Pullin’ Crankbaits for Hot Summer Action
by Tim Huffman, Senior Writer
Sometimes a slow presentation isn’t what it takes to trigger big summer crappie to bite.
It’s hot. Air and water temperatures are oppressive. Sticking a bait in front of a crappie’s nose often gets no response. However, when fish are reluctant to hit a slow presentation, they’ll often react to a fast-moving crankbait.
Trolling targets suspended fish in open water. At 2.0 miles per hour, a fisherman covers a lot of water in a short period of time. The right speed, depth and area leads to great results.
Pulling is the traditional method of trolling baits behind the boat. Using multiple poles increases success but also adds difficulty. Inexperienced fishermen should pull with two or four poles while an experienced troller can pull six or eight poles, if legal.
Strong pressure is applied to equipment when a bait hangs or when a big catfish gets on while the boat is going fast. Pole holders must be strong and so should poles. Line is usually 10-pound test monofilament because its diameter is small enough to allow baits to get deep and it stretches to absorb a hard, sudden pull.
A six-pole system can include a 16-, 12- and 8-foot pole off the side or back of the boat. The different lengths allow more line spacing between baits for fewer hang-ups and to cover a wider trolling path.
A crankbait must have proper action and stay stable at speeds up to 2.5 mph. Bandit 200 and 300 series, Strike King Slab Hammer, Berkley Flicker Shad, Arkie and Jenko Crappie Crankbait are a few good options. However, it’s very important to keep baits the same on all poles so depths will be consistent and to reduce hang-ups.
A pulling rig can be a pontoon, a small aluminum boat or any size in between. It must be safe for the waters and weather being fished. A smooth outboard motor can be used but the current trend is an autopilot-type trolling motor. Today’s trolling motor can be set on a path and it will automatically make corrections for wind, waves and current. Adjustments can be made remotely from anywhere in the boat. These trolling motors allow poles to be attended without the worry of boat control.
A word of caution about summer fishing. The sun and heat can be dangerous. It’s best to go fishing at daylight and get off the water early. Early fishing also helps avoid recreational boaters and jet skis. Drink plenty of fluids and protect skin from the sun.
Pulling & Catching
Experience and/or electronics are used to find a trolling area. The boat is placed on a trolling path and baits are placed in the water. Line counter reels are not required but are a big advantage for setting and repeating depths. For example, lines could be set at 60- 80- and 110-feet behind the boat. Three fish are caught on the poles set at 80 feet. It’s critical to be able to reproduce that depth. Poles could be readjusted for 70, 80 and 90 feet to put all baits near the strike zone. Note that bait depth depends upon several factors including bait type, line diameter and line length. Bait type and line diameters stay constant so line length is the determining factor for depth.
Russ Bailey, host of Brushpile Fishing, says, “A lot of things are amazing about pulling crankbaits. One, the hotter it gets the better the fishing. Two, it’s a fast-moving technique to cover a lot of water in a short amount of time. Three, it’s strictly a reaction bite instead of a hunger bite.
“Areas that produce include points, old road beds, flats and channels,” says Bailey. “The fish will suspend up in the water column and nail a crankbait when it comes to them. They hear it coming, see it and instinct often causes them to attack.”
Bailey uses line counter reels and says a very general rule of thumb is divide the line distance by 10, then add one, and you have the depth of the bait.
“I like 1.5 to 2.1 mph. Turns cause a change in speed of the baits, sometimes triggering bites, giving the fisherman an indication that pull speed should be increased or decreased.
“Colors are another thing unique because the crappie can be very picky about a crankbait color even though they have a short period of time to see it.”
Bailey says, “My best trip was one morning at Grenada in the hot summer, when we had our limit within a couple of hours. It was great. I love the mood of the technique and still have trouble believing how productive it is.”
Tim Huffman has specialized in crappie fishing writing and photography since 1988. He is currently the Editor/Senior Writer for Crappie Masters Magazine, freelance contributor to four magazines, book author and Senior Writer for CrappieNow Digital Magazine.