Apply Tournament Tactics to Weekend Fishing
by Darl Black
For weekend crappie anglers, the art of fishing has turned into a potentially expensive science. Similar to the impact of tournaments on bass fishing some years ago, the advent of crappie tournaments appears to emphasize expensive fish-finding electronics, expensive wireless-control trolling motors, expensive electronic pin anchors and even more expensive boats.
There is little doubt tournament crappie anglers are extremely knowledgeable about how to catch crappies using all the bells and whistles. But too often weekend fishermen feel left behind in the exhaust of high-powered big rigs.
Well, CrappieNow has asked several tournament fishermen to provide some practical tips for everyday anglers like you and me. These tips do not require expensive high tech toys; any equipment mentioned is a nominal investment.
Up first is Kyle Schoenherr, hailing from southern Illinois near Rend Lake. In 2015, Kyle and his tournament partner won both the Crappies Masters National Championship and Crappie USA National Championship – two majors in the same year! As a hardcore tournament angler and guide, Kyle has amassed a repertoire of tricks.
During the spring when fishing buck brush, willows or tree tops lying along the bank, Kyle prefers to reach over the top of the cover with his long rod and slowly lower the jig down. However, when entering or exiting the cover, the jig may become snagged on small branch. If unable to shake it loose, Kyle breaks out his special 14-foot frog-gig pole with a large-gap stout hook (catfish or turtle hook) screwed to the tip.
“I reach through the cover with this pole, grab the limb with the big hook, twist the pole and snap the branch. Then I can retrieve the jig. The long pole also functions as a gaff to grab a really big crappie you don’t want to risk lifting up through the cover.”
“Once the spawn is over and crappies move to deeper water, I depend on my sonar to locate isolated unseen cover such as stumps, brushpiles and cribs so I can drop a jig to them,” continues Kyle. “However, you really don’t need the latest high-tech down-scan and side-scan to find unseen cover, nor do you need a GPS mark on the screen to hold you on the cover. A traditional sonar unit works just fine in conjunction with an old-fashioned buoy marker.”
Kyle says the most important part is how to place the marker so it is right on the target.
“When I idle over a piece of structure with the big motor, I do not toss a marker as an afterthought because it will not be accurate. Instead I turn the boat into wind, jump on the trolling motor and slowly ease back over the structure. Just as the stump or brushpile leaves the right side of the screen, I give the marker a four to six foot toss ahead of the boat. Then as the marker unravels and drifts back with the wind, the weight will come to rest right on the spot rather than yards away.”
Brad Taylor of Greenville, Mississippi has been President of Magnolia Crappie Club for three years. On the Crappie Master Series, he has four top five finishes plus a 1st place. His mantra is keep it simple and be observant.
“As a tournament fisherman approaching a new lake, I’ve learned to scour the internet ahead of time to gather information on various maps with all the ramps and water depths, areas that people crappie fish, the popular techniques, and the species and size of the lake’s baitfish. Anyone can do this and all this information is free.”
Taylor prefers to fish double minnow rigs with 1/2-ounce weight, stating this rig has proven itself all over the country. “I buy bait locally, obtaining the size of minnows that the shop owners says the local fishermen purchase. Or, if the lake is known for producing BIG white crappies, I would purchase large minnows. If the lake was known for smaller white crappies, I would purchase medium minnows. And if I was fishing black crappies, I would buy small or medium minnows – never large.”
He says he always starts trolling at .5 mph as judged by his sonar GPS, with bait rigs staggered at various depths. Then he starts adjusting the speed and depth based on the fish reaction – speeding up if the fish are hitting aggressively or slowing down if the bite is slow.
“If I you go back to the same area the next day and the crappies will not bite – don’t panic! The fish have not left the area. This is the time I go to a 1/4-ounce rig, and really slow way down to entice a bite reaction from crappies.”
A forty-year angling veteran, Dan Dannenmueller of Alabama devotes all his fishing time these days to crappie tournaments. He won Crappie Masters Angler of the Year twice and is a frequent seminar presenter at BPS stores and on the sport show circuit offering a program of practical tips.
“In the post spawn, and during weather or current changes, crappies often get lockjaw. If using plastic baits, your color must be spot on to trigger a bite from reluctant fish,” explains Dannenmueller. “Because visibility of a color changes with depth, I use a Spike It Color Selector to determine the appropriate color at a given depth.”
When using minnows on a bare hook or jighead under a bobber, Dannenmueller adds a piece of Stubby Steve’s scented bait chunk. Not only does it provide added scent, but it also keeps the minnow on when a crappie thumps the bait.
“My double hook minnow rigs employ a three-way swivel – but three-ways are notorious for twisting line because they don’t spin freely. I use Thundermist Three -Way Swivels. They are true 360 degree swivels and will not allow the line to tangle.”
As a final tip, Dannenmueller recommends buying crappie jigs with #1 and #2 hooks in them. “The larger hooks will improve hook-ups for slab crappies whereas the smaller #4 and #6 hooks don’t get a good bite in a big crappie’s mouth.”
Thanks to the pros for sharing some tips that you will be able to apply right NOW and in the future.