Brad Wiegmann shows off a plump white crappie caught while pushing crankbaits.
Pushing for Crappies
Find crappie-catching milk runs
by Scott Mackenthun
When crappie schools spread out in large reservoirs and lakes, you can bet fishing guide Brad Wiegmann will be ready to cover water to find them, and he knows just the technique and lures for the job. With so many crankbaits on the market in micro sizes that are perfect for crappie, it’s a matter of finding the fish and presenting the right lure.
Pushing crankbaits gives you better control by fishing everything from the bow of the boat. In a lot of impoundments, defined channels in coves can be filled with stakebeds, a real crankbait snag hazard but a proven crappie concentrating feature. Whether it is weaving through stakebeds, following points and drop-offs, or turning into smaller bays, you can’t put out planar boards or troll long lines in places where you need to be able to make short turns. Pushing crankbaits on short lines gives you the deft maneuverability needed to turn quickly.
“It’s good to be friends with the owner of a lure company!” jokes Wiegmann. He’s referring to Mitch Glen, his fishing buddy, podcast co-host, and owner of Pico Lures.
Wiegmann and Glen and a few other anglers in the know are finding out how effective “pushing” crankbaits for crappies can be. After some initial success on Kentucky and Barkley Lakes in Tennessee, Wiegmann and Glen have been trying it on other crappie hotspots across the country with similar results, in both stained and clear water.
Deploying a spider rig setup on the front of a boat, Wiegmann and Glen load their bevy of rod holders while pushing with B’n’M Power Troller crappie rods, long and stout rods with orange moderate action tips perfectly engineered for the technique.
“I like to use a 3-ounce teardrop weight on the main line and then tie to a 15 or 20 pound test monofilament leader with a snap,” explained Glen.
The monofilament provides just enough stretch to soften the pull and keep crappies hooked up. Glen’s main line is 30-pound test (10-pound diameter) high visibility braid.
With superior boat control from bow-deployed lines and shorter lines to make tighter turns,
pushing crankbaits can be your go-to strategy while fishing basin crappies.
“I can cut right through the water with very little drag” says Glen, “and we keep the math pretty simple.” Wiegmann and Glen watch their lines while pushing crankbaits, imagining a right triangle underwater and knowing that the weight and drag will take about 1/3 of the depth off. For this reason, linecounter reels excel in helping anglers who are pushing do the 1/3rd math and be in the ballpark when calculating depth placement.
Wiegmann and Glen begin a day of pushing by seeking out baitfish and trying to stay on the schools.
“Pay attention to your graph and see where you are marking fish – either crappie or schools of baitfish,” says Wiegmann. “Then bring the baits up into the strike zone. Pushing is all about trying to catch the most active crappie in the water column. If you are fishing a reservoir with shad, you often mark them in big schools. They could be 4 to 8 feet down and spread over some big areas. That’s why you don’t have to be too meticulous. Put it in that range and the crappie will go get it.”
Brad Wiegmann recommends starting to push crankbaits when the water temperatures reach 55 degrees in the spring. He recalled placing well in a fishing tournament where other competitors went shallow and loaded up on staging prespawn skinny males. Wiegmann hung out offshore, pushing deeper water where he found plump prespawn females to fill out a prodigious scale sack. As the year goes on and the water temperatures increase, the fishing only improves.
“You can bump up your speeds as the water heats up,” Wiegmann says. “The hotter it gets, the more active crappie get, and they will run a bait down. We’re going 1.8 to 2.0 miles per hour by mid-summer.”
Mitch Glen recommends paying attention to throttle and speed, especially when making turns.
“When you make corners, those turns are speeding up those outside lines and slowing down the inside. Pay attention to which are getting hit. Those fish can tell you what they like,” said Glen.
He suggests trying a couple Pico crankbaits such as the INT and the Squarebill crankbaits. Both models sport a 2-inch body and an inch and a half lip. The INT has a louder rattle and can go a little deeper than the Squarebill. The Squarebill has a unique sound chamber surrounded by a dimpled body, giving it what Glen calls a thumping or barking sound.
Colors can run hot and cold, so it is best to do some experimentation.
“You get to push the crankbaits as something of a litmus test,” explained Glen.” What do the fish want that day? Use the color that is getting action and fish what is hot. One day it might be Grenada Green, Sexy Shad, Red Craw, or Geezer Clown, but you don’t know until you try.”
The next time you hit the water with plans to troll crankbaits, give pushing a try. For precision trolling with the ability to turn adroitly, there is no better method. You can turn a collection of spots on the water into a crappie-catching milk run.