Dickey “Drumking” Porter is a crappie expert on the Tennessee River in Southeast Tennessee.
He admits that he is “old school.” He doesn’t like live imaging or multi-pole fishing. He firmly
believes in “one rod, one fish” at a time. (Photo: Richard Simms, CrappieNOW Editor)
Confessions of Single-Pole Fanatics
by Tim Huffman
The definition of a fanatic is: obsessive, passionate, addict.
A single-pole fanatic has a passion for catching fish one-on-one. They want to “feel the thump” every time a crappie inhales their lure. And being a fanatic is not a bad thing.
In-Depth Live Imaging
Terry Adams won the 2022 Crappie USA National Championship. He and his father one-poled with LiveScope to gain the victory.
“Before LiveScope,” says Adams, “I would spider rig with my dad or grandfather. They would say fish are at 15 feet so that’s where we would fish. We know now that all active fish are not at just one depth. LiveScope has taught us so much about many different things. We see and learn about habits and reactions to baits.
“I was a spider rig fisherman until two years ago. Fishing cover is my strength, so I prefer fishing cover when the fish are there. However, fish are often out roaming and looking for shad.”
Adams says live-imaging sonar (LIS) helps find bigger fish, but its disadvantage is causing lost sleep at night thinking about big fish he’s seen but wouldn’t bite.
“Equipment is important. I will cast but prefer using a long pole. I won the championship with my favorite rod, a Jenko X-series 10-footer. It worked great because the fish were so deep that getting close to them wasn’t a problem. I also use longer poles like the x13 and x-15. A longer rod lets me get further away from the boat so I can present a bait before the fish spooks. I use K-9 Line, a fluoro in 8- to 12-pound test. I like Jenko plastics and hair jigs, with the 2-inch Fry Baby being my top pick. My jig size ranges from 1/8-ounce down to 1/32 or even a 1/64. I’ve seen a lot of times when crappie would hit a 1/32-ounce and not touch a 1/8.
“Getting good at LiveScoping and being a one-pole fisherman takes a lot of time on the water. I’m from Kentucky Lake so I’ve spent a lot of time fishing stake beds. My biggest tip is to stay off the bed with your boat, pitch past the bed and fish it carefully. Take time to look to the sides of the bed because a lot of big fish get off the bed just to get away from other fish.
“We can stay with a big fish because we know he is there. One tournament, I spent 45 minutes chasing the same fish. He would nip it and I would miss. One time I watched him come up to the bait, but I couldn’t feel it, but I set the hook and got him.”
A very different story is Dickey Porter. He has always been a one-pole fanatic. He likes “old school” fishing and has good success doing it. He uses solunar tables, keeps detailed records of fish caught, what they are eating and other details.
“No, I never liked the idea of the boat catching the fish and me reeling them in,” says Porter. “I enjoy presenting an artificial lure to a creature in his own environment, and then enticing him to bite.
“Docks are pressured here on the Tennessee River, so I had to teach myself how to fish offshore. I pick out spots on a map, use a graph to find them and use waypoints to mark each one. I’ve found that when fishing these spots, if fish are at one depth at one spot, they are usually that depth at other spots.
“I find a spot, use the graph to find the fish and position my boat based upon the wind, water currents, and position of the structure. I use spot-lock to hold the boat and cast to the fish. I let the fish show me which retrieve and lure they like.
“I like to position the boat where I’m not too close, but close enough to cast about 20 feet past the fish, so my lure will swing down to the fish. If you don’t cast past, the lure will miss them.
Porter’s gear includes St. Croix 6- and 6.5-foot rods and Quantum X36, 6.5-foot rod. His line is high-vis braid, either Berkley Nanofil or Sufix, 4- or 6-pound-test. The rod and line combination is sensitive. Baits include Bobby Garland 2-inch Slab Slay’R, but also, he uses the Baby Shad, Crappie Magnets and Scum bugs. He says his favorite color is whatever crappie are biting, and it changes often. Jig weights are 1/16, 3/32 and 1/8 ounces.
What about LiveScope?
“I will never use it,” he says adamantly. “It’s a video game of watching a fish and the bait. I believe it will prevent a person from becoming a good fisherman and learning real fishing.”
An October tip?
“June and October are the months I catch the most fish. Look for crappie to move back in the shallower water just like they do in the spawn. Here on the (Tennessee) river, they’ll be 10 feet or less.”
Morrow’s 3-Tier Presentation
Barry Morrow is a guide on Truman Lake, a one-pole paradise. He is a single-pole jigging fanatic.
“We can get closer to fish here at Truman than you can at most lakes. I’m usually using a 12- to 15-foot Huckabee rod with the length based upon how the crappie are reacting. Today on our trip, we are using Beaver Bottom Baits, a bait that works anywhere. I’ll start with a 3/16-ounce jig because it gets down quickly, and pitch to the fish as soon as I can reach him. I swim the bait right over its head. If it doesn’t take it swimming, my next presentation will be straight down.
“It’s important to get the jig down quickly before the fish spooks. However, I do make sure the jig enters quietly in the water because that can spook them or make them aware that something has landed. To get heavier, I’ll go to an egg sinker with a 1/16-ounce jig. After quickly getting down, everything else should be slow. I’ll stop it a foot over its head. If he doesn’t react, I’ll get it inches from him.”
Morrow says, “I don’t know if fish sleep or not, but there are times when a fish won’t move unless I drop it right on the fish to wake it up. When I see a fish quiver or move just a little, I know he is getting ready to attack.”
A three-tier presentation of swim, hold still and drop on the fish works for Morrow, a successful one-pole fanatic.
Single-pole fishermen have multiplied since the invention of live imaging. There is something special about going one-on-one with a crappie, whether it’s with an 18-foot-long scoping pole, a 6-foot spinning rod, or something in between.
Are you a fanatic?
If so, you’re not alone.
Tim Huffman is CrappieNOW co-founder and senior writer. Check out his crappie fishing books and a list of the Top 50 Lakes at www.monstercrappie.com