Summertime can be brutally hot but if you can stand the heat, the crappie fishing can be hot as well. Two Mississippi guides shared their favorite tactics and tips for summertime crappie – but they’ll work almost anywhere you find crappie.
by Tim Huffman
Pulling Cranks & Jigs
Mark Hamberlin, DD214 Guide Service, is known for fishing and his generosity to veterans. He provides about 20 free fishing trips a year to disabled vets that includes a place to stay and some travel money if they need it. He tries to keep everything simple whether fishing, living life or giving back to others. He can do different techniques, but pulling crankbaits and jigs is his favorite.
“One thing that’s important to me,” says Hamberlin, “is to have time for conversations while we are fishing. Staring at a screen or pole tips is more work than pulling cranks.
“My boat is an old Bass Buggy pontoon project my kids and I worked on all one summer. The boat had to have everything redone from the floor up. That allowed us to do the layout exactly like we wanted. I’ve got an opening in the railing for a wheelchair and pins in the railing allow me open it up more, if needed. A console and worktable are custom built to fit our needs. Trolling racks are in the front, on the sides and out the back.”
Other equipment includes ACC Crappie Stix poles in 16-, 12- and 8-foot lengths off the side, long poles out the front, with a variety of reels. He says the poles have a perfect balance of strong backbone to hook the fish and a flexible end, so hooks don’t rip out.
Line is Power Pro braided that’s marked in different colors every 25 feet so it’s easy to know how much line is out. Also, it’s smooth enough that hooks don’t often hang. He uses six- and ten-pound-test, preferring to lose an occasional bait than to break a pole.
“Crankbaits come in a variety of brands with Pico being one my favorites because the square-bills stay shallow making them perfect for Washington, a lake where I spend a lot of my time. Color makes a difference, but I believe the bottom of the bait is the most important part and that’s why I put a red slash of paint near the bill. The bottom color catches fish and the top colors catch fishermen,” he said with a smile.
“Sometimes fish just don’t want a crankbait but will hit a jig. That’s why I run a jig above my crankbait. I use a Pico Texas Rig with wire leader, a Timmy Tom jig head with a blade and a variety of plastics including Brushpile Jigs. Pulling at 1.3 to 1.5 mph allows both the crankbaits and jigs to catch fish.
“Consistency in fishing is having the ability to figure fish out in a short amount of time. Everyone can have the same tools, but successful fishermen are ones who can quickly figure out fish and adjust during a day of fishing. All the bells and whistles will only take a fisherman up to his level of natural talents.”
Hamberlin says fish might be confusing to some fishermen because they can get extremely shallow in the summer. They can be suspended up as shallow as two or three feet, but every lake is different. Be sure to check electronics to watch for fish depths in waters you fish.
“In general, the hotter it gets the better crankbaiting gets. I turn on my 60’s rock music, lean back and troll. Fish really like Led Zeppelin music. If I’m with a vet and a family member or two, we can have a conversation while glancing at the poles occasionally. There’s nothing like being relaxed in the outdoors to help whatever trouble might be going on in their life. If they need help, I can help guide them to qualified people who can help. I’m self-funded so do a few paid guide trips a year to help pay to get vets here. They leave here with a limit of fish in vacuum packs and the memory of a day on the lake.”
Mississippi guide Will Hutto is a master of versatility. A summer tactic he often uses is shooting docks.
“I use Humminbird Side Imaging to learn which docks to shoot. I look for fish under the docks. I also look to see position because fish might be on the left, right or in the middle of a dock. If I find a couple of docks with fish on the right side, all other docks will also have fish on the right side. They will set up in a position based upon the shade, wind or something else.
“My chosen docks will be the ones with the biggest fish. Having baitfish is also important. When I get into position, I use Spot Lock on my trolling motor. I shoot jigs to where I see fish on the electronics.”
Hutto starts by retrieving baits at half the water depth. For example, he’ll keep the jig at three feet in six feet of water. Keeping a bait above, not below, the fish is critical. Start high and bring each following retrieve a foot deeper. Fish often hit on the fall. If not, they will hit on the retrieve.
“Shooting a jig is efficient,” says Hutto, “but some people don’t want to shoot or just prefer feeling the bite on a long pole. Like other techniques, I start by scanning the docks. I look for fish, big fish and bait fish.
“Usually, grabbing the dock with one hand helps hold the boat and allows you to get a jigging pole to the fish. Again, stay above the fish and work your way down. LiveScope will work but it’s not required.”
Hutto says a dock can be covered with a roof. When covered, you can’t raise the pole tip up, so it’s best to hold the pole in one hand and the line in the other. Use the hand with the line to set the hook. Then, work the pole out from under the dock.
“It’s not too difficult to set the hook. You feel the bite, set the hook and get the fish out to you without giving it slack. It’s a fun way to catch fish.”
(Tim Huffman has specialized in crappie fishing writing and photography since 1988. He is Senior Writer for CrappieNOW Digital Magazine, freelance writer and book author. His 2022 book, Crappie Annual & Product Guide, is available in paperback or e-book from www.Amazon.com)