BayouOutdoors | Dial In Volume 2
article by Dan Chason
I remember the day when I could hear a bass bust from half a mile. I chased them like there was no tomorrow. I thought they were the biggest challenge next to a strutting turkey or a big buck. That was until I started crappie fishing. You see, my dad was a serious perch jerker. He didn’t bass fish until late in life but the man was tenacious when it came to catching white perch or crappie. I never saw the thrill in it. He shiner fished and to me it was a bona fide bream trip with a bigger fish at the end. I saw no challenge or desire to pursue it as the methods he used did not appeal to me.
When I stopped tournament fishing, I met a man name Doyle Hammonds, or Coach as I called him. We call him Coach after a long career as a coach, principal and teacher in Richland Parish. My first trip with Coach was pure jig fishing 101. He strapped it on me like there was no tomorrow. The way he worked a jig and the different areas and methods he used left me in awe. I wanted to learn how to do that myself. So I went to Toledo Tackle and bought what I thought was a good crappie rig and set out to become a crappie fisherman. Boy, was I in for a surprise.
Crappie are the most worthy of opponents. They will be on one pattern at daylight and totally change by the time you move 100 yards. Crappie are very affected by the barometer, water flow, water depth, water clarity and sometimes I think by the stock market. They can change instantly and the smart angler has to adjust to where, when and what has affected them. The most critical thing I’ve found is jig color, line size and depth they are holding. You can cheat and use a Livescope and narrow down part of the equation but there is no substitution for tenacity and being flexible. Such was the case just recently with my friend, Scott Self came fishing. Scott has a quality rod and the same jig I was catching good crappie on. He could not get bit. I noticed that I was using a high visibility, green Mr. Crappie line and he was using a clear line. Both were 6lb test but it was sunny. The fish were seeing his line. He changed over to an identical rig as mine and started catching them immediately.
My son, Andy came a few days later and broke off the jig I was catching the majority of my fish on. We dug around and only changed a pink hued skirt for chartreuse and white and he matched me fish for fish. That is the secret. In the old days Bill Dance himself introduced the Color Selector. This device would decide the best color for the water conditions encountered. It was a novel idea but soon went away as anglers didn’t really buy in to the product. Well, I did. I learned more from that device than any other introduced then or since. It taught me some simple facts when selecting lure color. Here is what I learned:
• Bright days, keep away from florescent colors, even if you caught them on that color yesterday.
• Cloudy days, the brightest are the best.
• Muddy water, go dark.
• Clear water, go with natural colors.
• Never forget, match the hatch.
• The hatch is determined by what are these fish eating naturally. Crappie love grass shrimp and crawfish. If you are fishing a lake with grass, they will be close as that is where their next meal lives.
• Lighten up. Too many crappie anglers fish way to heavy tackle. Too heavy line and too heavy a jig. I like light jigs if the wind arrives. My golden rule is the shallower the crappie are holding, the lighter the jig.
Choosing a jig can be quite overwhelming. My advice is to get out of the big box stores. You need a big bite hook with my preference being a sickle hook. I am not crappie fishing with a hook that won’t stick the fish and keep him on for me. The sickle hook is my tried and true method that gives me the option to land most fish without a net. Once they hit it, I own them.
There are many places where you can buy crappie jigs. Everybody has the latest and greatest and I’ve used most of them. I hardly every fish a jig without a crappie nibble on it. It just helps the bite ratio. I like nibbles with glitter in them as it mimics a shad that has been hit with scales exploding in the water. My crappie jig choice is out of Ft. Worth, Texas. My buddy Jeremy Saldivar with CFI Crappie Jigs makes a prime hand tied hair jig with my favorite sickle hook. I have one jig tied on right now and have caught over 100 crappie on it. Quality paint and color schemes are important but the customer service is over the top. Jeremy is reliable and responsive. I now only use his products and have no affiliation with his company or any “deals.” Just a good guy.
Lastly, let’s talk about the most important feature in crappie fishing, time on the water. No Livescopes, LCR’s, computers or any other factor replaces time on the water. Think about this, you are in a group of 30 boats on Caney and 10 are catching and 20 aren’t. What is difference? Some is being in the right place at the right time, some is little things such as presentation but most of it is those anglers are repeating past patterns and duplicating them again. That is time on the water. I wish you loads of luck and hope these few tips will help you. Catch and release and only keep what you need. See you next month.