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  • Summer Crappie Tactics by Rat

    Once the Crappie Spawn is over and the “weekend warriors” have left the lake, die-hard Crappie anglers know this is just the beginning of great fishing. Many of the Crappie anglers I know also don’t mind catching a few White Bass or Perch either and these species can usually be caught by ‘accident’ while fishing for Summer Crappie.
    The key to catching Summer Crappie is finding the fish. Easily done in the Spring when Crappie go shallow to spawn or use traditional staging areas for pre-spawn; that is why so many people fish the spawn for Crappie. Admittedly, looking out over a large expanse of deep, open water and guessing where they are can be a bit disheartening. In the paragraphs to follow you will learn how to “narrow” the water and then use good techniques to find the fish.

    Find The Fish

    I call locating the Crappie “Narrowing The Water”; we narrow the water down to where we know the fish are located. It is a two step process:
    1) Finding the correct depth
    2) Finding structure
    But not necessarily in that order!

    When I was younger I learned an important aspect of fishing for Crappie. We all know it is not cool to ask about someone’s “spot”; my Dad told me when you see someone at the ramp or dock with a nice mess of fish all you need to ask is, “How deep?” Almost everyone will answer truthfully, after all you’re not asking them for the coordinates to their spot, and in reality, this is a boat load of information. Applying this information is pretty easy. Once you know the depth Crappie are holding, whether you asked someone or found them on your own, you have eliminated ALL of the remaining water column. So if you catch fish in the 15 feet of water at a depth of 11-13 feet (IOW, fish suspended 2-4 feet off the bottom in 15 foot water) you will likely find them at this depth all over the lake; until something changes.

    Crappie almost always relate to structure, and open water is no different; you just can’t usually see the treetops sticking out of the lake. Finding structure on your SONAR is pretty straightforward, if you know what it looks like on your graph. Keep in mind man made structure like PVC condos can look very different on a graph than natural structure; even though out of the water they look very similar. You may not always see the Crappie on the graph when you find structure. The best way I have found is to give it a try anyway. If you haven’t had a bite in 30 minutes move on. Remember the depth you do catch fish, or use a depth locator type reel, and use this as the starting point on other structure.

    Once you have a good idea as to the depth and how they are relating to the structure you can start fine tuning your techniques. Remember, Crappie fishing is finesse fishing, bait presentation is paramount this time of year.


    Straight Lining
    Simply stated, straight lining is fishing off the side of the boat straight down. But it is so much more than that. One guide says he tries to hit the Crappie in the head with the bait! IOW, he slowly moves the minnow or jig around the structure to get the bait in just the right spot to elicit a strike. Moving slowly is the key; this is not rapid jigging but very slow and deliberate probing of depth and structure.
    Long Line Trolling
    This is the traditional trolling technique most of us are familiar with. A number of rods are set out at various distances from the stern of the boat and trolled along. The key to long lining is to cover the right depths and works very well when structure is very far apart, fish are actively moving or you just need to cover lots of water to find the fish. If your lake holds White Bass you will probably catch a few long lining.
    Slip Bobbers
    Slip bobbers can be used in open water the same as we use them in protruding cover and close to banks. This method makes it very easy to hit the target depth as well as keep the bait on any part of the structure we want for a longer period of time.
    For example, you could pitch a slip bobber rig over to the other side of a brush pile and slowly let the bait drift back toward the boat. This will keep the bait over the brush pile longer than just flipping the bait and letting it settle back close to the boat. Slip bobbers can also be lighted with small chemical light sticks for night fishing making for great strike indicators.
    Spider Rigging
    There is a reason the spider rigging is gaining in popularity – it works! Spider rigging is a slow trolling method where you “push” the bait rather than “pull” the bait like long line trolling. It entails the use of a large weight, in the ½-1 oz range, with your bait tied above it. Multiple rods are usually used and arrayed off the bow of the boat and are slowly trolled around and over structure to catch fish. Multiple rods means multiple depths can be covered quickly and once the fish are found at a certain depth all the bait can be adjusted to that depth.
    Spider rigging along a brush line, over brush piles or other structure in open water is very effective.
    Night Stalking
    Night time fishing is the best! The sun is down, the pleasure boaters have left for the night and many times you will have most of the lake to yourself. Any of the above techniques can be used at night but you will need some specialized gear.
    Lights! Above water, submersible, lanterns, glow sticks; they all work. Some better than others at different times, but any light is better than no light!
    Bug repellent is mandatory, the noseeums and mosquitoes are killers at night!
    A Headlight for tying knots, fetching minnows and removing that hook from your thumb.

    There too many variations on baits, techniques, times, weather patterns and all the rest to cover here. Just know this, the best time to go Crappie fishing is when you have the time! Find what works and do that until it doesn’t work anymore, then try something else.

    Summer Crappie fishing is a great way to fill the freezer, take the kids out or introduce some one new to fishing. You are usually not in one spot too long, catch plenty of fish and if the kids get restless just go swimming. I have caught Crappie on one side of the boat while my son swam on the other side!
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