Story & photos by Ron Wong
The question that lingers in a lot of fishermen’s mind is, do professional bass fishermen ever fish for crappie or any other panfish? While attending some fishing tackle media events that had both crappie and bass professionals attending, an informal poll was held with the question of as a professional bass fisherman, do you crappie fish. And vice-versa for the professional crappie fishermen, do you bass fish. Interestingly, all bass pros responded “Yes I like to crappie fish and take the opportunity to do so several times a year”. While some of the crappie pros responded, “No bass fishing for me.” One of the main reasons that the crappie pros responded as they did had to do with the way a boat is rigged. Crappie pros have crappie fishing specific equipment rigged on their boats whereas bass pros do not. For example, rod holders and drift paddles.
Having spent time with professional bass fishermen who like to crappie fish, there are some very common feelings. First of all, they all like to eat crappie. Secondly, they are able to fish for crappie during their off time from their professional bass duties to not only fills the freezer but to continue to hone their bass fishing skills by catching crappie. One interesting common fact of bass pros fishing for crappie, they all like to single pole when fishing. Let’s talk with some professional bass fishermen about crappie fishing.
Mark Rose, a FLW Tour competitor, qualifier for the Forrest Wood Cup numerous times, BASS Open competitor and winner of over $2 million loves to spend his off days during the winter either crappie fishing or sitting in a deer stands. Mark was taught how to fish by his grandfather and father. The only thing they fished was for bream and crappie. The occasional bass that was caught was via fishing for crappie and as Mark said, they would always release them back to the water. His love to crappie fish continues now and he enjoys time on the water especially during the winter, sometimes fishing with his dad.
Mark’s favorite way to fish for crappie is using a Lew’s ultra-light spinning rod and reel rigged with a 1/16th ounce Strike King crappie jig tipped with a Mr. Crappie Lightning Shad. “During the winter the crappie school up so this method works well with me.” He will switch to a Mr. Crappie Joker or Shadpole during spring when the fish move shallow and single pole vertical jigging for the crappie. As Mark said, “I love to feel the tick!”
Mark also has some other very good reasons to crappie fish. “It gives me practice using my Garmin side imaging and pan optics electronics and it helps maintain the feel of a fish biting. This practice helps me for the upcoming tournament season.” Because Mark crappie fishes a lot of Mississippi River oxbow lakes, he is getting a War Eagle 1860 boat to better navigate the docks and cypress trees. A couple of other tips he left with me: 1) use a good filet knife such as a Buck and 2) add some Country Bob’s dry seasoning to your fish breading mix. (By the way, I’ve tried it and it is yummy!)
I had the opportunity to go fishing with Terry “Big Show” Scroggins earlier this year. Terry is a BASS Elite angler who has qualified for the Bassmaster Classic 12 times and has 46 top 10 finishes in BASS tournaments. We started the early afternoon bass fishing on Toledo Bend. Well, long story short, our photo work only took about two hours so Terry said, “Want to go catch some crappie now?” I looked at him and said, I didn’t know you like to crappie fish and he said heck yes! So we stowed away the bass gear and broke out a couple of light spinning outfits rigged with just a 1/16th ounce jig head tipped with a Bobby Garland Baby Shad. He watched his Hummingbird graph as we motored off shore to a huge brush pile in 25 feet of water. His unit lit up like a Christmas tree with crappie surrounding the brush pile that was standing over 15 feet from the bottom. The wind was blowing pretty well and two-foot swells were pounding the boat. But we dropped our jigs down about 8-10 feet and then the tick, game on!!! We ended catching about 60 crappies with 40 good keepers in less than 2 hours. Some things I learned from Terry that day, 1) crappie fishing is great practice to learn using your electronics, 2) off shore fishing is not too difficult and 3) the Minn Kota Ultrex trolling motor is a “must have” to effectively fish offshore. Terry is also well-known through the fishing circles as a top notch griller and cook. Go to his website to see some outstanding fish recipes at http://bigshowscroggins.com/grill.php .
Also had the opportunity to visit with Jeff Sprague earlier this year talking about bass and crappie fishing. Jeff is a FLW Tour competitor who has qualified for four Forrest Wood Cup championships. He is also known as an excellent grass fisherman. When asked why he likes to fish for crappie, he said, “Crappie is the filet mignon of fish”. I agree with him.
Having grown up in Texas, Sprague learned crappie fishing at an early age and continues to fish for them as time permits, which is mostly during the winter and early spring. Like most bass pros, Jeff enjoys using a Lew’s ultra-light spinning outfit with 6-pound test Hi-Seas fluorocarbon line rigged with a Bobby Garland jighead with a monkey milk colored Baby Shad and during the spring, rigged under a float. When the crappie get shallow vertical jigging becomes the norm for him where he said, “Nothing like feeling the tick and setting the hook. This helps me maintain the feel of a bite which is useful when I fish for bass”.
A comment made by all these professional bass fishermen is that crappie fishing is an excellent way to introduce kids and aging baby boomers into the fishing world. They all feel that with today’s excellent electronics, they can find and catch the crappie fairly easily thereby able to take someone new to fishing and have them enjoy the thrill of catching a fish. Mark has taught both of his daughters, Natalie and Hanna Grace to fish for crappie; along with many other kids from his church. Terry has introduced his daughter into the fishing by crappie fishing. Jeff is not only a professional bass fisherman but a fishing guide and will be happy to take you on an unforgettable crappie trip. These three pros are all on Facebook, so you can follow them and enjoy their fishing adventures.
One other interesting thing I’ve learned about bass fishing professionals, they are all happy to share tips they have about crappie fishing. They often will tell about the similarities of crappie and bass fishing. The one takeaway here is the use of electronics which continues to change for the better and these professionals all rely on them to be successful. It is so much easier to learn about electronics by watching and listening to these pros.
So the next time you visit with a bass professional, don’t feel bad about talking with them about crappie fishing. Most every one of them has done it and still doing it and the best thing is they are happy to help you. Always practice good water safety and go catch some slabs.