Tricking crappies when it’s hot

A new fishing technique in which an angler slowly trolls little jigs using extra-long spinning rods above baitfish schools produces crappies for one N.C. guide during the heat of summer.

When fishermen think about crappie, normally, the idea comes to mind of slipping along in the shallows, dabbling a jig or dunking a minnow around any kind of cover you can find.Typically, you don’t think about what it takes to catch a mess of slabs when the water temperature is in the 80s and the air temperature is climbing much higher.
After all, isn’t it a requirement that you know where a handful of sunken brush piles are before you can catch summertime crappie? Apparently not. Although fishing a live minnow below a sliding float is a time-honored method for catching crappie long after the spawn ends, there are other ways — interesting ways.

Guide Jerry Neeley of Bessemer City and crappie pro Ed Duke of Concord have proposed two ways to fill the need for fillets when it seems like it’s hot enough to get grease boiling on the sidewalk.

Neeley calls the technique’s he’s only recently mastered “Mississippi Power Trolling.” And when Duke is finished with a day fishing docks, he has to take a towel to his crappie rods before he puts them away.

“You can’t fish this way when crappie are in 5 or 6 feet of water, but Mississippi power trolling will take the day in the summer,” said Neeley (704-678-1043), who operates Carolinas Fishing Guide Service. “When they move out, this is the way you can really catch fish.”

Neeley will speed troll, fish minnows, dabble jigs under docks — all in their season — but he’s come to the conclusion that the “MPT” rig is a summertime killer. It works something like this:

— Take six 16-foot spinning rods — yes, they’re made that long for crappie fishermen — outfit them with reels full of 8-pound-test Stren gold line.

— At the end of the line, tie on a 1-ounce bell sinker.

— Come up about 18 inches from the sinker and tie in a dropper loop about 3 inches long.

— Come up another 10 inches from that dropper loop and tie in another dropper loop – same size.

— Attach a 1/16-ounce leadhead mini-jig to each loop and thread on the little plastic crappie jig of your preference.

— Take three rods and sit them in rod-holders on each side of the bow of your boat, setting the bell sinkers at three depths. The closest rod to the boat should have the sinker at the deepest depth you plan to fish, with the next two progressing a couple of feet shallower.

— Repeat on the other side of the bow.

Now, you’ve got a spread of jigs that will cover between 6 and 8 feet of the water column.

“Some people will use as many as five jigs on one rod, but I stick with just two,” said Neeley. “If you don’t want to use jigs, you can tie on a No. 2 Aberdeen hook and use a live minnow; it doesn’t matter.

“What I like to do is go out on the main body of a lake, out from a creek mouth, and just look around for schools of baitfish. I really like to find three schools of baits if I can, and then I just meander around through those schools.

“I like to keep my boat going less than 1 mile per hour; about 8/10 or 9/10 mile per hour is best. If you want to go faster, you need to put on a heavier weight because you want to keep your line almost vertical.”

Neeley said summertime crappie almost always will feed in schools, and they’ll almost always be shadowing movements of a school of baitfish.

Finding baits is almost a guarantee an angler will find some crappie. Having a dozen jigs of different shapes, colors and sizes trolled at different depths increases the odds of running into crappies.

“Let’s say you’ve got your sinkers out at 18, 14 and 12 feet, and you start to catch crappie” Duke said. “You’ll figure out the depth where they’re biting and the kind of jig they like, so you can switch over (all the rods). That’s when you really start catching crappie.”

Duke uses long rods for his technique, but they’re not sitting in rod holders — not a chance. The president of the Southern Crappie Association, Duke knows in summer, when the water in most reservoirs is relatively clear, one way that crappie combat the heat is to find some kind of shade.

And the easiest kind of shade, Duke said, crappie find is at boat docks.

“I use a 12-foot rod, and I keep about 2 feet of line out off the end of the rod, with a jig tied on,” said Duke. “I’ll go to a dock and stick almost the whole pole underwater. I just stick it down under the dock and just move the rod around real slowly, back and forth, and if crappie are under there, they’ll see that jig and pick it up. You can catch the hound of of ’em that way.”

Duke uses 6-pound-test line, and he plays fish carefully after he hooks them, easing them out from under the dock. He said the best docks to drown your rod are the newer, floating docks that have no pilings or posts.

His technique is really designed to take advantage of docks where you can poke your rod down in the water and actually fish every square foot under the dock without having to pull your rod out of the water.

And when a fish is hooked, it’s just a matter of easing him out from under the dock and bringing him aboard. Older docks or docks that are supported by pilings or posts can be a little trickier.

Duke said anglers can fish them with 12-foot rods, but only if there’s plenty of space between the pier posts or pilings to be able to maneuver your rod tip — and a jig — enough to produce the kind of action crappie can’t resist.

When it comes to docks with a lot of pilings or posts, he goes in a totally different direction, putting away his long rods and pulling out 4-foot, light-action spinning rods and “shooting” jigs underneath the dock.

The technique is just what it sounds like: Hold the rod in one hand, with the bail of the spinning reel open, grab the jig between the thumb and forefinger of the other hand and pull back, like drawing a bow.

Aim under the dock and release, and the jig “shoots” back under the dock, then sinks into the crappie’s strike zone.

About Dan Kibler 887 Articles
Dan Kibler is the former managing editor of Carolina Sportsman Magazine. If every fish were a redfish and every big-game animal a wild turkey, he wouldn’t ever complain. His writing and photography skills have earned him numerous awards throughout his career.

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