by John E. Phillips
“Tony Adams, who will be your fishing guide, assures me he’s found a spot where y’all should be able to limit out on crappie in 2 hours, and on your way to that spot, Tony will put-out jugs to catch catfish,” Mayor Jack Tibbs of Eufaula, Alabama, explained before my trip.
Adams arrived in Eufaula to take a new job in 1989 and started fishing for crappie and building and sinking fish attractors in Lake Eufaula. Today because Adams has 250 spots he can fish successfully and rarely, if ever, does he find anyone fishing those same places, he catches crappie weighing 3/4- to 2 pounds each. Here’s a look at Adams’ fishing tactics to help you catch more crappie where you fish.
Build and Sink Fish Attractors
“I build my reefs out of 5-gallon buckets,” Adams explains. “I cut river cane and put those canes in a bucket, leaving about 10-12 feet sticking out of and above the bucket. Then I mix up and pour concrete into the buckets. At the locations where I’ll put these artificial reefs, I’ll generally place three buckets in the same spot. By building these buckets during the week, I can take the new buckets with me every time I go fishing and create a new reef. They’re easy to load and unload out of the boat, they stand up straight on the bottom, and I sink these buckets in 20 feet of water. This way, the cane stands up at 8-10 feet off the bottom, and that’s the depth where I catch most of my crappie all year long.”
Use Three-Rod Set-Ups
When Adams had located the spot we’d fish for crappie, he had three rod holders set-up on the front of his boat and three on the back of the boat. He told me, “I have two rods rigged for tight-line fishing, and one rod rigged up with a slip bobber, but I don’t put the stopper in that slip bobber. I let the line go through the bobber and use the bobber as a strike detector. I fish with one to two, No. 4 size shot lead(s), depending on the wind, up the line, and a No. 6 wire crappie hook about 8-10 inches below the lead with 4-6-pound test line, depending on how thick the cover is where we’re fishing.
“If I use a bobber stopper and fish 8-10 feet deep, when I try to reel up the crappie, the bobber stopper will hit the top guide on my rod, and I’ll have to pull the crappie in by hand. By not using the bobber stopper, I can reel up the crappie all the way to the surface and then swing it into the boat. Another advantage to not using a bobber stopper is that it allows you to see a strike that you may not be able to see, if you’re just watching 4-6-pound test line.
“When a crappie takes a bait, even if you get a light strike, that bobber will move. If the crappie pushes the bait to the left, the right, forward or backwards, you can see the bobber move. The line will move slightly in one of those four directions and will move the bobber in the direction in which the crappie is swimming. Even if the crappie doesn’t push the minnow, if that fish just comes up and sucks in the bait, you’ll be able to see that light strike when the bobber moves or twitches. On a very bright day, oftentimes seeing 4-6-pound-test line and knowing when you’re getting a crappie strike is hard. But with the bobber, I can spot every time the crappie even breathes on the minnows and set the hook.”
Adams says he can learn at what depth the crappie are feeding and where he needs to fish that day by using several rods. “Early in the morning the crappie at Lake Eufaula usually bite at 6 – 10 feet, but later when the sun’s up, we may have to fish our baits at 10 – 14 foot deep to catch them.”
Identify Structure with a Quality Depth Finder
Adams mentions that Lake Eufaula has, “Plenty of productive places to fish for crappie, but you must have a very-good depth finder to locate them, see what kind of structure is there, and learn the sizes of crappie holding there. I’m strictly a structure fisherman and search for underwater trees and logs and places where the current has piled-up limbs, sticks and brush.”
As I looked at Adams’ new Humminbird Helix 12 depth finder, he pointed out the trees and brush on the bottom of the lake and hundreds of small dots on the screen that were crappie. According to Adams, “These crappie are holding on the edge of an underwater creek channel that runs into the main river channel with a bottom 20-feet deep. I’ve got all the spots I like to fish highlighted in green on my depth finder. Then I can see the bottom better, using that green overlay. Notice that you can see several different trees underwater at this site, and I have the trees where I’ve caught the most crappie tagged as waypoints. This place has underwater trees and brush, and I’ve built and sunk artificial reefs here also to increase the number of crappie it’ll hold.”
Fish Active Small Shiner Minnows at the Correct Depth
Although Adams says that minnow size generally doesn’t matter, he still prefers to fish smaller shiner minnows rather than larger minnows and explains, “I like my minnows to be very active, and that’s why I keep the water so cool in the minnow buckets.”
Adams has a unique way of measuring his line, so his minnows will fish at the depths he prefers.
“I lay the lead on the line over the side of my boat,” Adams reports. “I pull my rod straight up as high as I can reach, with the bale open, because I know that I’ve just let out 8 feet of line. I flip my bale on my spinning reel, lower my rod tip down and put my rod in the rod holder. If I want to fish 10 feet deep after letting out 8 feet of line, I’ll lower my rod tip until it almost touches the water and pull off about 2-more feet of line.”
Enjoy Kid Fun
In two hours, Adams and I had our crappie limits, and we returned to the boat ramp to pick up 7-year-old Mason Mogren. While Adams baited Mogren’s hooks, took crappie off and put them in the live well, Mason reached his limit of 30 keeper crappie in 45 minutes. Next Mason helped Adams and I pick up our catfish jugs with just over 100 pounds of catfish on them. Then we went back to the boat ramp, and I headed home with a cooler full of crappie and catfish fillets.
I’ve never caught as many crappie and catfish or had as much fun as that day on Lake Eufaula.
The good news is that Adams can produce that kind of day of crappie fishing at almost any time of the year.
Contact Tony Adams at 334-688-7505 or firstname.lastname@example.org, and see photos of his fish on his Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/tony.adams.5477).