by Ron Presley
The smell of fresh cut grass and rising smoke from outdoor grills are undeniable signals that summer is in full swing. Days begin to shorten, but the hottest days of the year are ahead. Anglers are thinking of early departures and shady docks. The easy fishing associated with the spawn is over and summer behavior patterns must be found for angling success. Even though rehabilitation is complete and the crappies have recovered from the stress of spawning, savvy anglers know, they don’t just disappear and they still have to eat sometime.
Billy and Scott Williams recently won the Florida State Championship on the Bass Pro Shops Crappie Masters Tournament Trail and they know something about crappie tactics. Their home lakes are in Georgia where their primary target is black crappie. “By July” says Scott, “the fish have transitioned out of the spawning flats and moved back out to deeper water.”
Scott goes on to explain that black crappie, during the summer months, will relate to brush piles, ledges, humps and deep shady docks. “This summer pattern will hold stable throughout the summer and continue into the fall.”
If Scott and Billy had their druthers, they would be pushing or jigging brush piles. “We like to use live bait on the brush piles. You can idle across the pile with your side scan and tell before you ever put bait in the water if it’s gonna’ be good or not.” Pushing or jigging can put a limit of fish in the boat in a matter of minutes on a well populated brush pile.
The Williams team will also be found longline trolling in the summer. In this case they target ledges and humps in deeper water. “When slow trolling anglers should always have color on their jigs,” reports Scott. “We have found a few colors that work really well for us, no matter what lake we are fishing.” Their confidence colors are acid rain and black/blue/chartreuse Big Bite Baits Fat Grub. “A lot of times we will pair this bait up with Blakemore Road Runner heads to add vibration to the offering. This combination seems to result in bigger bites.”
When the sun is high in the sky its rays strike the earth at a more direct angle, resulting in the hot days of summer. Since finding the crappie’s comfort zone is part of the equation, shaded fishing docks or any shade become highly productive scenarios for crappie.
Finding and catching white crappie in the summer is different than with blacks. “It is two different mentalities,” says Matt Morgan, “White crappie are a whole lot easier to pattern.”
Matt and his tournament partner, Kent Watson won the Bass Pro Crappie Masters Classic in 2009 on Lake Granada, a lake that holds big black and white crappie. They are happy to weigh any big crappie, but it turns out they have a penchant for white fish.
The summer pattern has three important elements according to Matt and Kent. The fish will hold to some sort of cover or ledge where food is readily available on a daily basis. Secondly, fish want to live in the most comfortable water temp available and they will move to find it. Three, as long as fish have something that is “covering” their eyes, some kind of cover or structure, they feel like they are hidden to ambush prey. “A ledge, brush pile, or stake bed will provide what the fish need to feel as though they can eat when they need to,” adds Matt. The exceptions to a consistent pattern would be a major flood or a severe drawdown of the water level.
Once a pattern is established for white crappie in the summer, it is likely to be the most stable pattern an angler will ever find. “There have been times when we could catch fish off the same part of a river channel or a stake bed for the entire summer,” says Matt. “However, those fish will not ‘replenish’ like they do other times of the year.” Most anglers have had that experience where “they just wouldn’t bite today.” Morgan-Watson respond by saying, “If you fished an area for the last two weeks and caught a good number, there may not be that many left.”
When fish find a home they are not likely to move very far for the entire summer. “Understanding this makes a big difference in catching white crappie,” according to the Morgan-Watson team. “You can find multiple areas where fish will congregate, however they will not be bunched up like you see in the spring.”
Matt Morgan sums up summertime crappie fishing, “Fishing in the summer months can be some of the most fun ever! Locating fish that may be as deep as 25 feet is something that you typically only do in the summer and winter. It gives anglers an opportunity to locate fish and hit the water the last few hours of the day after work to have some fun and catch few for dinner.”
For more Williams and Morgan tips, along with more summer crappie fishing articles, visit CrappieNow magazine at www.CrappieNow.com.