Use big lures for bigger slabs

Small jigs aren’t necessarily the best sizes of lures to use when targeting large crappies.

Like a lot of fishermen, when I think about crappie fishing, I think about the tiny, tiny baits many fishermen use — those micro jigs that weigh 1/64- to 1/16-ounce, and those itty bitty hair jigs and plastic grubs.

But that’s where Tom Sprouse and Maynard Edwards think I’m making a mistake —along with a lot of other fisherman.

“Have you ever looked at the mouth on a big crappie?” Edwards asked. “It’s not that small. It can swallow a pretty good-sized bait.”

I immediately remembered back to my three biggest crappie: a 15-inch fish from Falls of the Neuse lake hit a 7-inch Texas-rigged plastic worm; two more 14-inch fish from Jordan Lake that hit spider jigs.

“Shoot, I’ve caught a lot of big crappie on crankbaits, and two of the biggest I’ve ever caught, close to 3 pounds, were when I was trolling 3-inch grubs for stripers at Badin Lake,“ said Edwards, who operates Yadkin Lakes Guide Service from his home in Lexington.

Sprouse, a pro crappie fisherman from Advance, said there’s no room in his tackle box for tiny baits. He believes wholeheartedly in the idea a big bait will produce a big fish —even if it’s a crappie.

“I’m a firm believer in big baits,“ he said. “With big baits, you weed out little fish.

“I know a lot of crappie fishermen believe bigger fish are more aggressive to larger baits. I know if you clean crappies, you’ll be surprised at the size of the shad that are inside them.

“I know they’re very aggressive; I’ve caught them with big shad tails sticking out of their mouths.”

With April probably the No. 1 month for catching big slab crappies at North Carolina reservoirs, here’s how Edwards and Sprouse go large, providing fish with “value meals.”

“I’ve gone to bigger stuff —bigger jigheads and bigger baits,“ Edwards said. “I know my catch rate has gone up, and the size of the fish I’m catching has gone up.”

Edwards has put away 2-inch curlytail and tube lures and gone to 3-inch versions. He’s gone to bigger hooks with jigheads uses a Slider jighead with an extended, offset hook.

All this has been done to eliminate those smaller crappies that seem to make up a good percentage of most fishermen’s creels.

“I was getting a lot of pull downs and having fish come off —especially while I was slow-trolling,“ Edwards said. “So I went to bigger baits, and that stopped.

“Most of the hooks you find on jigs you buy are No. 6s. I’ve gone to No. 2, and I use the Slider head. I think they’ll hold a big bait better.”

Sprouse also does most of his damage slow-trolling with multiple rods — the spider-rigging technique employed by many, many crappie pros. But he gets a bait with a bigger profile by tipping his soft-plastic grubs with a live minnow, and not a small one, at that.

“I like to use a Charlie Brewer Slider grub; it’s a real good post-spawn bait, but I’ll also use a Kalin grub (curly-tail) and tip it with a No. 6 minnow,” Sprouse said. “Most people buy No. 4 minnows, because they can get more of them per pound, but you can buy No. 6s.”

Sprouse said he worries a little bit about using too big a grub because a big grub can “overcrowd” a hook.

“I’ll use a No. 2 hook —there are people I know who will use a No. 1,” he said. “If fish are real aggressive, you can get away with a 3-inch grub, but I normally stick with a 2-inch grub and add a bigger minnow. The combination of the grub and minnow does it for me.”

If Sprouse doubted a big bait would produce big fish, that ended at the Southern Crappie Association tournament at South Carolina’s Lake Murray during mid-February. He and partner Steve Gentry of Winston-Salem finished second with a 10-fish limit that totaled 15.69 pounds.

“We caught four fish that weighed over 2 pounds within 15 minutes —between 7 and 7:15,” Sprouse said.

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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