Alex and TJ Palmer have many great tournament finishes and are former Crappie Master Adult/Youth Team of the Year. These monsters came during a Grenada Lake tournament. (Photo: Tim Huffman)
12 Ways to NOT Catch a Monster Crappie
by Tim Huffman
Read the headline again. The following twelve subtitles tell you ways to NOT catch monster crappie!
#12 – Use Bigger Baits for Big Fish
“It’s true that a big, aggressive crappie will often hit a bigger bait. However, most of the time, crappie are picky and careful, with black crappie being the pickiest. Most of the time, a small jig will catch more fish, especially big fish.” Dan Dannenmueller, professional angler, CrappieNOW publisher
#11 – Get Information from the Bait Shop
“Pre-trip information is important, but for big fish, don’t ask at the baitshop. They’ll tell you where to catch fish, but you’re not going to get insight to big fish areas. Call a guide and ask for a couple general areas where bigger fish come from. Call a biologist and ask where the biggest crappie are shocked up during studies.” Todd Huckabee, professional fisherman, Oklahoma guide
#10 – Follow the Crowd
“Go to where others are fishing if you would like to catch numbers of small-to-average fish. These are often called community holes. If you want big fish, try to find areas away from the crowds. The fish won’t be as spooky and the big ones won’t be caught out.” Dan Dannenmueller, professional fisherman, CrappieNOW publisher.
#9 – Fish the Same Spots Every Trip
“You can’t go to the same spot every time you go fishing. I spend an hour each trip fishing somewhere new to test water for my next trip and to gain an overall knowledge of different areas. If going to pursue a big fish, I encourage fisherman to not keep going back to the same spots. Set aside some time to fish different places.” Barry Morrow, professional fisherman, Missouri guide.
#8 – Always Use a Light Hookset
“The key is to drive the hook into the tough upper portion of a crappie’s mouth. You can use a light-to-moderate hookset if you are using a light-wire hook, limber pole, and light line. I use a hard hookset because I prefer jig heads with heavy, strong hooks. And I am typically fishing 20-pound-test braid and one of my stiff signature series rods. The key is to match your hookset to the tackle you are using.” Todd Huckabee, professional fisherman, Oklahoma guide
#7 – Don’t Check Your Equipment & Tackle
“You must check your equipment, or you’ll have problems. For example, line is the biggest thing a weekend fisherman is likely to ignore. Line could be stepped on, left in the sun, or stored in a hot shed. These things weaken line. Another simple thing is to change your plastic bait before fishing because it will pick up smells if left on the rod between trips. Check everything to increase the odds of having a good day fishing and landing a big one.” Dan Dannenmueller, professional fisherman, CrappieNOW publisher
#6 – Don’t Worry About Trolling Motor Noise
“I go fast now when looking for fish with (Garmin) LiveScope. When I see a fish, I ease up on my trolling speed. A trolling motor makes noise although the new ones are getting quieter. Also, don’t get too close to the fish and then bump the trolling motor. The fish will spook and will swim off or go down. It’s better leaving the motor on all the time at a constant speed, that worked back when I was spider rigging all the time and it still does.” Terry Stewart, Mississippi guide and big crappie expert
“Give a big fish slack line and it will spit the hook out.”
#5 – No Need to Concentrate
Concentration is one thing that separates a great fisherman from average fishermen. For decades I watched Ronnie Capps and Steve Coleman intensely stare at their rod tips while slow trolling. They could catch a fish, drink a soda, control the boat in the wind, block out distractions, and do it all while watching their rod tips. No matter your technique or presentation, it’s important to concentrate or you can miss your fish of a lifetime. Tim Huffman, author
#4 – Slack Line Doesn’t Matter
“Slack line is a major reason for lost fish. You need to get the hook into the fish with a good hookset and keep constant pressure on the fish. Give a big fish slack line and it will spit the hook out.” Terry Stewart, Mississippi crappie guide
#3 – It’s Okay to Make Noise in a Boat
“I watch crappie with (Garmin) LiveScope and I can promise that crappie are spooky. Shutting the lid on a minnow bucket, cooler, livewell, or dropping an empty soda can spook crappie. Dropping a jig head on the water can spook them. Even if it doesn’t spook them, any noise will alert them that something is going on. A big crappie has gotten that way for a reason, so noise is especially important when chasing bigger fish.” Barry Morrow, professional angler and guide
#2 – Skip the Prespawn & Spawn for Trophy Crappie
“The time of year is important. Fishing before and during the spawn means females are full of eggs and weigh more than any other time of year. Here in Mississippi, late February and early March are times when we catch 2.5- to 3-pound crappie. Don’t skip the prespawn and spawn.” Terry Stewart, Mississippi crappie guide
#1 – Trophy Crappie are Found Everywhere
“You can’t catch what’s not there.” Rule number one is to go to a big-fish lake. If you’re goal is a 3-pound crappie, go to lakes that have 3-pounders. A few favorites include Lake Fork, Arklabutla and Grenada. It’s better to travel three days to fish two days at a big fish lake, than to fish five days at your home lake with little or no chance of catching one. You may not have the time, money, or desire to travel. If so, adjust your big fish goal for your home lake. If a huge fish is 1.75, set your goal somewhere near that mark. If you catch one, be happy with it. The size of a big, monster crappie is relative to the waters you fish. Tim Huffman, author
Tim Huffman is CrappieNOW co-founder and senior writer. His crappie-fishing books are available in Kindle or paperback at Amazon.com.