View Full Version : Lightbulb Moment?

Yak Fish
08-19-2018, 08:41 AM
Yesterday, I fished Cane Creek Reservoir, west of Chapel Hill for the first time since it was filled in 1988. I used to hunt stone arrowheads and ancient artifacts in the fields around there before it was built, but hadn't seen it since it was filled up. I have lakes closer to me that I know very well, but wanted a change of pace. Before the gates opened, I asked a few others waiting in the line of trucks what the lake record for Crappie was. They knew it was over 3 pounds, but none knew how much over it was. That's big enough for me, so I set up my kayak like I usually do, to pull crankbaits. I also asked if the lake had shad in it and was told that bream and crappie were the main forage fish.

Once I got going, my depthfinder was dark with fish between the surface and the thremocline, so all the fish would be within reach of the Flicker Shad crankbaits I had onboard the kayak. I started with one natural pattern (Slick Mouse) and one chartreuse & black (Hothead) fairly close behind the boat. Nothing happened on the first pass, so I dropped them back 100' behind the boat and started ketchin' right away. Trouble was that it was only bream and bass hitting the crankbaits. I fished for 6 hours and paddled over 8 miles on a 450 acre lake, without ever going up in the shallow end. I know plenty of Crappie had those cranks pass right by their noses, but I never caught the first crappie. I changed color, size, and make of crankbaits, yet got no crappie to take the bait. I switched over to curl tail grubs to slow troll into the breeze and drift with the wind. As soon as they dropped over the side, they got savage bites, but not another hit. I checked each and found that the initial bites were bream eating the tails off the grub.

HMMMMM. I remembered Marv (pescador) telling me he had a similar experience of crappie ignoring crankbaits on his lakes with good resident Crappie population. I ended up catching 19 bass, with the biggest 4 pounds, (though most were dinks) and too many bream to keep track of, but ZERO Crappie.

Just before I gave it up for the day, a thought hit me, kind of a lightbulb moment, that I wanted to float out here to see what kind of response I got.

Since that lake has no shad, I wonder if the Crappie aren't reluctant to hit shad imitating crankbaits? I've had others tell me that they can't seem to buy a crappie pulling cranks, yet my experience has been that I absolutely hammer them in my favorite lakes that have shad as the main forage. How about you, do you notice that Crappie bite cranks better in lakes with a shad/alewife population? I've heard people say that Black Crappie won't hit crankbaits, though they almost eat the paint off them in the lakes I fish with a strong shad population . Yesterday was the first time I've ever been shut out on Crappie by pulling Flicker Shads and I wonder if lack of shad might be the reason? The Bass & Bream were clearly willing to strike. Maybe it is just a mystery of the universe we'll never know?


08-19-2018, 08:58 AM
For a reaction bite....try colors that are not natural....314146

Yak Fish
08-19-2018, 11:00 AM
I tried each one of these plus a Bandit Mistake & Wonderbread.


I guess it goes back to "Some days you're the hammer & some days you're the nail."


08-19-2018, 11:01 AM
I've heard people say that Black Crappie won't hit crankbaits...

And I have heard people say the earth is flat. :)

Both statements are patently false.


Yak Fish
08-19-2018, 11:14 AM
Yeah, I know better too T_om. I would have liked to run into somebody else out there fishing for Crappie just to hear what they had to say. It's odd that 20 miles up the road, I could go ketch about as many as I wanted to by using the same technique & colors that weren't working at Cane Creek. Now, I'm going to have to keep going back there until I crack the code. 'Course, I hate to waste valuable fishing time when I could be wearin' 'em out on one of my favorite holes, where I know what works.


08-19-2018, 12:12 PM
Sunny days I used bright (clown) colors and overcast I use natural. They also may have been a little deeper. I usually found them as deep as possible against the thermocline, especially on sunny days. Put a couple of blade baits in the box and use them as a search bait when they get like this. Small one foot lifts and follow it down, up to 3 foot lifts then adjust the depth and try some more. Easy to adjust depth and get questions answered a bit quicker. Good luck and keep us posted.

08-20-2018, 07:53 PM
What speed were you paddling? I'm guessing 1.3 mph (8 miles/6 hours). Maintaining close to 2.0 mph in some kayaks can be a chore. The cranks you have pictured tend to be wide wobbling, sometimes the crappie like a more narrow wiggle. Planer boards might be needed too, in my experience they will scatter quicker in a small lake when boats go overhead.

08-20-2018, 08:54 PM
Since that lake has no shad, I wonder if the Crappie aren't reluctant to hit shad imitating crankbaits?
Did you mean are reluctant?

Though in the minority, I don't go by local forage as a reason to ever chose a lure or it's color. Were you set on catching crappie on crankbaits vs soft plastics? You mentioned trying curl tail grubs as a last resort but only caught bass and bream. Suggestion: stick with grubs on light jigheads 1/32-1/16 oz but try tail designs like that of the Crappie Magnet.


The shortened Slider Worm is another surefire lure:

There are many, many others that work when lures that require a faster retrieve speed can't. My motto:
quiver and pause - meaning lure action and presentation in combination. Also, fish in different waters may strike a larger variety of lure types whereas fewer will do in other waters or when seasons change. Regardless, 6lb test or less is key for best lure action.

A few other examples with high strike probability:

(The one on the right is the fusion of two grubs with a candle flame and then wacky rigged in the center
using the jig next to it or rigged regular.)


Yak Fish
08-20-2018, 10:27 PM
Thanks for the replies guys!

I added a few more unnatural colored cranks from BPS today "G". Thanks for the suggestion. Looking forward to breaking them in right.

I also picked up some blade baits today, Skeetbum. I'll report how they do. It never hurts to have more tools in the arsenal.

bfish, I had to stop to reel in and unhook around 50 fish, which cut into my running speed. I usually run between 1.8 to 2 MPH top end steady pulling. When just traveling, I can cover 3+ miles in an hour when paddling on flat water. My kayak is a sit inside that's twelve feet long, 29 inches at it's widest, so it doesn't have much drag, tracks well, and cruises nice.

Those Flicker Shads do have a tight wobble, similar to a Shad Rap. Most places I fish, some days they're barely hooked on the back hook and some times you can't see any part of the lure because they've swallowed it. So far this year, I've averaged 35-40 crappie per trip. Low was 18 & high was ~65 crappie. The Bandits I pulled definitely have a wider wobble and so do the Hot N Tots I sometimes pull.

Spoonminnow, I only had a few packs of curl tail grubs on board this trip and didn't want to sacrifice them to the bream. I prefer to fish with cranks because I like to cover water and learn the lake bottom as I paddle along. I also wait until Fall when the water cools to fish jigs & grubs when Crappie aren't willing to chase as much. Since I have been doing so well pulling crankbaits for crappie over the past 20 years, I fully expected to ketch 'em on Cane Creek with those cranks too.

I still wonder if crankbaits work better in lakes with shad than those without?


08-21-2018, 12:40 AM
Jim, many think that the lures shown don't cover the same amount of water as effectively as crankbaits but they do. The small crankbaits in this thread can't be trolled or worked too slowly or they rise to the surface and high floaters must be worked faster to maintain depth. Nice thing about
grubs is that they can be worked at almost any speed and regardless of season or water temperature have more potential at different depths IMO.

I too used to only cast crankbaits, curl tail or Sassy Shad grubs, but though they have their place in many waters and in certain situations (like the waters you fish), I can't but help think slow quiver-tail baits might make all the difference between catching bass and gills to catching everything - even large catfish and of course crappie. I'm just not a big believer in local forage as the reason to choose lures or colors as seen in the photos in my reply.