Author Keith Sutton shows a dandy pair of crappie caught using some of his “power tactics.” (Photo: Jerry Blake)
Forget Finesse – Year-Round Power Tactics for Crappie
by Keith Sutton
The rigs and retrieves you use play a big role in whether or not a lure catches crappie.
No matter what lure you use, there are special ways of rigging and retrieving it that produce more crappie than others. I call these “power tactics”—trickeries that trigger impulsive strikes from crappie, even when their bellies are full.
Those that follow are some I’ve found especially productive during more than half a century of fishing. Crappie can’t resist. Give them a try and see.
When properly rigged, with the hook point of the special-made jighead buried in the grub, the Charlie Brewer Crappie Slider eliminates hang-ups in dense cover. After its introduction in 1970, it quickly became one of the most popular crappie lures of all time, with many sizes and colors available.
Power Tactic: When spawning season arrives, anglers find many crappie nesting around stumps or logs in shallow water. To catch these fish, use an Eagle Claw double-drop Crappie Rig. Snap a 1-ounce bass-casting sinker to the bottom of the rig, and replace the crappie hook on each arm line with a Slider. The sinker allows you to feel the bottom and find stumps, while the weedless jigs reduce snagging.
While wind drifting or slow trolling with an electric motor, work the rig vertically beside the boat using a lift, drop action. When you feel the rig bump a stump or log, raise it up and over. Be constantly attentive, raising or lowering the rig with the rod tip so you maintain “feel” and keep the rig bouncing across cover objects. Strikes often come just as the rig is lowered behind woody cover.
The folks at Mister Twister developed the Curly Tail concept in 1972. Until then, rubber or plastic lures were stiff worms or grubs with little action. The Curly Tail changed that with a soft, supple, fish-catching design that optimizes swimming action to get the attention of crappie and other fish. You can buy the grubs alone or prerigged with jigheads or spinners. They come in dozens of color combinations and in three sizes idea for crappie: the 1-inch Li’l Bit, the 2-inch Teenie and the 3-inch Meenie.
Power Tactic: This is one of my favorite cypress-lake lures. Cast your favorite Curly Tail right into the broad buttress of a cypress tree, let it roll into the water and immediately start a smooth, steady retrieve through the knees surrounding the tree. Big crappie hiding in folds and hollows at the base of the tree are quick to dart out and wolf down what they think is bug or little fish. Dynamite!
I’ve probably caught more crappie on this polka-dotted, feather-tailed in-line spinner than any lure. I started fishing Shysters more than 40 years ago, casting and retrieving in ponds stocked with crappie. I still fish them often. The treble hook tends to snag, but if you work the lure close to cover but not in it, crappie will rush out to hit the passing bait. Shysters come in 1/4 oz. (1-1/4 inch long) and 1/8 oz. (1 inch long) sizes, and five color combinations.
Power Tactic: The Shyster is one of few crappie lures that seems to work best with a fast retrieve. The offset eyelet for line connection makes the lure body perform like a keel with absolutely no line twist. You can buzz a Shyster past stumps, rip it over brushpiles and troll it behind your boat without problems. Just be ready for the hard strikes it produces. The blade’s waffle design throws light in all directions, providing maximum attraction for slab crappie.
Crappie just can’t resist the Cotton Cordell 1-1/2-inch, 1/4-ounce jigging spoon. When properly fished, it resembles a distressed baitfish darting beneath the surface. The dressed treble hook with red thread signals “come get me” to hungry slabs.
Power Tactic: The Little Mickey is ideal for “dipping” standing timber in 15-25 feet of water. Use a long, sensitive jigging pole with a spinning or underspin reel to lower the spoon beside a tree. Let the lure slide down, maintaining contact with the wood as much as possible. Crappie often are close enough to touch the tree. Give the spoon a short sideways snap every two feet, then let it fall a foot on slack line. Flicks of the wrist load the long pole, making the spoon hop erratically. If the spoon reaches bottom before a strike, move the Little Mickey back up slowly, stopping briefly every few feet. Fish it slowly all around the pole, then move to the next pole.
One of my favorite lipless crankbaits for crappie is the 1-3/4-inch, 1/8-ounce Tiny Trap, a miniature version of the famous Rat-L-Trap. I often use it when crappie are suspended around deep ledges, bridge pilings, sunken islands, bluffs and isolated brushpiles. The lure sinks quickly to the strike zone where its distinct rattle, flashy shad-like profile and super-tight wiggle put the whammy on crappie eating threadfins.
Power Tactic: Fish the Tiny Trap like a bass jig. Make a cast and let it sink to the target structure. Then reel up slack and begin a delicate upward sweep of your rod tip to activate the lure. Move the rod as little as one foot or as much as three, experimenting to determine if crappie have a preference. Then slowly drop the rod tip, letting the lure free-fall back down. If a slab crappie is nearby, it might surprise you. The Tiny Trap draws smashing strikes.
A 4-1/2-inch crankbait is too big for crappie, right? Wrong. You won’t catch many small crappie on the venerable Smithwick Rogue, even though it’s this size. But 2-pound-plus slabs find this big baitfish mimic absolutely irresistible.
Power Tactic: When crappie are near bottom on deep structure, try enticing them with a Carolina-rigged Rogue. Use the 4-1/2-inch, suspending model in a shad-like color. Place a 1/8- to 1/4-ounce tungsten weight above a barrel swivel on your line, then tie a 3- to 4-foot leader from swivel to lure. Crawl the Rogue across the bottom. Barn doors unwilling to dart out after smaller prey find it hard to turn their noses up at this sizeable entrée.
(Keith Sutton is author of “The Crappie Fishing Handbook,” a 198-page, full-color paperback loaded with hundreds of fishing tips. Autographed copies can be ordered by sending a check or money order for $17.45 (includes shipping) to C & C Outdoor Productions, 15601 Mountain Dr., Alexander, AR 72002.)