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  • The DK Method of Single Pole Crappie Fishing - By DrumKing

    The following information that I am about to share must begin with this disclaimer. Everything that I will share is my opinion only and is not set in stone. I know not of any rule that is true concerning fishing all the time. There are always exceptions to the rules or suggestions that I make. This is the reason that our sport is called fishing instead of catching. All fishermen are liars except you and me and I am a little bit suspect of you. Big Grin.

    Over 50 years ago when I was just a young adult and beginning to fish, I had no one who was willing to teach me about crappie fishing. My mentor only taught me to bass fish and he, along with Buck Perryís book on Spoonplugging: Your Guide to Lunker CatchesĒ, were the main sources of information for me.

    But no one would give up any information about crappie fishing. I donít know if it was because they didnít know how to crappie fish or only crappie fished in the springtime when the spawn was on. During the spawn was the only time that I would see anyone fishing for crappie. I wanted to know how to catch them at all times.

    I had moderate success catching crappie during pre spawn times and when the crappie were on beds, but after the spawn, the crappie disappeared and I didnít know where or how to locate them. No one else did either. It was years later, after I got over my bass addiction, that I was able to concentrate on learning how to find and catch crappie with a single pole in hand.

    I do know that trolling is a wonderful technique for locating and catching crappie a lot of the time, and Iím all for people who resort to that technique, but Iím not interested in the least bit about trolling. I have done a little of it with friends who have ďtriedĒ to teach me the virtues of trolling, but catching fish by this method is like kissing your sister, if you get my drift. Not a whole lot of excitement in that. I donít want the boat catching the fish and me just reeling them in. That may be fine for the meat eaters, but Iím in this for the sport of it.

    I have a guide friend that only trolls for crappie during the pre spawn and spawning periods because most of his clients really donít know how to fish with a single pole in their hands and they book him so that they can fill their freezers with crappie fillets and I am all for that. Long lining is what he does 95% of the time. I do see him out alone sometimes and he is single pole fishing. Grin.

    I knew early on that if I was going to be a successful crappie fisherman, that I was going to have to master the jig. When I began to teach myself how to fish a jig, it was a painful process until I finally got the first bite. Up until that point, I had no confidence in anything that I was doing. This brings me to the first three rules of single pole fishing.

    These 3 rules must be in place in your thinking before you will ever become a successful crappie fisherman. The 3 rules are as follows: Location, Presentation, Confidence.

    Location: In order to catch a crappie, you must first be fishing in an area where the fish are holding, feeding, etc. Your presentation may be perfect. Your confidence may be sky high, but if you are fishing in your backyard swimming pool, you aren't going to catch any crappie.

    Presentation: After locating a school of crappie, this next rule is probably most important because if you are not presenting your jig or minnow (I never use minnows) properly, you may never get a crappie to bite your lure. Things to consider after locating crappie are current if present, wind direction if any, cover, baitfish, etc. All these must be analyzed in order to figure out how the fish are positioned and direction that they are facing. Other things to question are - Do I vertical jig, or cast and let Mother Nature present the lure to the fish? How deep are the fish? What lure should I select? Color, size, profile?

    Confidence: If you donít have confidence in the lure that you have selected or the color that you have chosen, or the area that you are fishing, you might as well not make a cast because you will never allow the time for the lure to do what it is intended to do and that is make a creature that is perfectly at home in his environment try to eat something that is completely alien to his normal diet. I struggle with confidence at times today when everything that I am doing seems sound, but the fish are having nothing to do with my lures. But I remember that you can lead a horse to water, but you canít make him drink.

    In order to become a successful crappie angler, you must learn and know intimately the crappie movements as it relates to seasonal changes. They just donít camp out in one spot all year long. Buck Perry says that deep water is the home of the fish. He was mainly teaching about bass fishing, but it applies to crappie fishing as well.

    They move from deep to shallow and back again as the seasons change. They even move deep to shallow daily as well when they feed. We may start off the day by catching fish in 2-4 feet of water, but as the sun begins to rise and the light begins to get brighter, the fish tend to gradually descend back into the deep water. Exceptions to this rule is when we have cloudy or rainy days and the light does not get very bright. The fish may stay up for a long time. Deep is a relative term. What I consider deep water is anything over 10 feet and surface to 10 feet, I consider shallow. Deep in a Florida lake may be a lot different that deep in a Tennessee lake.

    Generally speaking, during the summer months here on my home lake in Tennessee, the fish are mostly found in the 15-20 foot depths. The same is true for winter months as well. During the spring and fall seasons, the fish are moving more than normal and can be found in shallower waters for longer periods of time. These are times when trolling stands out and is better than in other times of the year.

    Letís talk a little bit about the crappie. There are two different species. The Black crappie and the White crappie. Although they are similar in appearance, there are subtle differences that are obvious to a veteran crappie fisherman. The Black crappie have a slightly more round shape and are thicker and heavier than a White crappie of the same length and have specks all over the sides of the fish. They are even called Specks in some states. They have 7 or 8 spines on its dorsal fins, whereas the White crappie only has 5 or 6 spines along its dorsal fins. The White crappie have vertical bars that run up and down their sides and they usually have much bigger mouths and are longer and leaner than their Black cousins. The Black Nose crappie is a Black crappie and not a different species.

    You canít tell the difference in how they taste, no matter how good a fisherman that you are. Grin. Other names for crappie are, White perch, Calico bass, Croppie (correct pronunciation), Sacalait, Specks, Crappie and if any other names, I just donít know them.

    Iím going to switch gears and talk about fishing equipment and what I prefer to fish with. First of all, I want to talk about fishing line. There is a myriad of fishing lines to choose from. Monofilament, braid, fluorocarbon, and co-polymers. I will only discuss my favorite.

    My fishing line of choice is a Hi-Vis yellow line. I have found that Mr Crappie is one of the strongest lines that I have ever fished with. The only drawback to this line for me is the line memory problem that you will get with this line.

    I have fished with Viscious Hi-Vis line and found it to be a very good line, but it isnít quite as strong as the Mr Crappie line. It is a co-polymer line. My favorite today is Suffix Elite Hi-Vis line in the 4 lb test size. It may not be my favorite tomorrow or next month if something better comes along. It is a strong line and doesn't quite have the line memory problem as the others. The only line that doesn't have memory problems is braid and it is a no stretch line. Great feel, but I just donít prefer it.

    Fluorocarbon has a lot of problems with me on a spinning reel. Some people may love it, and I have tried it, but it will never make it onto my spools anymore. Too many problems to list.

    Why Hi-Vis? Well, when you are 76 years old and you canít see as well as you could in your youth, it is a wonderful option to have. Believe me, the crappie are not line shy.

    You could catch them if your lure was on a chain if you presented it correctly. Many fishermen will tell you differently, but I have caught trout on hi-vis yellow line. Every species of bass, catfish, panfish, walleyes, you name it, I have caught them on hi-vis line.

    But, if you believe that line size, color, etc makes a difference, then you better stick with what you believe because you wonít have any confidence fishing something that you think that the fish see and avoid and thereby, making you a fishless angler. I just love to kill holy cows. Grin.

    If I am dock shooting, I prefer a rod that is 5 feet long or 5í6Ē at the most. I like to get really close to docks when I am fishing them, but some of my friends like to stand off and use longer rods. Whatever floats your boat is okay with me. Iím just describing my favorites.

    If Iím offshore fishing which is what I do 90% of the time anymore, I like rods from 6 to 7 feet in length. I like fast tips and a lot of backbone in the rods that I use. Donít ever buy a noodle rod if you are fishing deep. Not enough backbone to properly set the hook on deep crappie, in my opinion.

    Lures: my my. I have enough to start my own tackle shop. Every color, shape, size, known to man, I guess. Grin. I fish with jigs weights from 1/48 oz to 3/32 oz. I have some 1⁄8 and 1⁄4 ounce jigs, and I should use them at time, but I just donít use them much at all. I know some fishermen who fish vertical trees that prefer 1⁄4 oz jigs because they want a fast fall, but for my style of fishing, a much slower fall is better. That is just my opinion as well. I tell everyone all the time. ďDonít fall in love with a favorite lure. It will break your heart like your first girlfriend did.Ē There are just days when your favorite lure or color arenít going to catch any fish, I donít care how well you present the lure.

    Crappie are funny in that way. Some days, it doesnít make any difference what color or shape lure that you throw, the fish are going to eat it. Other days, they are so color specific that if you arenít throwing that color, then you will go home fishless. If you are having trouble getting bites, then you better be changing lure shapes and colors often until the fish tell you what they want. I have been skunked before because I was so stubborn that I was going to make the fish bite what I was throwing or else.

    I suppose that I should talk a little bit about technique. There are many ways to catch crappie. Some that I prefer and others that are good, but I will never try them because I donít want to fish that way. Trolling and using live minnows are two techniques that I donít want to do and Iím not going to fish that way. It is a matter of what makes me happy. The catching fish isnít the most important thing in fishing with me. That is hard to believe, but it is true nonetheless.

    I love teaching people how to catch crappie my way. My good friend, Pat Ryan, aka, Bassert, is the one that coined the phrase that describes the method of fishing that I do as ďthe systemĒ. But my greatest joy is when my students get to the point that they can begin to teach others also. I love it when I take out someone that I have taught how to fish and they beat me fishing. I know that I have done my job well when they can do that, but I also like teaching them something new, something that they havenít seen yet or have even thought about. Iím constantly trying to push the envelope when it comes to crappie fishing.

    One of the very first things that I teach people to do is to become a line watcher. That comes right after getting them the correct rod/reel with hi-vis line on it. Fishing is so enjoyable when the equipment works as it was intended. Why watch the line so much, you might ask? IĒm glad that you asked. Because, 9 out of every 10 fish that I hook up, I never feel the bite or the fish until I set the hook.

    When you wait to feel the thump before setting the hook, you are snagging the fish as it is spitting your lure out of its mouth and the hook just happens to catch on the lips. The fish spits the lure and turns and you feel it as it is snagged. A lot of those fish pull off as you are fighting them to the boat because crappie have a ďpaperĒ mouth and you canít put much pressure on them. I say that tongue in cheek, because when a crappie inhales a jig and you see the bite and set the hook, most of the time, the hook is buried up in the roof of its mouth and many times very near the gullet and those fish donít get off unless you are careless in bringing them back to the boat. I have come to this conclusion and is a theory of mine. My definition of a theory is ďan assumption based on ignorance of the subject matter.Ē

    Detecting the crappie bite is the hardest part of teaching a newbie the art of fishing. This is why line watching is a must. I must pause for a bit for a little story that illustrates what I am talking about here.

    Several years ago, back in the late 70ís, I took a friend crappie fishing one morning and when we anchored up on our spot, and I gave him the lure to use. He was a talker and never ever looked at his line or what he was doing. He would just cast the lure out and was chattering all along with me and was not catching a single fish. When I caught the 18th fish of the morning and he was still fishless, he finally said - ďI donít know why you are catching all the fish and we are using the same bait.Ē I said - ďWill you set the hook when I tell you to do no matter whatĒ and he said yes. I told him to cast the lure out and let it fall. He did and I was watching his line. When I saw the very slight ďticĒ on the line, I said, ďSet the Hook.Ē He did and his rod bent over double with his first fish and the surprised look on his face was priceless. He finally caught about 15 of the 75 crappie that we caught in two hours time.

    My friend was getting bites all along, but never did know it and the crappie were spitting his lure out without him even being aware that he had had a bite. Iím convinced that many people are in the same boat with him when it comes to watching the line.

    When I cast a jig out, I let it fall on a pendulum arc, meaning that I close the bail with my finger immediately and make sure that I donít have any loose coils around the reel and am watching the line all the time that it is falling. Many times when a crappie inhales the lure as it is falling, there is a very slight tic or twitch of the line at the point where the line enters the water. This is my cue to set the hook. This tic doesn't always occur though.

    Sometimes, as the lure is falling, the line will just go slack as if it had reached the bottom, but you know that there is no way that the jig had time to reach the bottom. This is the cue to set the hook. What has happened is this. Crappie suspend most of the time and you just happened to have a jig fall right in front of this crappie and he just inhaled the jig and didnít move at all. It looks as if the jig has hit the bottom, but in reality, it is in the crappieís mouth as he is contemplating whether to swallow this or spit it back out.

    Many times, the fish will hold the jig for several seconds before spitting it back out, but other times, they will reject it almost in the same motion as they inhaled it.

    Another way to detect a crappie bite is to watch the lure and as it is falling, the line just begins to move slowly off to the right or to the left. The fish has taken the lure and is easing off with his meal and it is then time for you to set the hook.

    Then there is the time, while on a cast, you see nothing, feel nothing, the lure does not drift off to either side and finally you decide to just reel in and make another cast and to your surprise, the fish was on and had been all the time and you didnít know when it took the lure.

    The only time that the thump comes before or at the same time as the visual bite, for me at least is when I am vertical jigging. You will feel the bite first in this case.

    Presentation: Now is the time for me to talk about the different techniques that I am using while fishing on any given day. I basically let the fish tell me what they want is the best way to explain what I do. It just takes ďfishingĒ to figure out what the fish want in way of color, lure, speed, technique, or whatever the variable is on that particular day.

    Each day is different. I count down my lures on every cast that I make. I donít haphazardly just cast and retrieve. That is a big waste of valuable time in my opinion. The first rule if you remember is location. Electronics are great, but they donít always tell the story. But the countdown method of presentation is the best way to start fishing. My first cast, I may not move the lure until I reach a 10 count. If I donít get a bite by then, the next cast will count down to 13, and so on and so forth until I get a bite. Whatever the count is when I get the first bite, I will count each lure down to that count each time until the fish move.

    Some days, it takes a slow steady retrieve to get the crappie to bite the lure, while on other days, an erratic stop and go jigging motion is what it takes to elicit a bite. I may take a couple of slow turns on my reel and then give the jig a ďpalsyĒ twitch. So many times, this will cause a reaction bite from fish that may be following the lure. Watch how a crappie bites a jig on youtube sometimes. It is an eye opener. It is a rare day, but there have been occasions lately, that it takes a very violent setting the hook motion of the jig and let it settle back down to get the fish to bite. Other days, it takes a do nothing method of dead sticking the jig under the boat to get them to bite.

    I have to let the fish tell me what they want. It is no big secret. The fish change everyday as the lunar cycle plays out each month. Feeding times vary, moon phases are critical, weather certainly plays a big part in fish movement or feeding periods and figuring out all these variables is what makes our sport of fishing second to none. The best time to fish is when you can, but when we have stabilized weather conditions, you can set your watch by what time the fish will begin to be very active. I have kept records for too many years to completely ignore this fact. Some folks poo poo this idea, but they are usually the ones who have to troll or use live minnows in order to catch fish. (Again, not knocking those who love to troll or use live bait.) If that makes you happy, Iím so glad for you.

    How do I locate crappie? Where do I begin? I begin with map study. I truly believe that one can eliminate 90% of the water when searching for fish. Fish use channels and roadbeds like we use street, highways, and interstates to move from place to place. If you know where fish usually show up, you should ask yourself this question. How did this fish get to this spot to begin with? Map study can give you great clues and then you can see the route that the fish take and find them along differents spots along that route.

    Electronics are a great tool that will aid you in locating crappie. Todayís graphs are so good, that you can tell by the signatures that the fish make on a graph whether they are crappie, catfish, bass, or other types of fish. Locate the baitfish and you will always find fish in the vicinity. I have one friend that can look at a graph and tell you whether the school has any big crappie in it or not. He is one of the best crappie fishermen that I know, so I have no reason to doubt what he says is true.

    One thing that I have learned over the years is that the biggest crappie are in the smallest schools. Rarely do you catch any really big crappie in a huge school that you find on your graph. You may catch one or two, but then you begin to catch just average sized fish from that point on.

    My best student ever is a female cardiac nurse that works in a local hospital or from her home and this past March, we pulled upon one of our favorite deep water spots and by looking at the graph, most would never even wet a line there. ďThere is just not enough fish thereĒ they would say. We threw a marker buoy and with the wind blowing like it was and the current running pretty hard, I positioned the boat for optimum presentation.

    Her first two fish that she caught were 3 pound White crappie. I have never caught a three pound crappie and she caught two on back to back casts.

    The first 5 fish that we caught on this spot that looked fishless were all over 15 inches long. The last two that we caught on this spot were 13.5Ē and 12.5Ē long, then we had no more bites. But, we were happy.

    I took another friend one day and showed him a deep water spot that was almost void of fish and I suggested that we throw a marker buoy and fish it anyway. He caught a 14.5Ē
    and a 13Ē crappie and told me that he never would have fished this spot because he always looked for the big schools of fish. I hope that I taught him well.

    Fishing new lakes are always a challenge. Locals may know all the hotspots, but it is sometimes hard to find fish on the first day on a new lake, but finding them is the fun part. I can locate fish nearly every time that I go fishing. Catching them or getting them to bite is another ballgame. This is why I love it so much. Figuring them out. Inventing new techniques, even if those techniques are only new to me. There are so many better crappie fishermen that I am because that will do whatever it takes to catch fish. Iím not like that. I wonít troll or use live bait and sometimes that is what is necessary to catch fish, but, after all, we are talking about the DK method of single pole crappie fishing.

    Grin. Iím like old Frank Sinatra - I did it my way. I also, because of my age, donít fish all day long and many times the best bite may be in the afternoon when I am home taking my nap. Grin. Summer time you will find me on the lake a daybreak and off by 10:30 or noon if the fish happen to be going gangbusters by late morning. I wonít leave a biting school. (Most of the time).

    I have certain boat rules. I release all TARP sized crappie in my boat. If my fishing companion catches one and wants to keep it, then I will let him/her, but I really try to encourage everyone to release all the big fish. Three pounders are rare in our lake. 10-12Ē fish make great eaters too. I used to only keep fish that were in the 11-12Ē size and release the 10ís and 13ís on up.

    Boat rule number two. If we catch a fish and were planning to move to another spot or quit for the day, then we have to make one more cast before leaving. I have had to violate that rule more than once, but that is another story. Grin.

    Boat rule number three. If the fish are not going to bite on a certain spot, then we are not going to catch fish from there. Grin.

    I will take most people to any spot that I fish and I donít care if they come back to fish this spot if it is a community hole. I do have spots that someone else showed me and asked me to keep it from anyone. I will honor that request. People that abuse the spots or fish that I show them, usually donít get invited back to fish again. Every bit of the lake is free for all to fish and I donít own any part of it, but if I perceive that someone just wants me to take them fishing to find out where I fish or to a spot that they can come back and abuse, then I gracefully decline their invitation to go with them or have them go with me.

    With todayís electronics, it wonít be long before 100 people know your secret super fishing spots and 1000 will know your secret brush piles that you planted back in the winter at night so that someone wonít know where they are. Grin. It doesnít bother me when I see guys idle close by and are looking at their side finders and trying to see what I am fishing over or near. I had one guy last week idle by as he was getting ready to put his boat on the trailer and we were about 200 yards off shore fishing a brush pile and I noticed that he took triangulation readings on my marker and then moved so that he could get triangulation readings 90 degrees from his first marks. I thought that was so funny.

    People, just learn how to detect a crappie bite and most of your problems locating fish will be over. Donít be calling the dog - ďhere poochie poochieĒ and the dog be licking you in the face. Use the DK method of single pole crappie fishing and I promise you, you will become one of the better fishermen in the county.

    Comments 9 Comments
    1. gravelman6's Avatar
      gravelman6 -
      Good read
    1. DaveB40's Avatar
      DaveB40 -
      Thank you for posting.
      Good read.
    1. "G"'s Avatar
      "G" -
      Good read
    1. trypman1's Avatar
      trypman1 -
      Very good info, a great write up. Thanks!
    1. Rockhitter's Avatar
      Rockhitter -
      Great info, thanks for sharing your knowledge. Much appreciated.
    1. Lookn4slabs's Avatar
      Lookn4slabs -
      Very good info. Thanks for writing the article .
    1. ET Fish's Avatar
      ET Fish -
    1. Fishinfred's Avatar
      Fishinfred -
      Great read and thanks for sharing. Watching friends catching fish and having a good time is worth it for sure.
    1. cva34's Avatar
      cva34 -
      Wow what a CRAPPIE write up....Thank You...5 stars...

      As for Trolling I'm with you best time is on gut slick days when its hotter than....,,,It keeps air moving and bearable.

      Or when you tried it all except .......
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