Dan Dannemueller says summer action is available if you find the right area, make a
good presentation and crappie will chow down on crankbaits. (Photo: Tim Huffman)
by Tim Huffman
Hot sun and temperatures keep most fishermen in the air conditioning in August. But good action awaits those willing to brave some heat and use a good technique for the conditions.
CrappieNow Publisher and tournament fisherman, Dan Dannenmueller, tells us one of his favorite tactics for finding and catching dog-day summer crappie.
“It’s a good time to crankbait,” says Dannenmueller. “It’s one of the best times because fish are suspended up in the water. Every lake is different, but most fish will be hanging out around the ledges and brush looking for baitfish.”
Summer has more advantages than disadvantages, according to Dannenmueller.
“Crappie will be looking for balls of shad so when a fisherman finds the shad, the crappie will be nearby. Also, a percentage of the fish will be neutral or negative due to the heat and will be suspended out in open water. They usually aren’t aggressively feeding but they will take advantage of a shad or minnow that swims near them. Therefore, crankbaits are ideal baits.”
Negatives of summer fishing include heat and pleasure boaters. Both can be minimized by being on the lake at sunrise and off the water by late morning.
Finding & Catching
“A huge advantage of pulling crankbaits is covering a lot of water. The first step is to spend ten or twenty minutes using a graph to find baitfish. As soon as an area is found, put out the crankbaits and start fishing. Continue to watch the graph while pulling baits. It won’t take long to find the depth of the fish and active areas.
“I pull crankbaits using planer boards and Off Shore Tackle Tadpoles. The planer boards get baits away from the boat, a key factor to the technique because many fish spook as the boat goes over them. But by having boards out a short-way from the boat, the fish won’t shy away from a bait. The Tadpole is a weight that attaches three or four feet in front of the crankbait and requires only a fraction of the line out to get a crankbait down to any depth required. Less line is huge for better control and easier turns.”
Dannenmueller uses strong Driftmaster rod holders on curved, 90-degree racks on the back deck of the boat. Rod tips are staggered with the highest tip on the very back of the boat and the front one horizontal, and the others in between. It’s important to stagger tips so lines don’t cross when turning.
“All electronics today are good. I prefer Garmin and use side view, down imaging and mapping when trolling. The side view is very important for locating schools of shad and mapping is critical to repeat successful trolling runs along with following ledges and other contours.
“My baits are a variety of models. The Pico INT baits are very good and so are Bandits. Since the Tadpoles determine depth instead of the crankbaits, I’ve learned that square-bill baits attract a lot of crappie. I’ve been using them more and more with good success. No matter which bait or technique you use, it’s important to run baits just above the fish. The Precision Trolling Data app provides data for setting bait depths whether using cranks or jigs.
“My presentation is slower than most. I like 1.0 to 1.2 mph. That’s good for pulling cranks or jigs. I don’t’ change speeds much but do switch out baits a lot. In dingy or stained water, I like orange, red, red and black and bright colors. In really dingy water I’ll include white and silver. Clearer water calls for shad colors and maybe some light blue. I switch colors and let the fish show me what they want.”
Dannenmueller’s final tip adds to his already-good method.
“Going 1.0 to 1.2 mph has the advantage of switching the crankbaits to jigs, or, adding jigs above the crankbaits. A Bobby Garland Stroll’R on a Road Runner head is a great choice and has produced a lot of crappie for me, especially when fish are up high in the water column.”
The planer boards get baits away from the boat, a key factor to the technique because many fish spook as the boat goes over them.
Racks and holders: Driftmaster www.driftmaster.com
Poles: BnM www.bnmpoles.com SilverCat 7-foot catfish rods.
Line: Gamma www.gammafishing.com 10-pound-test high vis main line and 8-pound leader from the Tadpole to the bait.
Board & Weight: Offshore Planer Boards www.offshoretackle.com Side Planer and Mini Planer. #1 Tadpole is a 1-ounce sinker/diver weight.
Trolling App: Precision Trolling Data app. www.precisontrollingdata.com. “I use it for all pulling with either crankbaits or jigs, with or without planer boards. It takes the guesswork out of bait depth.”
Electronics: Garmin www.garmin.com including LiveScope, SideVu, ClearVu and mapping.
(Tim Huffman has specialized in crappie fishing writing and photography since 1988. He is currently the Editor/Senior Writer for Crappie Masters Magazine, freelance contributor to four magazines, book author and Senior Writer for CrappieNOW Digital Magazine.)