Most who try their luck in local lakes use extremely inexpensive tackle, a float, splitshot, No. 6 hook and a minnow, and since crappie are such slow, deliberate biters, there's plenty of time to get ready when that float bounces and moves leisurely away. Most crappie seekers pick a spot, usually near a fallen tree or submerged brushpile, toss out that minnow and simply wait. They catch a few, but once the cream has been skimmed, they're left with only an occasional bite as a straggler swims by. And a stringer with barely enough for a light lunch.
I've always considered myself a pretty good crappie hunter, but I fish at least once or twice each spring with Shelbian Steve Haverfield, and Steve shows me again and again that he's probably the absolute best crappie catcher around. This man fishes almost exclusively for crappie, and might hit his favorite spots several times a week using tactics that he's refined over long years.. The last time we fished a large private lake on his pontoon boat, a lake that he and I have fished before and knew had a good population of fish.
As always, we were using his favorite jigs, a soft rubber inch and a half type with a skirt purchased at Walmart, and as always the front half was red, the body and skirt white, and the soft rubber hid a 1/32 ounce jig head. "I've tried green and white" he said, "yellow and white, blue and white, and other colors, but the red and white always works best, so that's all I use these days." On this trip he had at least 10 rods clipped to the roof of his boat, and all ten had the red and white jigs. He always adds a waxworm to the hook for extra flavor, and that's vital. I tried a few tosses without the worm, and while the crappie and bluegill would tap the jig, they dropped it immediately. The waxworm had to be there.
We started our fishing around a small fallen tree near the marina, and caught six or eight crappie and a couple of bluegill, but they were small, and we moved on. Steve won't stay and work wood that's producing only little ones, and his motto is "If I don't catch something worthwhile in five minutes or less, it's time to move."
The next tree proved a little better and we caught several keepers before action slacked off, then a series of brushpiles, many of which he had sunk personally with cinderblocks to hold them. A cold front had moved in that morning, dropping lake temperatures near shore by several degrees, and the fish had moved from three or four feet down to six or even eight. The big guys were holding tight around and well back under docks or suspended over and around the brushpiles and fallen timber. This time we seemed to catch only small crappie and bluegills around this "hotspot", while another sometimes just yards away turned up fish to 13 inches, thick, heavy bodied slabs that put a nice bend in the rod.
Best action was around wood where the shoreline dropped off quickly into deep water, and since they were holding deeper than usual we sometimes put on small splitshot to sink the jigs quickly to proper depth or waited patiently until they sank to fish holding depths We could only fish a couple of hours because of pressing business elsewhere, but in that time we caught between 75 and 80 fish. I kept about 15 dandies for a fine dinner that evening and went home happy.
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HOOKS & BULLETS
• Louis Andres of Pleasant Hill Lake reports some interesting activities for June. On June 9 there will be a Safe Boating & Summer Beach Party. The event will start with a Safe Boating Festival from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with a beach party, free kayaking, kids fishing, mermaid swim and boat rides. Plus live DJ entertainment, free prize drawings, and a kids catfish derby. Gate entry only $5 per car. Plus on June 16, there will be a PHL Drone Race open to the public. Races start at 11 a.m.
• According to BoatUS more than 10,000 boaters have taken advantage of their extensive how-to video gold mine. There are over 100 videos at YouTube.com/BoatUS that range from how to trim your boat to boat handling, fishing and more. The videos were produced by the editors of BoatUs Magazine. The videos are short, so they're easy to watch anytime.
• Are you ever too old to hunt? A letter from a reader who lives in Lexington said "I shot my turkey, an 18 pounder, on Sunday morning, then went out again the next day and sat in my ground blind until 8:30 when I shot the biggest turkey I have ever got. He was 23 pounds with an 11 inch beard." This veteran hunter will be 86 shortly.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit his blog at outdoorswithmartin.com.