For those resilient anglers who can tolerate the sweltering heat, mosquitoes and sunburn that often are part of summer fishing, this season provides excellent opportunities for hooking lots of big crappie.
Unfortunately, many hot-weather crappie outings end in failure.
Mainly because anglers insist on using the same fishing methods they use during the crappie’s spring spawning season, and these methods rarely entice slabs when the water is as hot as a jacuzzi. Success comes only to those anglers who know specific tactics for catching summer’s finicky fish.
Toward that end, here are 9 seldom-used tips to help you nab hot-water crappie this time of year. Study them, employ them and enjoy the bounty.
Attract Minnows, Attract Crappie
When fishing is slow during daylight hours, try an approach that duplicates the use of a crappie light at night. A light attracts insects, which in turn attracts minnows. But minnows also are attracted by chumming with dry dog food, bread crumbs or similar offerings. Scatter the chum by handfuls in several shallow-water areas, then move back to the first place you put chum and drop in a minnow. Fish each consecutive spot and see if your catch rate doesn’t improve. Often, it will.
Here’s another “chumming” method to try when fishing is slow. Save some scales from the next crappie you dress. Rinse them and store inside a sealable container filled with water. Carry the container on your outings, and if things get slow, drop a few scales in the water above inundated cover. As the scales fall, they flicker and catch the eye of crappie, which often will move toward them to investigate. A jig or minnow presented on a tight line in the vicinity may get hit.
A double-hook, bottom-bouncing rig provides an excellent means for waylaying summer crappie holding near stumps on flats adjacent bottom channels. A 1-ounce bell sinker tied at line’s end allows the angler to feel the bottom and find the stumps. Above the sinker are tied two 6-inch drop loops 18 inches apart, and a crappie hook is tied to each dropper. The rig is baited with live minnows or jig/minnow combos.
While wind drifting or slow trolling with an electric motor, work the rig in a lift-drop fashion. When you feel the rig bump against a stump, lift it up and over. Strikes often come just as the rig is lowered behind woody cover.
Go With the Flow
If you know some areas where waterfalls tumble into the main body of a lake or stream during summer, head straight for them on your next hot-weather outings. These may be naturally occurring waterfalls or man-made structures of concrete, steel or rocks that create drop-offs with running water. These spots oxygenate water that might otherwise get stale and lifeless when temperatures are bumping 100. Reeling a small deep-diving minnow-imitation crankbait through the bubbling water is an excellent way to entice slabs hiding here, or try a jig or minnow beneath a bobber.
On the Surface
Near dawn or dusk, summer crappie schools may surface to feed on minnows and shad. The attentive angler can zero in on such schools by watching for rough patches on an otherwise smooth lake surface. Use a trolling motor or paddle to approach barely within casting range. A long rod (6 feet plus) and small spinning reel spooled with 2- to 4-pound-test line allow longer casts with shad imitations such as jigs, spinners or live minnows. Suspend the lure or bait a few inches below a bobber, and get ready for action.
Summer crappie may move fairly shallow, even on sunny days, if they can find overhead cover that shades them from bright rays. Boat docks, fishing piers and swimming platforms provide such cover, but anglers in boats may fail to get bites because crappie can see the fishermen. These same fish may bite, however, when the angler walks on the structure and fishes from above. Crappie get used to foot traffic on these structures and seldom spook, so the quiet overhead approach often works when a bait presented from a boat won’t. Let the wind drift a minnow or jig suspended under a bobber into the shade beneath the structure. Or try fishing vertically through wide cracks in boards that lie over the shadiest water.
When trolling for deep summer crappie, try mounting your trolling motor on the side of the boat instead of the front. This allows you to move in a very slow, controlled fashion so you can mine deep structures more efficiently.
Many jigs now are available with glow-in-the-dark bodies and/or heads. Do they work? Sometimes yes, sometimes no, in my experience. But at times, when conventional jigs aren’t producing, I’ve rigged with a luminescent version and started catching crappie after crappie. Rigging a small cyalume (light) stick a foot or so ahead of the jig often improves effectiveness.
Crickets and Mayflies
Summer mayfly hatches are common on many crappie lakes, and when they occur, crappie move shallow to gorge on mayfly larvae and emerging adults. If you see numerous mayflies, dispense with lures and minnows, and try fishing an unweighted cricket instead. Although a cricket hardly resembles a mayfly, hungry crappie filling their bellies on insects won’t refuse one. Hook the cricket through the collar to keep it lively, then flip it on top of the water and wait for the hit that is sure to come. You’ll probably land as many bluegills as crappie, but where crappie are common, they’ll comprise a good portion of your catch. Good luck!