by Ron Wong
The water is warming and lake levels are rising due to spring rains. This means the crappie are moving into the spawning grounds and following the forage. Flood control lakes like Sardis, Enid, Grenada in Mississippi; Caddo Creek, Texoma in Oklahoma; or Wappapelo, Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri will benefit from the rising water as shoreline cover will become submerged providing cover that crappie so enjoy. Protruding cover will also act as a conductor of heat from sunlight thereby attracting more forage and crappie. We all like it when the crappie move shallow as they are somewhat easier to catch when conditions are right. However, what is the best method to fish for them just right before they spawn. Some like to spider rig and some like to single pole. What is the best method? To try to answer this question, we talked to some of the top professional crappie fishermen to find out what they do.
Sam Heaton, B’n’M pro staff member who has his own signature crappie pole, the B’n’M Super Sensitive Crappie rod. He loves when the crappie are moving into the spawning areas because they become predictable in how to catch them. As crappie start their move towards the spawning areas, Sam likes to spider rig but once the fish are in the spawning area, single pole is the way to go. Using his 10’ signature rod rigged with 6 pound test line and a single 1/16th ounce jig, he likes to find holes in grass or dropping the jig in the middle of flooded bushes. He really likes using the old style crappie tube because of the movement of the legs in the water without having to move the bait around. His best tip is to be extremely quiet both in movement and noise, “you got to stealth em”. He also said, if you miss some of the bites, change color of crappie tube.
Tim Blackley, B’n’M and Strike King pro staff member likes the spider rig as the crappie are moving onto spawning areas and during the spawn. He said it covers more area and provides the ability to catch several fish at the same time around a piece of cover. He likes to use the B’n’M 16 foot Bucks graphite jig pole. Tied to his line is a 1/8th ounce Strike King jig tipped with a black/chartreuse or pink/white Crappie Thunder. He will fish his jigs no more than 6 feet deep and during the spawn the bait could be 2 feet deep. To insure he stays as quiet as possible, he will clean any nicks in his trolling motor prop. “It makes the trolling motor more quiet and cuts grass better”. He also recommended using Driftmaster rod holders because of the versatility, durability and being able to get rods out of the holder easier.
Brandon Jennings, Bass Pro Shops and Bobby Garland pro staff member likes to single pole for crappie that have moved onto spawning areas. He said there is nothing like just feeling the thump! He likes using a B’n’M Sam Heaton Super Sensitive 10 foot rod with a Lew’s Laser reel loaded with 10 pound test braided line. His favorite bait is a 1/16th ounce Mo’Glo jig dressed with a Bobby Garland Slab Slay’R. For dirtier water he likes to use the Mo’Glo colors and in clear water Blue Ice or Double Silver Rainbow color.
Whitey Outlaw, B’n’M, Rockport Rattler, Driftmaster and Lucas Oil pro staff member likes to single pole for crappie that are moving into or in spawning grounds. He said it is easier to cover a lot more water with a single pole as you’re less likely to get hung up. The key tip is “don’t soak your bait in a brush pile for very long. Drop your bait into the grass hole or brush pile, jig it a couple of times and if you don’t get a bite, move onto the next drop”. If the crappie is there, they’ll get it very soon if not as the bait falls”. Whitey likes to use a 10 foot B’n’M Santee Elite rod with 8 to 10 pound test Vicious line. Tied to his line he likes a 1/16th ounce Rockport Rattler jig dressed with a Mid-south tube or Crappie Magnet. Whitey’s best tip is to fish the heaviest cover possible and single poling is the only way to do it.
Ronnie Capps and Steve Coleman, 8 times world champions like to spider rig for crappie that are moving into spawning areas and do the same as they spawn. Once the fish stage up for the spawn, they will use a single 1/8th ounce jig on their poles. They will also fish these jigs as shallow as 18 inches. When fishing areas with cover, they will only use 6 poles. They will use the B’n’M Capps/Colman Series trolling rods and they use all 3 sizes (12’, 14’ and 16’) at the same time. Their best tip is once you find a small area with cover that is holding fish, power pole down and let the fish come to you.
Kent Driscoll, better known for his ability to pull crank baits will spider rig using a single jig tipped with a minnow on each pole as the crappie are moving into the spawning area. Once the crappies have moved into very shallow water with cover, he then likes to single pole for the fish. He likes using a 16 foot B’n’M PST pole with a ¼ ounce jig that has a 3/0 hook dressed with a Fin Commander Crappie Magnet and tipped with a minnow. His tip is to use Hi-vis line so you can watch for any unusual movement that indicates a bite.
Travis Bullock, Mid-State Seed pro staffer from Laurie, Missouri, likes single poling for crappie as they move in for the spawn and during the spawn. One of his recommendations is for lakes with docks, shoot the docks as crappie will stage and spawn on them. He said, “First look for docks that have fishing boats or fish baskets in them as they are more apt to have buried brush piles that will hold more fish. Pole docks tend to hold more than floating docks”. For single poling, he likes to use a 1/16th ounce Sweetheart jig dressed with a Bobby Garland Slab Slay’R. He essentially uses the same type bait for dock shooting. Travis told us, he grew up fishing using a single pole and loves to feel the trump!
Having spoken with several other crappie tournament fishermen, most stated the same thing, spider rig as the fish move towards and onto spawning grounds. Once the crappies are in spawning areas especially those laden with cover, single poling is the way to go. As with anything there is always an exception to the rule. There are no arguments with the success that Capps/Coleman or Blackley has enjoyed over the years using the spider rig method. Not sure if we have been able to answer the question, spider rig or single pole just before the spawn, but there are some good tips for us all to catch more fish. Practice good water safety and tight lines.