort set up his wire-to-wire win in the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division tournament on Lake Texoma. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-02-hanselmania-closing-in-on-texoma-title

Hanselmania Closing in on Texoma Title

It aint’ over ’til it’s over. The fat lady has yet to sing. All the cliches still apply, so in fairness to nine other talented pros, we’ll make no predictions or insinuations about day-two leader Ray Hanselman and possible outcome of the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division tournament on Lake Texoma. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-01-big-bag-pushes-hanselman-ahead

Big Bag Pushes Hanselman Ahead

It’s the question of the day, the question of the week; indeed, it’s the question of the 2015 Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division season: Will we see the trifecta from Ray Hanselman? With the Del Rio, Texas pro leading the final division event on Lake Texoma with 40 pounds, 4 ounces, it appears that the stage is set for a third installment of Hanselmania. READ MORE »

/news/2015-05-01-texoma-midday-report

Texoma Midday Report

Lake Texoma is showing its stingy side as Rayovac FLW Series anglers ply this Ouachita River reservoir for day two of the final Texas Division event. The weather is nice, with sunny skies and moderate wind, but the first half of the day was painfully slow for the handful of boats we followed. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-30-setina-takes-day-1-lead

Setina Takes Day 1 Lead

Joe Don Setina, of Pittsburg, Texas leads day one of Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division action on Lake Texoma with a limit catch weighing 20 pounds, 9 ounces. Setina caught his fish by flipping flooded brush. Ryan Lejeune, of Eunice, La. leads the co-anglers with 12-4. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-30-top-5-patterns-from-lake-texoma-day-1

Top 5 Patterns from Lake Texoma Day 1

Pittsburg, Texas pro Joe Don Setina took the day-one lead in Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division action on Lake Texoma with 20 pounds, 9 ounces. Setina was targeting spawning fish in flooded brush. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-30-lake-texoma-midday-report-day-1

Lake Texoma Midday Report Day 1

Early goings on Lake Texoma seem to be pretty tough for the Rayovac FLW Series field. From the water, FLW Website Content Manager Jesse Schultz reported seeing several anglers bed-fishing in the GrandPappy Point Resort & Marina area. Most were putting in a lot of time on each fish, which means the bass weren’t exactly snapping. Today’s calm, sunny, post-cold front conditions are, no doubt, helping anglers see their targets clearly, but the visibility works both ways. Someone’s going to find the right bank with just enough water tint to relax the fish and deliver a nice sack, but it’s likely that many will struggle through a tough day. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-30-texoma-tough-but-stabilizing

Texoma Tough, but Stabilizing

As of press time, we were unable to confirm whether or not Troy Broussard has ever suffered a barnyard assault by any beast of burden. Nevertheless, his colorful metaphor bespeaks a challenging scenario facing the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division field on Lake Texoma for this week’s finale, which is presented by Evinrude. From Broussard’s facebook page: “Well, after three full days [of practice] on Lake Texoma, I can honestly say that I compare this to getting kicked in the face by a mule. It’s brutal.” Allusions aside, the big Ouachita River reservoir straddling the Texas-Oklahoma border has indeed shown its persnickety side of late. Blame Mother Nature for that. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-25-gordon-and-gagner-crowned-tbf-champs

Gordon and Gagner Crowned TBF Champs

Two more anglers qualified for the Forrest Wood Cup today by winning the 2015 The Bass Federation National Championship on Grand Lake in Grove, Okla. Shawn Gordon of Russellville, Ark., earned the TBF crown on the boater side by catching a three-day limit of 50 pounds, 2 ounces, capped by the largest limit caught today – 18 pounds, 10 ounces. Gordon earned $5,000 for his win, but more importantly, he’ll be competing against the best pros in the business in August at the Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Ouachita. Gordon also won the TBF “Living The Dream” package, which includes paid entry into the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour, a travel stipend, and use of a wrapped truck and Ranger bass boat. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-24-heckman-heads-up-tbf-championship-field

Heckman Heads up TBF Championship Field

Some bass are still spawning in Grand Lake, and others are yet to make their way up to the shallows, but none of that interests Sam Heckman. Diligent commitment to his postspawn plan here Friday landed Heckman atop the boater field with 34 pounds, 3 ounces and locked up his Southwest Division win at the 2015 The Bass Federation National Championship. Saturday, the top boater from each of seven TBF divisions will vie for the TBF National Championship and the “Living the Dream” package that goes with it. The package includes paid entry in the 2016 Walmart FLW Tour as a pro, a Forrest Wood Cup berth and use of a custom-wrapped truck and Ranger boat on Tour for the year, as well as a travel stipend for each event. Seven non-boaters – one from each TBF division – also will fish in tomorrow’s final round for a chance at paid entry into a Rayovac FLW Series division of choice. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-griffith-grabs-tbf-lead-

Griffith Grabs TBF Lead

By midday, the prospects were unclear for Jon “Scooter” Griffith here in The Bass Federation National Championship on Grand Lake, but in a roundabout way it provided just the clarity he needed to dial in a pattern that helped him take the day-one lead with an 18-pound, 13-ounce limit. Griffith began his day by sight-fishing the clear water down by the Pensacola Dam. This opening move, he says, gave him some early comfort, as it matched the transparent water he’s used to fishing near his home in Mesa, Ariz. Targeting windblown points, Griffith got his early bites with reaction baits in about 4 to 8 feet of water. Unfortunately, the plan turned out to be less productive than he had expected. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-23-tbf-championship-tips-off

TBF Championship Tips Off

The spawn is on at Grand Lake, but that’s not the only game in town. As the 2015 The Bass Federation National Championship plays out for the next three days, anglers will find this northern Oklahoma impoundment abounding with lots of fishing options. Brian Maloney, the 2012 Walmart Bass Fishing League All-American champion, says he was impressed with what he found in practice. “The quality of fish on Grand is just amazing,” notes the Missouri angler. “This lake continues to put out 3- and 4-pounders, and right now there’s a variety of things we can do. “There are guys sight-fishing for spawning fish, and we’re probably looking at another wave or two of fish coming in soon. I’m sure the full moon coming up in another week or so will move them in.” Adding that the lake currently has fish in all prespawn, spawning and postspawn stages, Maloney thinks that TBF contenders will be greeted by a mix of water conditions typical for Grand this time of year. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-20-spawn-looming-at-beaver-lake

Spawn Looming at Beaver Lake

As the pros who fish the Walmart FLW Tour begin practice on Beaver Lake, this jewel of northwestern Arkansas could be setting up for another spring spawn showdown. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-13-top-10-patterns-from-sam-rayburn

Top 10 Patterns from Sam Rayburn

With heavy rainfall swelling Sam Rayburn Reservoir, this Angelina River impoundment had risen 5 feet above normal level by the start of the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division tournament. This gave fish and fishermen access to miles of shoreline forest and brush that normally stand in mere inches of water – if not on dry ground. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-12-top-10-baits-from-sam-rayburn

Top 10 Baits from Sam Rayburn

With Sam Rayburn swollen to 5 feet above its normal water level, the top 10 pros broke out various flipping and punching rigs to pick apart newly flooded cover. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-11-hanselman-wins-back-to-back

Hanselman Wins Back-to-Back

Once you get Ray Hanselman going, just get out of his way. The Del Rio, Texas, pro is riding an incredible high right now after sewing up his second consecutive Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division win. Hanselman won the opener on Lake Amistad in February, then backed it up this week with a win on Sam Rayburn Reservoir in an event presented by Mercury. For his final-day limit, Hanselman plowed deep into Rayburn’s flooded cover to track down a five-bass limit worth 16 pounds, 10 ounces, raising his three-day total to 60-08 for a win by more than 7 pounds. For his efforts, Hanselman earned a cool $35,815 check and another trophy to add to his mantle. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-11-wilson-tops-co-anglers-on-rayburn

Wilson Tops Co-anglers on Rayburn

Dan Wilson caught one of only three co-angler limits on the final day of competition to come back from fourth place and win the Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division event on Sam Rayburn Reservoir presented by Mercury. Consistency was key for Wilson, who weighed in 11 pounds, 1 ounce on day one, then followed with 13-04 and 14-15 on days two and three, respectively. His three-day total of 39-04 bested day-two leader Bryan New of North Carolina by 3 pounds, 12 ounces. READ MORE »

/news/2015-04-11-rayburn-day-3-midday-update

Rayburn Day 3 Midday Update

A chilly morning greeted the top 10 pros and co-anglers for the final day of Rayovac FLW Series Texas Division competition on Sam Rayburn Reservoir presented by Mercury, but a warm sunrise filtered by scattered clouds bespoke the gorgeous conditions forthcoming. Winds have dropped off to barely a breeze, main-lake running is easy, and the coves and creeks where most anglers are fishing are glassy smooth. Fish surely pulled tighter to cover with the sunny conditions, but that probably makes little difference, as the majority of anglers have been flipping close to trees and into dense buck brush since day one. The heavy, tangled spots with vines seem to be the prime targets again today. READ MORE »