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Fishing Reports

Below I have listed recent fishing reports. Also I have listed past reports by season. Use the information provided to plan your next trip for almost anytime of year.

My dad, Tim Gromlovits getting ready to dig in at the Spring Crappie Outing on High Rock Lake 4/8/06.

 

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Latest Report...

5/12/12

Post spawn ugh... almost as tough as summer time crappie fishing. Everyone knows that summer time is the right time for night time. Once the water warms up and the lake lice (jet skis, party boats, etc...) get on the water, night fishing is a whole lot more productive and relaxing. But what do you do between now and then...?

Crankbaits! Tie some on and get moving! Yes crappies love crankbaits of all shapes and sizes. And these baits allow you to move fast and cover a lot of water and different depths. 

Start by surveying a good topographical map of your favorite lake. Find the creek channel, long point or bottom feature that leads into the area you were catching crappies a few weeks ago during the spawn. Now survey the map for any flats that are near or adjacent to that spawning area. Look for water that is 12' - 30' deep. Start there. Turn on your depth finder and cruise over the area. Mark any bait or fish you see. Collect this information and use it to determine if you should keep looking or choose crankbaits that will reach down to your bait and fish. There are times when I spend several hours riding and looking before I ever drop a bait in the water. But believe me when I tell you that this time is well spent. You learn a lot about the bottom contour of the area you are fishing by watching that depth finder and reading your map.

Water temperature and clarity can effect where the fish are. But most of the time it's simply proximity to good spawning grounds. The fish are worn out and they just look for a good place to hang out and recover. If there is bait in the area, all the better. But I have found big congregations of crappies in open areas with no bait this time of year. But if you troll a nice juicy crankbait in front of them, they will hit it.

Once you have selected your spot, it's time to pick your crankbaits. Here in Tennessee Bandit crankbaits are very popular. They come in several sizes and a million colors. The 200 and 300 are the ones I like the best. You can run them from about 6' down to around 15' with the right diameter line and speed. Needless to say there are a million choices. I also have a bunch of Bill Norman's in my boat. They work great and have a distinctive wobble that I like. You can use bright colors or natural colors. I really like blue/chrome, black/chrome, TN Shad, Fire Tiger, Red, White and blue/chrt. Any combination will work. Switch them out until you find one they like. I have one that is pink, yellow and purple that tears them up at times - go figure... But the fish you will be targeting are suspended, so pick the crankbait that will run at the depth the fish are holding.

I always troll my cranks on 6lb line. Yes I loose a few using this light line but it gets the cranks down deeper than heavier line. I use my standard trolling rods. They bend a little more but who cares. I usually cut down to six rods when I'm trolling cranks. That's enough for me. I troll about 1mph sometimes 1.2. Put your crankbaits in the water on a short line and watch them for a minute. Make sure they are running straight and true. Adjust the line tie one way or the other to make sure they are running straight. Now chuck them out there on a medium cast and start trolling. I don't throw mine out very far. The line drag of a long, long cast effects how deep the bait will run. 50'-60' behind the boat is plenty. The shorter cast also allows for better boat control and positioning of the baits.

Keep your drag set on a medium weight. You never know when a big fish will grab one of your baits or you get snagged. For this reason, always keep a plug knocker in your boat. This little tool will save you a lot of money in crankbaits when you get hung up. 

Trolling crankbaits is a lot of fun. For a small investment in baits you can get a big return. Hope this helps you try a new technique and stretch out your line and your crappie fishing season out a little more.

3/15/13

Spring is right around the corner, well at least for us here in east Tennessee it is. And we all know what the means, great crappie fishing!

Now anyone that knows me understands that I do not go after crappies that are spawning. The way I see it if they have made it all the to the bank to spawn, they win. For now anyway... I'll do my best to catch them coming or going from the spawning areas, but I try to leave them alone while they are actually making new crappies for us to catch in the future. It's kind of my twisted way of giving back I guess. But I do not hold it against anyone who does go after them while they are spawning. It's an easy time to catch some great table fare and to take the kids as well. All you need is a rod, some minnows or jigs and a little shoreline cover. 

There are a few tips that I will share with you when trying to catch crappies when they are spawning. They all relate to water temperature. In some areas of the country the spawn happens early, as early as January. In others it doesn't happen until July! But every area has one thing in common. The water temperature has to be right. 

The correct temperature for crappies to spawn varies all over the country. But a good rule of thumb in most places with the exception of Florida and extreme southern states, is that your looking for 50F+ degree water. Look in the far North East corner of your body of water for the water to warm up first. This area of the lake will be exposed to the longest and most direct sun light this time of year. It my only be a few degrees warmer than the rest of the lake, but it will be warmer and it should be where you start first every year.

The next key is water clarity combined with water temperature. Murky or stained water will warm up faster and it will hold a little better than clearer water. Don't shy away form muddy or stained water. Fish a little slower. You will be surprised how many fish you can catch out of water that looks like weak tomato soup. 

The last tip is to use a good thermometer to tell the story. I have told the secret to finding suspended fish many times by using my cheap little indoor / outdoor thermometer. You need one with a long cord on it. Mine is 30' long. I can put the temperature probe on the end of one of my 16' rods and check the water temperature right at the bank. Just reach out and dip it in wherever I want. You will be surprised when you see that the surface temperature at the bank may be 55F when the surface temperature in the middle of the creek is still in the 40's. Crappies are drawn to that warmer water. If they can find it, they will spawn. They don't care about the other conditions, just warm water with suitable bottom composition and maybe a little structure. 

For many years when I was a tournament angler, I was fishing the banks much earlier than my competition. I watched the water temperature closely. The very biggest females always seemed to spawn first. If I caught a few small males up shallow I knew there were some big females nearby. They only stay on the bank for a few days to do their thing. So if you are an avid shoreline cover, spawning kind of crappie fisherman, check the water temp at the bank, not out in the middle of your creek. You may miss the spawn entirely if you wait for the surface temp out in the main part of your creek to make it to 50F. By the time you move to the bank, the fish will be long gone...

11/23/12

After a long break from updating this web site - I'm back! I apologize for my absence.

Trolling in the fall can be a really great way to fill your live well with crappies. While I am a dedicated structure fisherman in the fall and winter, I have gained a great amount of respect for trolling year round. Since I have moved to eastern Tennessee, I have had to learn to adapt to the clearer, deeper, less fertile lakes in our area. With the help of some good friends, this old dog has learned some new tricks. 

You have heard me say "find the bait and you will find the fish". It's true. But I have learned that following the bait in the winter time can pay off big time. I have to avoid the urge to go straight to my brushpiles once the water temp drops below 50F and the lake is done turning over. But I have found that if I stick to it, I can find large concentrations of crappies from November - January. While I would put in some effort to do this in the past, I would usually end up beating my bruspiles to get a limit of fish. Not so anymore..

As the state pulls the lakes down in this area (sometimes as much as 50'), the carppies retreat from the creeks as the water is pulled down. The shad and alwives still migrate to the creeks in the fall like anywhere else I have ever been. So when these two events converge, the trolling can be excellent. 

This is a time when your electronics are more important than anything else. You need to know how to use your depth finder and how to fine tune it. You need to trust it. I spend a lot of time riding and looking for bait. Once I find it I try to dissect what I am seeing on the screen by carefully zooming in on the depth the bait is suspended at and looking closely. If you have a fairly good depth finder, one with a zoom feature and preferably color, you can really look close at the bait schools. More over, you can look directly above and below that bait to see if any larger fish are hanging around. I have found that tightly "balled up" bait is uaually not a good target this time of year. I look for bait schools that have been scattered out and are loosley formed away from the bottom. These schools show signs of being under attack from predators. 

I'll zoom in on the depth that the bait is at and look for those fat little arches mixed in with them. White bass, black bass and stripers are fairly easy to pick out once you have done this a few times. Crappies make a distinct signature short fat arch on the screen. Once you have seen it and caught a few to confirm what you are looking at, you will develop confidence. 

Fish the mouths of major creek arms and look back into those creeks until you stop seeing bait. Fish big open water flats in those creeks if you can find them. Find the bait, troll at that depth. I fish almost exclusivley with 1/16th oz jigs this time of year and I almost always tip them with a minnow. I use a very basic color rule as well. Dark jigs on a dark day, light jigs on a light day. But I never leave my house with blk/chrt, blue/chrt, red/chrt/ pink/yellow and blue and white jigs.    

The three boys in the picture above caught over 40 crappies in about four hours trolling six rods. They lost many more. We found a bunch of bait in a creek about 14' deep. I pulled the 1/16th oz jigs at .8mph getting them down about 8-9' or so. That was all it took to catch a bunch and make them all giggle like little boys should! I was doing a little giggling too - I can't help it I'm still a kid when I'm fishing.

5/12/12

Post spawn ugh... almost as tough as summer time crappie fishing. Everyone knows that summer time is the right time for night time. Once the water warms up and the lake lice (jet skis, party boats, etc...) get on the water, night fishing is a whole lot more productive and relaxing. But what do you do between now and then...?

Crankbaits! Tie some on and get moving! Yes crappies love crankbaits of all shapes and sizes. And these baits allow you to move fast and cover a lot of water and different depths. 

Start by surveying a good topographical map of your favorite lake. Find the creek channel, long point or bottom feature that leads into the area you were catching crappies a few weeks ago during the spawn. Now survey the map for any flats that are near or adjacent to that spawning area. Look for water that is 12' - 30' deep. Start there. Turn on your depth finder and cruise over the area. Mark any bait or fish you see. Collect this information and use it to determine if you should keep looking or choose crankbaits that will reach down to your bait and fish. There are times when I spend several hours riding and looking before I ever drop a bait in the water. But believe me when I tell you that this time is well spent. You learn a lot about the bottom contour of the area you are fishing by watching that depth finder and reading your map.

Water temperature and clarity can effect where the fish are. But most of the time it's simply proximity to good spawning grounds. The fish are worn out and they just look for a good place to hang out and recover. If there is bait in the area, all the better. But I have found big congregations of crappies in open areas with no bait this time of year. But if you troll a nice juicy crankbait in front of them, they will hit it.

Once you have selected your spot, it's time to pick your crankbaits. Here in Tennessee Bandit crankbaits are very popular. They come in several sizes and a million colors. The 200 and 300 are the ones I like the best. You can run them from about 6' down to around 15' with the right diameter line and speed. Needless to say there are a million choices. I also have a bunch of Bill Norman's in my boat. They work great and have a distinctive wobble that I like. You can use bright colors or natural colors. I really like blue/chrome, black/chrome, TN Shad, Fire Tiger, Red, White and blue/chrt. Any combination will work. Switch them out until you find one they like. I have one that is pink, yellow and purple that tears them up at times - go figure... But the fish you will be targeting are suspended, so pick the crankbait that will run at the depth the fish are holding.

I always troll my cranks on 6lb line. Yes I loose a few using this light line but it gets the cranks down deeper than heavier line. I use my standard trolling rods. They bend a little more but who cares. I usually cut down to six rods when I'm trolling cranks. That's enough for me. I troll about 1mph sometimes 1.2. Put your crankbaits in the water on a short line and watch them for a minute. Make sure they are running straight and true. Adjust the line tie one way or the other to make sure they are running straight. Now chuck them out there on a medium cast and start trolling. I don't throw mine out very far. The line drag of a long, long cast effects how deep the bait will run. 50'-60' behind the boat is plenty. The shorter cast also allows for better boat control and positioning of the baits.

Keep your drag set on a medium weight. You never know when a big fish will grab one of your baits or you get snagged. For this reason, always keep a plug knocker in your boat. This little tool will save you a lot of money in crankbaits when you get hung up. 

Trolling crankbaits is a lot of fun. For a small investment in baits you can get a big return. Hope this helps you try a new technique and stretch out your line and your crappie fishing season out a little more.

2/10/12

Arguably the best time of year to catch crappies is just around the corner. In Florida some of the best spring fishing is already in full swing or even past. While in Minnesota they are still catching fish through the ice. But no matter where you live, spring time is the right time for catching crappies. 

But as I mentioned above, it isn't here yet... So what to do?

This is the time of year that being versatile can really pay off. You need to be able to use different techniques to adapt to the weather and water conditions along with the fishes mood. "They are where you catch them" my old buddy Cromer used to say. And he was right. Even though everything tells you that the fish should be in a certain spot, that doesn't make it so.

You need to eliminate water before you ever get on the lake. Use the internet to your advantage. Almost every state in the country has a state sponsored web site with lake conditions. Some will even tell you the depth of the thermocline or where the clearer water is. In Tennessee we can see charts for current lake levels updated by the hour. We can tell if the TVA is pulling water causing current or if they have closed the dam and the water is rising or has risen over night. Water temperature at different locations on the lake is every important and can be found online. Combine this with the endless weather information opportunities on the internet and you can really narrow down the productive parts of a lake before you ever leave home.

Many have heard me say, "do you homework" and "take notes". All the stuff we had to do in school right? It's pretty simple really. In school from year to year we did our homework, took notes in class, paid attention to the teacher and then took tests to prove we learned something. Well, at least that's what we were supposed to do... But if you follow those simple rules in fishing, you will become a better angler. The fish is the teacher in this case. All of the avenues to gain information is the homework. Paying attention to what the fish is telling you when you are on the water is the "paying attention" part. And the test is how well you apply what you have learned and the success you achieve. 

After over 40 years of crappie fishing I have learned a few things. The most important of which is that I never stop learning and these crafty little fish always have something new to teach me. If you don't believe that just pick a new lake in a different part of your home range and go fish it. Apply your home water techniques. They may produce just fine. But I'm willing to bet that there will be something a little different that you have to do to get the same results. 

Successful tournament anglers have to master what I am talking about here. These guys live and die by doing exactly what I am describing. They include local networking as well. There is nothing more valuable than friends that live near a particular lake, that fish it daily, to go to for good information. But like so many of us, they don't always tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Your personal experience on the water is the most reliable fact based fishing information you can get. So when you are on the water, take notes. A year or two from now you will not remember the exact water temperature, wind speed, wind direction, water clarity, barometer reading, sun position, trolling speed, color of jig, bottom composition, and so on for today when you landed a 15lb limit!

In closing I must mention electronics. I've written many articles on how to use your electronics and how important knowing how to adjust them can be. Simply turning on your new $1,500 down scan LCR is not good enough. You must be comfortable with adjusting the unit and you need to be confident that you know what you are looking at on that big screen. Read the owners manual carefully. Make sure you know how to use every gadget on that unit. It will pay off I promise.

Focus on the entry points to the major creek arms and secondary creeks on the upper two thirds of your lake right now. Find the channels and look for schooling fish around the bait concentrations. They are waiting for the water to warm up to make a move to the bank or into those creeks to spawn. It may take a while to find some active fish. But if you use your electronics, you can and will find some crappies.

1/15/12

I got a little feedback from the last post I made on trolling. Some said, what if I can't troll? What if I don't have the right equipment to troll? Is there another way?

Yes there is another way to cover a lot of water and target open water fish with multiple rods. Sometimes, this technique works even better than trolling, especially when the conditions force you to abandon trolling. This technique is called drifting or pulling.

All you need is a few rods, a boat and some wind or current. I have used this technique many times in Texas where the wind seems to blow from every direction every day... It used to frustrate the heck out of me until I just let it work to my advantage. 

Generally this technique works best when the crappies are suspended over large areas of open water. Since you are at the mercy of the wind, you don't always go in the direction you want to. Some of the fish will suspend in the main part of any lake when it gets really cold. They simply suspend at a desirable temperature level and where they can access bait easily. Find the bait, identify where the thermocline is using the simple thermometer trick I have talked about many times, or with your LCR. Then figure out which way the current or wind is blowing. Set up your rods with a double jig or live bait rig and a large bell sinker on the end of the line. I use a 2oz sinker to keep the baits right at the depth I want them to be. Count your baits down to make sure they are exactly at the depth you want them to be. This is really important. Crappies will not go "down" for a bait. They will almost always be looking up or straight ahead. So keep your baits right at the depth of the fish or slightly above them. Spread your rods out from one end of the boat to the other if you can. I usually turn my boat perpendicular to the wind to achieve maximum coverage when drifting. Now just let the wind do the work and drift over the are you are targeting. When you get to the end of your drift, go back and start again.

Flats and long points are perfect places to find crappies during the cold months, and they are perfect places to drift as well. If you can pinpoint the depth the fish and the bait are suspended at, you can really clean up with this technique. The fish will be moving around so dropping an anchor when you catch one won't do much good. You are trying to cover water so keep moving. A hand held GPS can help you mark the better spots, or toss out a marker buoy. 

When the wind and waves get high, or you simply want and easy hassle free way to catch some crappies, try drifting with live bait or jigs. You would be surprised how this subtle, but precise depth control technique can help you catch some fish when nothing else is working.

12/2/11

Trolling in the winter time is something most people do not consider. The fish have gone deep, right? Well maybe deeper, but not out of the range of a good troller.

Learning how to use your electronics is something I have preached for my entire career. And it is more true today than ever. The sophistication and capability of the electronics available is higher now than ever. All the more reason to read the manual and experiment with them to get all you can for your money. Learn how to use every single feature your unit has and it will help you catch more fish.

Case in point is when the fish move out to the main river channel during the winter. The water is warmer in the river channel it offers a nice piece of structure in the form of a channel edge or break and nearby flats to feed on. Go up stream in your lake and find the spot where the main river or creek dumps in to the lake. Find the old river channel in about 15' - 30' of water and start looking.

Now I know that every lake doesn't have a river or big creek feeding it, but if yours does, find it.

Adjust your depth finder where you can zoom in on a column of water from the bottom up to about 15' or so. Turn the sensitivity way up. You will be able to see if a thermocline exists. Fish water at that depth or shallower. In my area of the country that's about 18' to about 24' deep. 

Look carefully for those fat tell tale arches just off the bottom. I generally use one 1/8oz jig or two 1/16 oz jigs to get down to that depth. I use 6lb test line and I usually troll about .7 to .9 mph. On a good long cast that will get your baits down to within a foot or so of the bottom. Cover lots of water and when you catch a fish mark it on your gps. 

You will find schools of bait hovering just off the bottom this time of year in the river channel. Target those schools of bait and any congregations of fish you run across. When you catch a few just turn around and follow the track on your gps right back to where you marked the fish you caught. Again use your electronics to your advantage.

Get out and fish this winter. The crappies are still biting! Where a life jacket, please. Falling in 40 degree water will shock you pretty good. Getting out when you are soaking wet wearing big heavy clothes is not easy, trust me. That life jacket is a must this time of year.   

9/26/11

Sorry guys, I had some computer issues. Took me a while to get it all straightened out. 

First day of Fall was yesterday! Man time flies. I spent most of the summer working on my basement an chasing small mouth bass. I just can't resist floating the rivers around here in East Tennessee. We are truly blessed to have so much fantastic water to fish. I did not beat my personal best small mouth (8lbs 2ozs) this year, but I caught a bunch of really nice fish. And my basement is finished too - hurray!

So I'm back to chasing crappies. I made a trip down to Douglas Lake last week. I trolled all over the place looking for the right conditions. And this time of year that means finding the bait fish. They school up big time when the water starts to cool off and usually head for the mouths of the big creek arms and up the river as well. I found them right where they were supposed to be. 

I always get some funny looks when I troll open water. All those long rods sticking out, me standing there like the guardian of the gates staring at them from the command post on my ship. Now when I say open water, I mean it. I was in the middle of a creek mouth that is nearly a mile wide and 55' deep. But that is where the shad are schooling up and that is where I fish this time of year. In a month or two I'll be looking for my brush piles to produce in 22' - 25' of water. But for now I'm targeting the bait and the fish that feed on them to fatten up for the coming winter.

Shad will hold anywhere from 5' down to the thermocline level which in this lake is about 17' - 22' this time of year. They are easy to see on a decent depth finder. I have a 798C in my boat which is color and very powerful. I can almost count the number of crappies under a school of bait. Having good electronics really helps when you are fishing this way. 

After locating a bunch of bait schools, I mark the area with my GPS and plot out a trolling run. I still try to go with the wind if there is any blowing. The fish will usually face into any current at all, so going with the wind brings your baits right into their faces. Get your baits at the right depth and you are bound to connect sooner or later. Once you catch a crappie, adjust all your baits to a band within 5' of that depth and keep moving. Crappies are very depth sensitive this time of year. So you have to get your baits right at the correct depth.

I generally use natural colors this time of year. But keep a good variation of colors tied on until you narrow it down. Then switch them all over of course. I tip every jig with a minnow no matter what. It just ups the odds so I do it always when I am trolling in the fall. Keep your baits just below or right at the level of the bait. I will run two or three jigs smack dab in the middle of the bait school and some a little lower. I think it scatters them when I run the jigs through the school and mine are the sitting ducks for any predator fish lurking around. Hey it works, so I don't argue with success.

Keep your drag set loose when using this technique. I catch big stripers, catfish and bass on my jigs. So having at least 100 yards of 6lb test on your reel and being ready to chase down a big fish at any time is good advice.

Have fun this fall, get out there and find the bait! The fish will not be far away. And send me some pictures - we love getting pictures to post on the web site.

6/6/11

OK, so it's hot, the crappies have quit biting really well and you still want to catch some fish for the frying pan. Enter the bream, bluegill and shell crackers. We've all caught them, maybe even a few big ones over the years. But most of the time we cuss them for stealing our minnows and toss them back trying to trade up for a crappie. After all they don't taste very good any way - right...?

Wrong.

Bluegills are really good to eat. Just ask the 20 people me and my five year old son Devin fed last weekend at my house. That's right he caught enough fish to feed twenty hungry people all by himself. Well I helped him a little. But for the most part he caught every one of the 50 fish we kept. And the best part is we did it in about three hours with simple tackle and about $4.00 worth of simple red worms. 

Odds are if you live near water in North America, it's got some bream, bluegills or red eared sunfish "shell crackers" in it. They are super hearty little fish that can thrive in just about any body of water. They will readily take about any bait you get near them and the fight hard for their size. Use some 2lb test and a super ultra light 5' spinning rod and you will have a blast. My favorite way to catch them is with a fly rod and a popping bug. 

Read up on the sunfish habits in your area and you will find that they are easy to locate this time of year. A person with a keen sense of smell can find a "bream bed" by sniffing the air as you cruise slowly along the bank. There is a strong smell of ammonia when you get close. That many fish in one area use the bathroom a lot ya' know... Sounds weird but it's true, you really can smell a bed. 

But the easiest way to find a good spot for blue gills is to look for a likely spawning area. The backs of coves and little pockets with some shade are ideal. Look for them in water 1' - 4' deep. Move in slow. You can spot them with a good pair of polarized glasses. Most of the time you will see little saucer shaped, fanned out "beds" all in one are together. I have found some places that have over 100 beds in one spot no bigger than the pad my boat sits on in the driveway. Anchor up about 30' away and flip a wiggly worm, cricket or grasshopper in that area and hold on. That bait will disappear in an instant and you have a fight on your hands with a small ultra light rod. 

I know it sounds simple and probably a little too easy, but it is a blast. And if you have some kids, man this is the way to go. My little guy laughs his butt off the whole time we are catching bluegills. He absolutely loves it. I don't even pick up a rod when we go. It takes patience but it's worth it. 

Now for the eating part. Bluegills are not known for table fair. Most people pass them up for other fish. But I'm telling you, they are tasty. The key is to clean and prepare them properly and don't over cook them. I fillet all my bluegills. Fillet - what! They are do dang small to fillet man! Wrong again. This time of year that fat "bull gills" show up on those beds. I don't keep any young fish. I only keep ones big enough to fillet and that means bigger than my spread out hand. I'm looking at my hand as I write this and that is a bluegill 6" tall and about 7" long. That's a pretty good sized gill. But there tons of them out there and you will catch them that big and bigger. So fillet them, get them in ice water quick as this is a small fillet and will get mushy fast if you don't chill it down right away. Rinse the fillets at least three or four times in the sink changing the water each time. Really clean them good. I them place the fillets in a large plastic bowl filled with salted water. I put two tablespoons of kosher salt into about two quarts of water. Cover the bowl with plastic warp and let the fillets soak in that salt water over night. Now rinse them again, several times. Dry off the excess water and roll them in House Autry seafood breader or whatever breader you like. Fry them in 350F oil for about two minutes. That's it. Longer than that and they will get tough. Pull them out, salt them, hit 'em with some Texas Pete and a cold beer and watch out... Oh man, I'm hungry...

Take some kids fishing man, you won't regret it.

4/29/11

I'm going to use this months article space to shamelessly promote one of my friends. 

I met Eddie Moody through this web site. We have communicated back and forth for many years. I have encouraged lots of people to take guide trips with him on Kerr Lake for crappies. I don't do this for many people. Because when I do I'm taking the  risk of damaging my reputation as I have made the recommendation. This is something I take very seriously as it has taken me more than half my life to develop The Crappie Killer brand. So when I tell you Eddie Moody is a great guy and is fun to be around, and that he knows how to catch crappies - you can believe it!

 Kerr Lake or "Buggs Island" holds a special place in my heart. I guided on this lake for over 11 years. And I have caught a ton of big fish on this lake and had many, many successful guide trips as well. It's just a great crappie lake. So coming back to fish with a pro really got me excited.

 Randy and I committed to fish with Eddie on Kerr Lake 4/17/11. Although I knew this was a little late to catch the bigger fish on the move to spawn, I still wanted to go. We jumped in my "Night Rider", this is what my wife calls my car... and we headed off to Clarksville Virginia. The weather was really bad. There were quite a few tornados and almost 4" of rain in the 6 hour trip. When we finally found a hotel room, the wind calmed down and the rain stopped. I was concerned about the water condition for our trip tomorrow.

 We met Eddie at Bobcats Bait and Tackle a few miles from the lake at 6:00 AM. We were fishing by 6:30. Eddie is a troller. He will tell you that right up front. His Ranger is set up to troll 16 rods, and he uses every one of them. Jigs tipped with minnows on every rod. The water was not muddy to my surprise. The upper end of Kerr can get stained with a lot of rain. The lower not so much. 

 The first area we fished in Grassy Creek only yielded one small Striper. We hauled up the gear and headed to a new are father down the creek. The wind had picked up to a strong 15mph. Running 16 rods with that kind of wind and three guys in the boat is no easy task. Eddie kept his cool and kept us laughing as he searched for some fish. 

 We arrived at his second location and started to put the rods out. Eddie had a keeper fish on before we had the first three rods in the water. This was a small flat in the back of a creek. Water was 5' - 10' deep. A perfect staging area for crappies going in or out of spawning areas. Always look for the first depth change in a creek. That is where the fish will hold before moving to the next more comfortable depth range. If you can find a flat, it's even better.

 We trolled this are until the wind got too strong to hold the boat on course. We ended up with about a dozen keepers in the box. From here Eddie took us to a small creek out of the wind. We were able to catch a few more fish but not the size Eddie was looking for. Time for another move.

 We ran several miles out towards the main lake and ducked into another small creek. In this creek Eddie knew of several brush piles in 10' - 25' of water. We trolled over the are and immediately boated several bigger crappies. All over a pound. It appeared that the bigger fish had moved out into a little deeper water after the previous days storms. The surface temperature had dropped almost 10 degrees from the previous day. Any time this happens to you, just look a little deeper for the fish, which is what we did. Working this area over the next few hours produced some nice fish, with several over 1.5 lbs. 

 Here is Eddie with a few of the bigger fish we caught on that spot.

 At the end of what I would call a full day trip (we quit at 2:00 PM), we had 26 nice keeper crappies to take back to Tennessee. We had enjoyed a great day of fishing with a true master crappie fisherman. And the weather was fantastic. I just could not have asked for much more. We ended the day back at Bobcats. We hopped back in the night rider and headed home. 

 Being in the boat with Eddie reminded me of my days guiding. It's a tough job. But you have to remain upbeat, happy, entertaining and make the trip fun regardless of the conditions or the results. And when things are not going the way you want them to, with unhappy clients in the boat, that ain't easy brotha'. But Eddie can do it. He'll make you laugh and he is a patient guy. He is also a good teacher, something that is critical in a guide. Even if you don't catch the crappie of a lifetime, you can learn so much just from fishing with a guide like Eddie. His fees are very, very reasonable and he has good equipment. He knows the lake and he can help you find good areas to fish any time of the year. Taking a trip with him is money well spent.

 If you want to set up a trip with Eddie you can contact me at mark@thecrappiekiller.com and I'll put you in touch with him. Or you can contact Eddie directly at this email address slabsguideservice@gmail.com.

 A big Crappie Killer thank you to Mr. Eddie Moody for taking an old has been fishing and for providing a way to introduce or help so many new crappie killers learn about and enjoy our sport!

1/1/11

It is now officially cold here in East Tennessee. We had several days of snow last week and temperatures down in the single digits for a few days and nights. Some lakes here in my local area froze completely over in places, which is very rare. Needless to say the lake temperatures are now in the high 30's.

When the lake gets this cold there are several layers or horizontal columns of water the form or "stratify". I'm going to get a little more technical than I normally do here, but sometimes I have to show a bit... So bear with me.

There is a zone or layer near the shoreline where light can easily penetrate and plants and algae can grow. This is called the Littoral Zone. This zone is really part of the first layer of water called the  Epilimnion. The sun heats this top layer of the lake which causes it to become less dense. The bottom layer of water in the lake is called the Hypolimnion. Light does not penetrate very well this deep, so the water is cooler and more dense. These to layers are separated by the Thermocline. The Thermocline is a band or layer of water where conditions are about as good as they get for fish during the winter and the summer for that matter. But when the lake water gets cold, this layer of water is much more important. 

Here are a few pictures that illustrate the Thermocline.

I want to give credit to www.discoverfishing.com for this illustration. I like this one because it really shows how I fish a lot of the time in the winter. I'm using multiple rods baited with minnows or jigs tipped with minnows and drifting or slow trolling. You can see the bait fish congregated in the Thermocline. This band of water can be a foot thick or up to eight or ten feet thick. So it is important to make sure you know where it starts and stops relative to depth. If you are fishing below that level, you are truly fishing in the dead zone.

Man, technology has improved so much over the last ten years, it just amazes me. And I am glad the fishing industry has continued to advance as well. Years ago I was criticized for using my underwater cameras and high end depth finders. Now they are common place. I say, use every bit of your knowledge and experience combined with the latest technology to improve your odds. And this Lowrance Downscan image shows how that all makes sense. You can actually see the Thermocline in the screen shot from an 800 kHz Lowrance Downsscan unit. The level of detail is impressive. 

So now that you know about the Thermocline, how do you find it? Well if you have a great depth finder like the one described above it's pretty easy. But if you are a simple man with simple means, and a $100 depth finder, you can still do it just as easy.

Go to your favorite outdoor supply store and buy one of those indoor outdoor digital thermometers. The ones you get to tell the temp outside and inside at the same time. Read the back of the package and make sure it some with an outside probe that has at least 30' of lead wire. Most of them do. The one I have cost me $12 and has 40' of lead wire. Now take a 2oz inline lead weight or a trolling weight and tape it to the lead wire right above the little outdoor probe. I put reflective tape every foot on that lead wire and marked them 1',2',3' - 15', 16' etc... When you get on the lake in the general area you are going to fish, turn the thermometer on, let it stabilize, then slowly lower that probe into the water. Take your time as some react faster than others to temp changes. The one I have is remarkably quick. Let it down say five feet at a time and watch the temp. When it stabilizes let it down a little more. I usually don't have to go more than 17' or 20' to see a distinct temp change. Once you see that happen. Adjust the depth of the probe a foot at a time up and then back down. Watch for the change in temp, make a note of the depth on each extreme. You have now found the Thermocline and you know how wide it is. 

You will notice as you look around in that depth of water on your depth finder that the bait will be concentrated in or slightly above or below that depth range. Pick your baits accordingly and keep them in that depth range as well. I can't guarantee a bite but I promise that you will be in the right water to get bit!

 

11/16/10

It snowed last Saturday. Didn't stick for long, but it was nice to see. That first snow usually gets me in the mood for deer hunting. But it is also an indication that I can go sink some brush piles. 

I have talked about brush piles, how to make them and where to put them for years. I'll try to be a little more specific in this brief article.

I do a lot of riding around in the late fall and early winter looking at my depth finder. I'm picking out ideal spots to sink brush piles. But in order to make a good brush pile I need a good tree. Now I make a lot of them out of old pallets and other stuff, but trees are the easiest and readily available. 

Dragging an old dried out tree that has fallen into the water is not usually a good idea. Main reason, they float. You can tie a ton of weight to some trees and they will not sink. Believe it or not, a good hard wood tree will sink like a stone in the winter time. All the sap has run back into the trunk making it heavy and less buoyant. Pick a hard wood and stay away from evergreens if possible. A short, stubby fat one with lots of branches. I love to use Beech Trees. They are ideal for making brush piles. My old buddy Jay Pruett and his dad Emmit taught me to use these whenever possible. They work great. 

 I generally pick one that is about 20' tall and just as big around as I can get. Saw it off as close to the ground as you can. That shiny fresh cut stump will be a dead give away for your brush pile so cut it on an angle away from the water. I will through a little brush over the stump to conceal it even more. Float the tree out into the water as far as you can before attempting to drag it out to your spot. Beware, it will start to sink! So don't push it out too far without a rope tied around the base first. 

 I use a very short length of rope tied to the base of the tree. I tie that to a cleat on the front of the boat, not the back. You want to drag the tree out backwards. If you try to pull it from the back the engine thrust will push against your tree and it won't move an inch. Pull it, trust me on that one.

 Have your spot marked with a buoy. Pull your tree out, position it correctly with the base of the tree pointed at the bank and cut it loose. It will sink quickly so make sure you are clear before you cut it loose. I mark mine with the gps immediately and find a few shoreline references as well. 

 Make sure you sink your tree in enough water to make sure you have at least 10' - 15' of water above the top of the tree. If it comes up too close to the top it will be difficult to tightline over the tree. My favorite setup is 25' of water with a tree that is about 12' - 14' from the surface. The thermocline in most lakes I fish is between 14' and 17' in the winter time. So this puts my brush in the ideal depth for this time of year. 

 People often ask me how long it takes for crappies to come to a new brush pile. I can tell you from experience that I have caught fish off of a new brush pile in less than one week. It all depends on location. Some produce really well, others are a bust. That's why I put out a ton of them. 

10/1/10

It was 41 degrees this morning at 6:00 AM. The water temperature in the lake is moving down towards 60 or so. I was on the lake yesterday and looked for shad in the creeks. There are still some in there, but a good number of them have moved back out to the main lake. I have preached for many years about following the bait fish in the fall. The bass will be after them, but so will the crappies. 

While I will go to the creeks and look for schooling fish for a few more weeks first, if I don't find any I'm headed for my brush piles. I always put my brush piles on points, ledges or creek channel edges. If I can find a hump off the main channel I might put one there as well. Placement of brush piles is critical. I talk a lot about this on my structure fishing DVD and we did a couple shows on this subject which can be seen on our Best Of Crappies On SOA DVD's. But that's not what I want to discuss here.

On the way back out of the creeks the fish will use the creek channels and edges of long tapering points as a path back to the main lake. The key at this time is to intercept them. Fish the creek channel edges with a strolling technique. Put about eight rods out the front of your boat. On the end of the line tie about a 2 oz bell sinker. Put two dropper lines off the main line with a #4 hook. Bait them with a nice fat shiner. Put one up about a foot from the sinker and another about 24" up from that. Drop the sinker to the bottom. Now start moving slowly along the creek channel. The sinker should be right on the bottom or just slightly off the bottom. Stay in contact with the bottom, that's the key. Move along the creek channel using your depth finder to stay right on the edge of it. I move back and forth across the edge swinging my baits out into deeper water and then back across the edge into shallower water. I'll do this from about 18' all the way out to the main channel in 35' or so. Much deeper than that and you are probably wasting time. I'll do the same thing on long main channel tapering or sloping points. Sometimes I'll run into a brush pile or rock pile or some other structure that I did not know about. Quickly mark it on your map or gps, fish it and keep moving. If you catch a fish, mark it, turn around and hit the area from all directions watching your depth finder the whole time. Watch carefully for anything that might be a little different that the fish are holding on. 

You can cover a lot of water in a day with this strolling approach. You will catch fish and you will learn a lot about the bottom where you are fishing.  

8/29/10

When I got in my car Thursday morning at 6 AM here in East Tennessee to go to work, it was fifty nine degrees. I looked over at the SS Crappie Killer with the cover on it, a little dew running off the Mercury that has taken me to so many crappie holes, and I smiled because I knew fall was coming. 

In the last post I talked about getting ready for fall fishing. Fall crappie fishing means shooting docks, trolling, tight lining brush piles and slow trolling points for me. But the keys to any successful crappie fishing trip in the fall is water temperature and the migration of the shad or baitfish in your lake.

While on a small lake near my home two weeks ago, I saw tons of small shad all schooled up on the main channel on the upper end of the lake. It seemed like every shad in that lake was up there. At the lower end of the lake, it was hard to even find one shad popping on the surface. 

There are several different kinds of shad living in our lakes, but I focus mainly on threadfin shad. They feed on microscopic plant and animal life. Shad will move in large schools for miles in a day looking for food sources. You have to be willing to look for them in the fall because conditions change pretty quickly.

I believe the water quality and food source are what drive the shad to move into the creeks and coves in the fall. Get off the main lake especially in the early morning hours and fish the shoreline structure as shallow as a couple of feet for fall crappies. A friend of mine told me he caught a limit of very nice crappies in 6' - 8' of water using a slip cork and minnows last week on Boone Lake, and it's still August! This is because the shad move up to the banks and the structure on them at night and move back out during the day. 

Fishing anything that would provide security for a school of shad in the evening or in the morning hours is likely to hold some crappies. Brush, docks, rocky points are all really good choices for early morning crappie fishing. Everyone knows a bass fisherman or two that tells of catching some huge crappies on crank baits while bass fishing the banks in the fall. That's because crappies, especially big ones, love shad. And they feed on them heavily just like bass throughout the fall to fatten up for winter and in preparation for next years spawn. 

Once the sun gets up the shad will move out form the banks and into open water. But they will generally stay in the creek or cove for the remainder of the day if there is 15' - 30' of water nearby. That's when you get your trolling rods out and start moving around looking for the balls of shad on your depth finder. Troll your baits right at the depth of the shad or slightly above them. Stay with the shad and you will catch some crappies along with a few bonus bass.

This pattern will work until the water temperature dips down into the 50' or even the 40's and stays there. Then you need to move back out to the main lake and fish the ledges and channels. 

 

8/8/10

Not much too talk about in the way of crappie fishing for me right now. Although I have received some good reports form those trolling crank baits on Douglas, Wiley, High Rock, Greenwood and some other lakes as well. Deep structure fishing with live bait on Ray Roberts and other big lakes in Texas is also producing for a few of my old buddies. Seems that I used to catch some of my biggest fish on Ray Roberts in the dead heat of the summer. Fishing 35 feet deep with big ole shiners really worked well. But here in the Southeast crappie fishing in 100 degree heat is simply too much to take for most of us. I spend most of my fishing time on the rivers chasing small mouth and trout until September. But crappie fishing is always on my mind. 

I use this time to prepare for the upcoming fall fishing I will be doing. Some things to think about, and ones that I do this time of year, are listed below.

Change your line. I have found that you can get some really good deals on ultra light line in the summer months. Don't know why, but I have found this to be true. I buy all my line in 1,000 - 3,000 yard spools. I know that sounds like a lot. But if you troll like I do with up to 16 rods, it doesn't take long to go through that much line. If you can stand to buy the big spools, you will get your line for less than half the price of the smaller 100 and 250 yard spools. Go in with a buddy or two and buy a big spool, split the cost. Have a re-spooling party with a few frosty beverages and change that line! Don't forget to recycle the old line!

Wax your rod. No I'm not being sarcastic, literally wax your rods. Clean them good with soapy water, rinse them and dry them off. Now apply a good quality car wax to the blank. Let it dry and then wipe it off like you would your car. I put two or three coats on every rod I have. Most waxes have UV inhibitors in them, which will stop the beating your rods take from the sun. Further to this if it rains the line will not stick to the rod anymore. And when you cast the line will slide off the rod like you have never seen. Try this trick, you will not believe the difference.

Change your lower unit oil. It's not hard at all. If you do it yourself you will save a lot of money. Read your motor manual. Two screws / caps need to be removed. Drain the oil and then fill it back up from the bottom hole. Squeeze the gear oil in, force the air out, until it's full. That lower unit is really expensive but overlooked by many. All of us change plugs, fuel filters, etc... But many do not change that lower unit oil or the water pump impeller. Another fairly easy job. Both can save you a ton of money. And your motor will shift smoother if you keep that lower unit oil changed. 

Keep all those little desiccant packs that you find in stuff you buy. Most items that are shipped over from China and other foreign countries all have a few of these little packets in the box. Save them. Put them in you jig box. Any moisture that gets in there will be soaked up by those little packs. I keep about four or five the size of a salt packet in each box I have. My hooks never get rusty.

Hang in there, take a night fishing trip or two to get you through August - fall will be here before you know it.

 

5/15/10

Post spawn crappie fishing can be really tough. And in most parts of the country that's what you are faced with in the middle of May. So what do you do to catch a few for the frying pan...? 

All crappies do not spawn at the same time. Unlike bluegills they do not come in several waves, but they do spawn at different times. So, you can, more than likely, catch a few late bloomers if you are diligent. Move down the lake as the season progresses. The water will be cooler at the lower end of your lake. And while the crappie population may no be a strong in the lower end, there are still some crappies down there. They will spawn several weeks later than the fish in the rest of the lake. Repeat the same approach to these fish as you did three weeks earlier up the lake. You will probably find a few takers if you work hard enough.

Personally I would like to work smarter, not harder. I'm too old and lazy to do much hard work anymore... So I'll troll this time of year. The crank bait is my favorite trolling bait during post spawn and on through the summer months. Go really early and stay late, that's the key. With increasing boat traffic and stubborn post spawn fish, your window of opportunity will be narrow. I would be on the water as the sun comes up and gone by 9AM, or when the jet ski's and pleasure boats run me off. Then back on the water from 6PM until it gets dark. 

I prefer mid sized crank baits. The always popular Bandit 200 and 300 are just the right size. Bass baits you say - too big for crappies you say - bull bleep! Crappies will attack baits this size with gusto. You can troll them at up to 2.0 mph and they will run straight and maintain a consistent depth. Depth is a key at this time of the year. The crappies are going to retreat off the bank and find a comfortable depth or zone to suspend and rest after the spawn. They are a bit lethargic, but they cannot resist a bright colored crank bait zooming by right in front of their nose. Use your electronics to determine the depth the fish are holding. This can be a simple as looking near the areas you caught fish on the bank the week before. Start looking on the first depth drop or between 8 and 20 feet deep. You will see those tell tale arches just sitting still somewhere between the bank and that depth. Choose your crank bait carefully, make sure you know how deep it runs. Run a few just above the fish and a few right at the depth they are holding. 

I use 8lb test when trolling crank baits. I love bright colored cranks. Several shades of red and orange are always in my spread. Chartreuse, yellow and fire tiger are also go to colors for me. However, Rapala's in natural colors like Tennessee Shad, Ghost White and the different perch and bluegill patterns are also very effective.

If you have never tried crank bait trolling for crappies you are in for a treat. Some of the crappies you catch will be monsters. Bigger fish seem to like the crank baits. You will also catch a mixed bag of bass, stripers, walleyes and catfish. This is the reason I use slightly heavier line for trolling cranks. I don't want a big old striper to take my Bandit away from me!

4/25/10

Not much to tell you about this time of year. Fish the banks with jigs and minnows and have a ball. The only thing I preach this time of year is to be conservative. Some people will keep hundreds of crappies (if the state law allows it of course) in a single trip if they can catch them. Honestly, I have seen some of those same people throw frozen fillets away the following year to make room for this years catch. Senseless in my opinion. Like Bill Dane used to say many years ago "keep what you can eat, release the rest". Size and creel limits make some people angry. But I can tell you that they do work and they are necessary. Abide by them and your lake will become a better fishery.

I will share a few tricks that I use to catch spawning crappies. I will preface this by saying that I do not keep any spawning fish anymore. Hey it's just my thing and my way of giving back to a resource I have gained much from. Boat docks are my favorite spawning spot. Most of the time they are fairly easy to fish and crappies flock to them. I keep three rods within in reaching distance when I fish docks my shooting rod, my jig rod and a noodling rod. First the shooting rod is a 5' fairly stiff ultra light rod. I use this one to shoot 1/32 or even smaller jigs back under the dock. With a little practice you can be very accurate with your shots. With this technique you have to be a line watcher. Shoot the jig under the dock, basically way out of sight, and watch the line. If it stops or twitches set the hook. I poke the rod tip down in the water to keep the fish coming to me without rubbing the line on the bottom of the floating dock or pillars. I use 4lb test for this set up. If the line does not twitch, I let the jig sink to the bottom and reel it back slowly. Remember any time you are close to a dock, resist the urge to use your trolling motor. I will disturb the water under the dock and blow silt around. This alerts the fish and they will get spooked easily. Use a small paddle or just push against the dock to move around if you can. Next is my jig rod. I have two, a 5 1/2'  and a 6'. Medium light action 4lb - 6lb line. I have gone to fluorocarbon on this rod for spring fishing. Not sure I love it yet, but it is essentially invisible in the water and no stretch. I have had to get used to it. I use curly tail jigs on crappie killer 1/32 and 1/16  jig heads. Casting and pitching all around the dock from 6" of water out to about 12' deep. Last is what used to be called a noodling rod. It's 12' long with a very small reel on the end of it just to hold a little line. I use 10lb test fluorocarbon on this one. This rod is to reach hard to get at places on the dock. I can poke it way back under the dock or reach under or over obstacles. I pull the jig right up to the tip so it doesn't get hung when I'm poking it under the dock. Then when I have it where I want it, I just let the line slip through my fingers and drop the jig precisely where I want it. If I get bit, I can yank back on the line to set the hook, pull the crappie right up to the rod tip and lift it out of the hard to get at place. I loose a few fish this way. But I also catch some that would have been unreachable any other way. 

Bright colored jigs on a bright sunny day, and fish the shade under that dock. Dark colored jigs on a dark day. Fish the dock from every angle and at every depth. You would surprised at how you can catch a crappie from around a 6" post only from one side of it. One other thing to remember is that crappies cannot see down. Keep your jig just off the bottom, even in a foot of water, and you will get more bites. 

1/29/10

Happy New Year - a little late,  but better late than never I guess. This is a very busy time of year for us. I spend nearly all my free time in the shop building rod holders and jigs between now and July. That doesn't leave much time for fishing. So let this be a lesson to you - don't turn all your hobbies into work!

I have been able to get on the water a few times in January. Not much to report back though. The water levels have been fluctuating pretty bad due to a lot of rain and snow. We got another 7" or so yesterday and last night. The kids love it, I hate it. I grew up in Western New York, so I have seen my share of snow. All that influx of cold water really messes the fish up. They have moved to the standard winter locations, but they have had lockjaw for the most part. I am really looking forward to a few weeks of steady weather to get them on a big time chew. My freezer is empty man!

I have received some really great reports and pictures from my buddies up north who ice fish. They catch some big fish and lots of them during the winter months. I am certainly no expert when it come to ice fishing. But if you live in an area where you can do it, I hope you will get out and take advantage of the opportunity to catch a crappie through the ice. I'd love to try it someday.

The crappies in most big reservoirs and lakes should be crowded up in the river and creek channels right now. Remember to find the depth of the thermocline and fish right at that depth. That will establish the comfort zone for the crappies in your lake. Ride around with your depth finder zoomed in on that depth and find the schooled up fish. Use a slow presentation, preferably with some sort of live bait involved, and stay right with the fish. They will move around so watch the depth finder. Another thing to remember this time of year is that the North East corner of your lake will warm up the fastest. Get a good temp gauge and use it to find the warmest water to fish. Go up to the bank and check the water temp. You will be surprised how much warmer the water can be in a still water reservoir or lake right up at the bank in Feb. Some people are still trying to find the fish on deep structure and points because the surface temp on the main lake is 40 - 45 degrees. When all the while the fish are in 3' - 5' of water up at the bank where the water is 52 - 55. 

The more information you can gather before you even wet a line will increase your chances of success. Put all the data you have together and form a game plan. Try to stick to it and you will increase your chances of filling your livewell. Call all the bait and tackle stores, use the internet, use your maps, electronics and temp gauge to find the fish. Then, it's simply up to you to catch them.

 

 

12/23/09

Some crappie killers have all their fishing stuff packed away for the winter. What a shame... Some of the hottest crappie action can be had in the coldest months. 

I have seen tons of pictures of fish caught through the ice up north. I'd love to try that some time. But fortunately for us down south, the lakes don't freeze all the way over. If you keep your boat in good running condition and you dress right, you can clean up this time of year.

In the low land reservoirs and lakes, I would be fishing structure right now. Find the thermocline, we have talked about that many times. Fish right at it or just above it on any structure you can find. I would fish live bait and clear or white jigs very slowly. Jay taught me the magic depth in the winter time was 17'. That was where the thermocline on most south eastern lakes was during December and January. And we caught a tone of fish off of brush piles we sunk in that depth of water. Use your electronics to find some brush or sink your own. It will pay off.

In recent years my buddies up here in the mountains of NE TN taught me to troll in the winter months. The lakes here are drawn down between 20' and 50' for winter pool. Once the water level gets all the way down the fish concentrate in the river channels. Again, warmer water is deeper this time of year and so is the bait. I troll with a standard rig to get the bait down to 18' - 22'. I use a bullet weight, usually 1/2oz, a barrel swivel and about 24" of 6lb fluorocarbon leader. On the end of that leader I use one of my crappie killer jigs. Usually 1/16oz, a Mizmo tube and tip that with a minnow. I troll with Cajun 4 lb test line at about .8mph to 1.0 mph. Find the river channel on the upper end of your lake and give this a try during the cold months. You will catch all kinds of fish including some dandy crappies.

I'll be fishing hard over the next several months. So look for some pictures and video soon.

Merry Christmas to all and all a crappie good night!

 

11/8/09

Don't be afraid to fish shallow this time of year. On some of the lakes and rivers I used to fish a lot in North Carolina, cooler fall water temperatures would bring crappies in to very shallow water. A favorite technique of many savvy crappie anglers was "float fishing". Now I know that may mean something different to all of us. But for slow trollers on these bodies of water that meant a float, 2' - 4' of line under it and a minnow. They would use a standard spider rig set up with 8, 10, 12 or even more rods out at one time. Back bays and big shallow coves were my favorite places to use this approach. Put all those rods out, all tipped with a lively minnow, and just move around really slow over 5' - 15' of water. The float would keep the minnows at precise depths. So trolling over lots of brush, grass or rocks was no problem. Sometimes I would set the minnows a foot under the float and get in some really skinny water. As long as you move slow and be quite, you will catch fish. The key is to keep moving. Cover lots of water. And as long as you keep moving all those floats won't get tangled up. Don't let out too much line. Just enough to let the float hit the water and stay on the surface when you are moving. The real key is to move really slow and watch the rods. When you get a fish and have to stop moving, the baits won't get hung up when they sink. Try this method on those warm fall afternoons. All the leaves won't be a problem because the float will stop them from sliding down the line and fowling your bait. 

10/13/09 All of this still applies, so I'm going to leave it up here for another week or two.

Ok, it's fall. The leaves are changing and so is the mood of the crappies. They are looking to fatten up for the winter and next years spawn. Sounds like it's a long time from now, but for them it's time to get started. They have survived a long hot summer. Hanging deep for the most part avoiding the boat traffic and warmer water. The water is cooling down, the bait fish are plentiful and they are ready to eat!

Follow the bait, follow the bait - oh did I mention FOLLOW THE BAIT - if you want to find the fish. On most lakes and reservoirs that means cruising the creeks and watching the depth finder. Look for those tell tale balls of bait on your depth finder and start fishing. There will be crappies just under the bait. Troll or tightline some minnows and jigs right at the depth of the bait or just under them. Move through the bait. Try to stay with it or in the same general area. If you don't get bit fairly quickly, find some more bait and try again. 

After a while you will be able to look at the bait school and tell if they are under attack or not. Bait balls that are near or on the bottom usually are not productive. Bait balls that are suspended in the middle of the water column are better. Bait that is closer to the top third of the water column is the best. This is a pretty good indication that food for the bait is present, the water temp and clarity is favorable and the game fish have pushed the bait up near the surface. If you have a sensitive or "powerful" LCR or sidescan, you will be able to pick up "streaks" through the bait or long arches. This is an indication of a fish moving through the cone of your depth finders transducer quickly. A very good sign. Learn to use your electronics. Learn how to adjust your depth finder for maximum efficiency. You will be glad you did.  

8/08/09

This time I want to talk about something you may have heard of, but never really paid that much attention to. It's called the thermocline. 

On most inland lakes like the majority of us fish, excluding the great lakes, water will settle into warmer and colder layers separated by a moderate temperature layer called the thermocline. Basically the surface water is usually warmer and the deeper water is usually colder. Strange things happen in the dead of winter that upset this a bit, but for the most part that's the way it works. The thermocline can be a t different depths in different areas of the lake. Weird I know, but it's true sometimes. In other parts of the lake, it's hardly noticeable. But in the fall, and in the winter, the thermocline is usually pretty steady and it's easy to find.

To find the depth of the thermocline in your lake I suggest using an inexpensive indoor/outdoor digital thermometer. I bought one at Lowe's with an outside temperature probe on a 30' cord. I tied a 2 oz weight to the end of the probe. Now I can just count it down and watch the temperature gauge. You have to let it down slowly, about a foot every 5 seconds or so. you will quickly start to see some serious temperature changes. I marked my cord off with duct tape tabs and wrote the depth on them so I can easily tell how deep the probe is. 

Once you get used to how fast your thermometer responds you can adjust the speed at which you lower it to the bottom. I generally lower it slowly to the bottom making mental notes as it goes down. Then once the weight hits the bottom I will pull it up 6" or so and let the gauge stabilize. Once it has stabilized I bring it back up slowly and watch the gauge. I may repeat this two or three times so I can zero right in on where the water drops in temperature significantly. You may only see a 3 - 5 degree drop in very cold water. Where in dingy water it may be 15 - 20 degrees in just a few feet of depth change. 

From September on through about January the thermocline here in the South East in many of our lakes is between 15' and 23' deep. I will fish right at that depth or slightly above it. If you fish below that depth the water will be much colder. I have found that crappies and the bait fish they love to eat will be right at it but not any deeper. 

Now you may find fish right on the bottom up on a flat adjacent to water that has a distinct thermocline. But they will probably be above the thermocline depth as that colder water has stratified and is probably out in the deeper channel. Troll or drift baits right above that thermocline on the channel edge or in the open water and you will probably find some crappies. Find a brush pile or other structure that is positioned nicely in that thermocline or "break" and you will surely find some crappies. 

Read up on the thermocline, invest in a digital thermometer and go find the thermocline in your lake. I'll bet you will be glad you did.   

7/8/09  I'm leaving this entry up for another week.

While trolling crank baits or night fishing would probably be my first choice in the summer, there are other ways to catch crappies during the summer. 

My old buddy Terry King taught me to fish very early in the morning to beat the heat and catch a lot of nice fish. Terry used to cast tiny plastics on extremely light line to crappies schooling under dock lights. He would be at the ramp and on the water by 3 or 4 AM. 

Lighted docks on the main lake were his favorite spots. Big covered docks at marinas were some of the best places to catch numbers of fish. And they usually have plenty of lights. The ones with big street lights out on the ends were especially good. Bait fish would congregate under the lights and the water was generally a few degrees cooler under the docks. A great combination for crappies during the hot summer days and nights. 

As I mentioned earlier, tiny plastic baits were Terry's trademark lure. He used plastics as small as 1/2" - 3/4" long on 1/48th, 1/64th and even 1/100th oz lead heads on 4lb or even 2 lb test line. A very light rod is be needed for this technique. Stay a good distance out from the light and cast the little jig to the edges of the range of the light first. Circle around the outer reaches of the light and catch all the fish on the outside first. If you cast right up to the light in the middle of the strike zone and catch a fish or two, you will probably spook the rest. Work your way in from the outside and you will have the potential to catch more fish. Let the jig sink on a slack line and watch the line carefully. Most of the time the strike will be very subtle. The line will simply stop sinking or will move off slightly to one side or the other, maybe a little twitch is all you will see. Regardless you must watch the line very carefully to detect a strike.

Play the fish easily and make sure you have a net,. Crappies will pop 4lb test line easily. A little scent on the jig is usually a good idea in this case.

6/8/09 

Trollin, trollin', trollin' - keep those crank baits trollin'... sorry couldn't help myself. 

You have to believe me when I tell you crank baits will catch some really nice crappies. This technique has gotten some attention in the last few years. And that is for good reason. They catch a tone of fish.

In the summer time the biggest gripe I here from crappie fisherman is that they cannot find the fish. Well, why not use a technique that will allow you to cover lots of water quickly. Sure makes sense when you think about it. 

You can use your regular trolling rods with 6 lb line. Just set the drag a little loose in case you get hung up or a big fish grabs one of them. I like to use the long rods because it keeps my crank baits spread out just like when I am trolling with jigs. Yeah the bend pretty hard, but who cares, that's what they are made to do!

I will usually run 6 crank bait rods if I am alone. I use my 24 volt trolling motor. It will pull my boat along nicely at 1.5 mph, a perfect speed for crank baits. Charge up the batteries and you can go all day on 24 volts.

You are generally looking for suspended schools of fish on flats and in the channels. Find the shad and the fish will not be far away. Pick crank baits that will run at the depth of the bait fish. I usually have some that will run from say 5' down to about 15' or 17' on hand at all times when I'm trolling. I use a little clip ring on my line. That way I can change crank baits quickly to adjust with the fish.

My favorite crank baits are Bill Norman Little N's in all sizes and colors. I also really like Shad Raps and Bandits in the 200 and 300 series. Have plenty of colors on hand if you can afford it. If not, stick with white, black/chrome, blue/chrome and all the shad patterns along with fire tiger. you can't go wrong with those.

I will generally troll early in the morning before the pleasure boaters show up, and then again before dark. But, you can catch fish all day long with cranks if the boat traffic doesn't drive them down. I love to go out on rainy days when the rest of the crowd stays home. Another favorite thin to do is to troll a few hours before sundown and then set up on a good ledge or brush pile for a little night fishing. I can almost always get a limit one way or another in the summer.

So don't quit when it gets hot! Get some crank baits and troll baby! You will catch all kinds of fish and maybe learn a little about the topography on your lake as well.

 

 

3/7/09  

March is a tricky month here in East Tennessee. It can be 70F one day and snowing the next. And with those crazy weather changes come fronts that bring wind. Anyone that has fished with me knows I hate the wind. But sometimes you have no choice other than just dealing with it. Which is what I had to do last Saturday in order to catch some fish.

The creek I wanted to fish had warmed almost to the magic 50F mark. But only in the very front of the creek for about 1/2 mile. And this particular creek ran due East to West. I had a head wind blowing down that creek at 17 - 20 mph. The fish were holding on the sunny side of the creek off a gravel bar in about 12-14 feet of water. How do you stay on that specific spot with wind like that and 12 rods out?

With a drift sock! Or even two if necessary. Drift socks are commonly used by our salt water buddies to slow troll or control drift. They have been adapted for use in fresh water. And they will slow your boat to a crawl in even the strongest of winds. For my 18' Triton I use a 36" drift sock. I usually deploy it out the back of the boat and adjust my rods to miss it when trolling. 

To get my jigs down to the fish I needed to be trolling at .8mph. That drift sock allowed me to get my 1/16oz jigs just at the right depth. Further to this, the sock will allow you to maintain your course. You will be able to stay on your line with just a little help from your trolling motor. 

Control drifting is another great technique you can employ with a sock. But more about that next time.

If you don't own a drift sock - GET ONE! It can save the day and give you a chance to catch fish when many others are headed for the house.

By the way the top jig this week was the Black Crappie Killer with the Red Sickle hook, black and chartreuse Mizmo jig body and tipped with a small minnow. They ate it up!

Best Fishes',

Mark

2/15/09 renew  (new update in a few days)

One thing to watch closely this time of year is the barometric pressure. If you do not have a barometer in your home, get one. Hang it out in the garage, and watch it. Another source is the internet. There are several sites that will tell you what the BP is and if it is rising or falling. 

Barometric pressure is the measure of weight of the atmosphere above us. Just as it exerts pressure on us, it also exerts pressure on the water our buddies the crappies live in. If you can catch the barometer when it's moving in one direction or the other and the weather is favorable, you can really improve your odds of catching a limit.

Here are some simple rules for the barometer.

High Pressure - Usually means clear blue bird skies. Fish feel this pressure. They will generally hang a little deeper and closer to cover. I will change to very natural looking baits or even stick with live bait. Crappies will hold tighter to cover under these conditions.

Rising - The fish will become a little more cooperative under a rising barometer, especially if it has been steady for a few days. Regardless of where the barometer was, if it's rising, I'm going to try to get on the lake. 

Normal - This is generally referred to as stable, means it hasn't changed in a few days. Fishing is usually pretty good under this condition. You can find fish to be active early in the morning and afternoon under these conditions. 

Falling - This is the best time to be on the water. It's like a weight has been lifted off the crappies shoulders. They will be on a big time bite whenever this condition is present. Time it right and you can experience some truly awesome fishing.

Lower - Some barometers call this condition different things. Low pressure associated with recent falling pressure can still mean some darn good fishing. My records show that low pressure yields some big catches. Problem is this condition usually doesn't last that long. So keep your eyes open and get after them when you see it.

Low - This is usually a tough time to catch crappies. They get what is commonly referred to as "lock jaw" during these conditions. The longer the BP stays low, the worse it gets too. But, the good part is it will not last forever and it will start to rise eventually. Get on the water right as the barometer is rising from a prolonged Low period and you should be able to clean up! 

Hope that helps some of you! 

 

1/7/09

The weather has been quite pleasant here in East Tennessee for the last week or so. Some days even made it into the 50's! Not bad for January. But warmer, dry weather does not always mean better fishing. Cold weather and cold water will keep the crappies concentrated in an area, making them easier to find and to catch. Fortunately the water temperature in my home lakes went down this past week and stayed down. This kept the fish in the main river channel and close to the bottom. There was a however quite a bit of trash on the surface and the fish were holding right under it in 25' of water. I wanted to troll this are but dealing with all that trash on the surface presents a problem. 

There are a couple of solutions for trash on the surface. When you set up your trolling rods, make sure the tips of the rods are down in the water. I usually set mine to where they are about 6" under, or about to the first eye on the rod. Now as you are trolling all of your line is submerged. The first eye under the water, or the rod tip will catch any trash that gets in the way. You can shake it off easily and none of it will make it's way down your line if you watch the rods carefully.

If you have submerged leaves and debris you can do a few things to help with that as well. Troll more than one jig. Attach a second jig about 24" above the main jig with a dropper loop. Any debris that makes it down the line will catch on the first jig. You can usually see it and just give your rod a jerk and the leaves will come off.

I chose a Carolina Rig to troll today. The reason for that is that I can use a bullet weight to get my jig down to the bottom in 25' and it will catch any trash that makes it's way down the line. Just slide the bullet weight on to the main line, I use a 1/8th oz most of the time. Then tie on a quality barrel swivel. To the swivel tie on a 24" piece of leader and the jig. I use fluorocarbon 6lb line for my leader. It's invisible under water, works great. To the leader I tie a 1/32 oz or 1/16oz Crappie Killer jig head, Mizmo tube and tip it with a small minnow. That rig will get down and hug the bottom where the crappies are and I can cover a lot of water trolling it without any trash getting hung on my jig.

12/21/08

I posted the report below just one week ago. 

The water is cooling down fast here in East Tennessee as I am sure it is in most parts of the country. Watch for that nasty turnover to pass quickly as the water cools down into the 40's. Lots of shad will die off and the fish in the lake will be looking for something to eat until the water chills down to the 30's and stays there. Right now our water temperatures are hanging right around 50F and that is prime time for trolling the deep river channels and creek channel edges. 

It has become apparent to me that here in East TN when the TVA pulls the lakes down, the fish in the upper reaches of the lake and main river feeding the lake, move down into the main body of the lake. It is not uncommon to see some of our lakes down 40' - 50' in the winter time. That makes the lake fish totally different. Excellent bank structure and brush piles are high and dry this time of year.

When this happens you have to key in on main lake features like river channels, points and creek channel edges. The fish will relate to these old stand by spots when the water level drops. So if you have water level fluctuations in your home lakes, get back to basics and hit the old river channel. Find the depth of the thermocline and then key in on areas of the lake that have the river channel in that depth. You are almost guaranteed to find schools of crappies if you can locate such a spot. 

Just to show how fast things can change, this week we had five straight days of rain. The air temp, even at night never dropped below 50 degrees. Four out of the five days it was in the 60's. The influx of all that warm rain water raised the surface lake temp to nearly 55F. In the same are last week it was 47F. The water color went from clear to heavily stained. What would you do in this situation?

 I was still marking fish in the area I caught fish last week. So I changed colors and used road runners instead of my Crappie Killer jig heads. The flash of the silver or gold blades on the road runners, plus the sound, was enough to get the fish to react and strike. But they were far and few between. 

 The best course of action in this case is to work your way down stream and watch your temp gauge as you go. The warmer water being pushed into the lake from the river is the enemy. Get ahead of it and you should be able to find some active fish. I had to go nearly 3 miles down the lake to find that scenario. The water abruptly changed from 53F - 58F down to 47F. I found the creek channel in 25' of water and adjusted my speed to get the baits down to the fish which were hugging the bottom. While these fish were still very slow to bite, I was able to finish my day with a tournament limit of seven keepers, one of which was just over two pounds. 

 Quick increases in water temp can negatively effect fish in the winter. When just the opposite is true in the spring. In a few days the fish will acclimate to the warmer water and start biting again. The water will clear up eventually and things will improve. But if you can't wait for that to happen, you have to be ready to make changes in your approach and technique in order to put crappies in the box.

 

 

11/9/08

OK - cold weather is finally here. It snowed for the first time here in East Tennessee last week. Most nights the temperature is in the mid to low 30's. That will drive the water temperature down and make the crappies go on a big time chew for the winter. 

Follow the bait - rule #1 in the fall. You have heard me say that a zillion times. But I can't say it enough. Fish follow the food source this time of year. Bass will be caught chasing shad in the creeks from morning to night. Crappies are not far away, after all the feed on the shad too right... So follow the shad and you should find some crappies. As I have found out lately though, there may be too much bait in a certain area. 

This year on our lakes here in East TN, the shad have been very thick. Must have been a good year for them. And the channels and creeks have been full of them. The depth finder screen is literally blacked out in some places because of all the bait fish. So trolling through that soup is usually not going to produce. Once the water cools down into the 40's, a lot of that bait will be gone and the crappies will be more interested in your jigs or cranks. 

So what to do when faced with this situation? One thing I do is to look for some structure on the bank in 15 - 20 feet of water. No matter where you live, some of the crappies in your lake will be on that shoreline structure this time of year. Cast and flip jigs to that structure and let it fall on a slack line. Watch for the line to stop or twitch, set the hook. I also like to "shoot" docks this time of year. This is a simple technique where you pinch the jig between your thumb and index finger, pull the jig back putting a bend in the rod, aim and shoot the jig under the dock. Shoot it as far as you can back under the dock. Let the jig fall on a slack line and again, watch the line. If it stops, twitches or goes off in another direction, set the hook. 

I have found dock shooting in the fall to be most effective during the middle of the day. Especially on sunny days. Large marina cover docks are a hot spot that I look for. Shoot your jig in those tight spaces between the boats and let the jig do it's thing. You may surprised how many quality crappies you can catch from a very small area with this method.

I generally use very small jigs for dock shooting. I prefer 1/64th oz, with 1/48th and 1/100th standing by for special situations. This smaller bait seems to get bit a lot more than my standard 1/32 and 1/16th oz jigs when shooting docks. The smaller bait sinks slower too. I put a 1" tube jig on the small jig head, generally a light color as I'm usually shooting docks on bright days. 

Last point - I like to shoot docks on the main lake in the fall. I rarely go very far back into a small creek. Stick to the larger creeks and the main channel. Once it gets too cold to shoot that jig, it will be time to start trolling again!

10/10/08

October ushers in some of the best crappie fishing of the year for many parts of the country. The cooler weather makes a day on the lake a whole lot easier to enjoy as well. Not too many jet skies and pleasure boaters out when the mercury drops below 40F. And here in NE Tennessee we have already had two frosts and the air temp has dropped down near 40F or below nearly every night for about month. 

This colder weather will drop the lake temps pretty quick. The crappies know winter is coming and they will eat like crazy trying to fatten up for winter and the eventual spawn in the spring. 

In our part of the country, the bait fish move into the creeks and up the lake to the point where the feeder creeks and rivers dump into the lake at this time of year. One of my favorite Winter time crappie honey holes is the Eno River in North Carolina. This is the river that feeds Falls Lake North of Raleigh. No where is the migration of crappies into the river that feeds a lake more evident than at the Eno. Once it gets cold, the river is full of crappies and the shad they feed on. The anglers that are in the know on this spot can't wait for winter to arrive. If you have a large creek or river that feeds your lake, you would be well advised to toss a jig or some live bait over the side and see if there are some crappies there right now.

Believe it or not, I love to troll crankbaits or crank/jig combo's this time of year. I'll be in or near a creek or up the lake in the river, fishing the channel edges. The upper half of the lake is where I'll be fishing from now until spring. And I can cover a lot of water trolling crankbaits. If I catch a fish I'll mark the spot on my GPS an keep going. I'll run a mile or so of a creek and try to pinpoint where the fish are concentrating. I can move quickly with the cranks and they will stay at a precise depth. Once I know where the fish are concentrating I'll change, if needed, to whatever technique will allow me to stay in the strike zone. Sometimes you will need to tightline and move slowly over a creek channel edge with live bait. The next day you may need to troll two 1/16th oz jigs along a sloping point. You need to be versatile this time of year and be prepared with the right equipment on hand. You never know what the fish will want from one day to the next. Unlike the spring of the year, fall patterns can change quickly. 

You have heard me talk about the "magic depth" for a long time. Down here in the SE US that seems to be between 15' and 18' during the winter. This is driven by the thermocline. A point at which oxygen rich water meets oxygen depleted water. This is a subject for another time. But the point is, the crappies will hang at this depth for several reasons - food, oxygen and water temperature. Find the thermocline depth in your lake and fish some structure right at that depth. You will catch some fish.

A more subtle tip for this time of year is size and color of jigs to use. I prefer the more natural colors in the colder months. But the old stand bye red/chrt, blue/chrt, black/chrt and purple/chrt should always be in your spread somewhere. Salt and Pepper, clear with silver flakes, 4th of July, Firecracker are all jigs I will be using heavily this time of year. White crankbaits are my primary choice if I'm fishing cranks that day. The smaller Shad Raps, Bandits and Normans are my favorites. The key here is to have several different sizes handy. The fish may prefer one size over another based on the forage base size. Use a crank that's too big and you may get skunked while the guy next to you is loading the livewell with tasty fillets!

9/2/08  

September is here baby - yeah!

While you can catch some nice crappies during the summer months, especially at night, all die hard crappie fishermen look forward to Labor Day and the end of summer. The days get a little shorter, the nights a little cooler and the crappie fishing gets red hot!

In the coming weeks the fish will be on the move and eating every thing in sight to fatten up for the winter and next years spawn. They will bite all day long, and if you can find them they aren't very picky either.

Follow the bait. Let me repeat that - FOLLOW THE BAIT! Locate the schools of shad that are moving out of the main lake and into the creeks and you will find crappies. Also, head up the lake to where the main river dumps into the lake. Bait fish will move into the main creek channels at the head of the lake as the water begins to cool. The "magic depth" in NC, as Jay used to call it, was between 17' - 18' in the fall. It seemed that most of the lakes we fished in Central NC had a sweet spot at that depth. Troll some jigs or crank baits or fish with live bait and you were bound to catch some crappies.

As the years went by we realized that depth was where the thermocline was at that time of the year. The bait fish would suspend in a column of water between 15' and 20' for about 2 months leading up to fall turn over. You could where the crappie out if you were able to locate some bait at that depth near a creek.

The main point here is to watch the water temperature, use your electronics to find schools of bait, and then choose a technique that will get your baits down to that precise depth or slightly above it. Experiment with colors until you find one the fish prefer. One thing to keep in mind is that if you find some fish this time of year they probably won't be scattered out too much. They will be packed in an area pretty tight. So if you catch one or two, mark the spot on your GPS. Keep on going for a bit. If you don't catch a fish within a few hundred yards, turn around and go back. I have literally had to troll in a circle at times to stay on a bunch of crappies in the fall.

Once they are in the creeks, the fish will scatter out a little and even run up shallow to munch on bait fish. Shooting docks and shoreline brush will produce for a short time once the crappies have come in to feed up for the winter. This doesn't last a long time. But if you can hit it just right, man it's a blast!

7/15/08  

Not much to report this time. A few die hards here in East Tennessee are catching some fish at night and early in the mornings. Personally I haven't been on the lake in over a month. Although it is hot and there are a lot of pleasure boaters on the lake this time of year, you can still catch some crappies for dinner.

You may have to try several different techniques and move around a little to find some fish but it can be done. Without a doubt the best time to go is through the week and early in the morning. I always start my morning super early if possible, before the sun comes up. I'll head straight to some lighted docks and boat houses with some water depth under them. A trick my old buddy Terry "Grizzly" King taught me was to cast tiny plastic jigs to crappies feeding under the lights. And when I say tiny I mean 1.0" or less in length and 1/64th or 1/100th oz jig heads. Use two lb test and about a 5' light action spinning rod. Cast that little jig up into the light and just let it fall on a slack line. It will sink really slow because of the light weight jig head. Watch the line! If it stops or twitches set the hook easy and reel the fish in carefully. Make sure you have a net as even a small crappie can pop that 2lb line. He used to swear by "Crappie Snacks" for this technique. And he caught a lot of fish doing it. As soon as the sun comes up I will fish some of my favorite marina slips. I'll pitch minnows and small jigs into the empty boat slips and around the boats where I can. Schools of small shad fry will congregate under the massive floating docks. You can usually pick up a few before the boat owners show up and the fish go deep. From there I will head to some brush piles on the main lake points. I'll fish from 20' - 30' deep depending on the level of bright sun. I won't even pick up a jig rod, I stick with live bait. The bite will only last an hour or so after the sun is up so go to the high potential spots first. As soon as I see the first skier, I'm headed home. This whole fishing trip will only last about three hours. But I can usually get enough for supper.

 Go back to that same marina at night. The big floating docks are a super hot spot for crappies at night. Get permission first! Get a bucket of minnows and some spinning rods and go have some fun. You might be surprised how many fat slabs you can catch with very little effort.

6/3/08

After the spawn bass and crappies get pretty hard to catch for a few weeks. There really is no magic formula to make these fish bite. They are worn out from the spawn and need some time to recover. Most of the time they will retreat back off the bank to the first creek channel, major piece of structure or run out to the end of a long tapering point and just suspend and recover. You can see them on your depth finder but they just won't hit a thing. Patience is the key here. And finding feeding fish is the objective. This will require covering a lot of water.

 There is no better way to do that this time of year than with crank baits. Trolling crank baits has quickly become a popular way to catch summer time crappies. About 30 years ago my father and I trolled crank baits for bass throughout the summer. We used big ones and small ones, but some produced netter than others. And occasionally we would catch a big crappie mixed in with the bass. Little did we know that if we would have fine tuned our technique a little and focused on the areas where we caught those crappies, we would have been able to load up.

 Many years later I did fine tune my crank bait trolling technique and it has produced well for me ever since. I do a few unique things to crank baits when I'm trolling that have paid off for me over time. First is to make darn sure the crank is running straight. Let it back in the water and watch the line. Twist the line tie in one direction or the other to get it running dead straight. I use small bait clips which help to quickly change cranks. On most cranks I remove the belly hook and replace the rear hook with a bigger treble or #2 bronze hook. They won't get hung up nearly as bad with that belly hook removed. If you are trolling around cover this will save you a lot of baits. In open water it's not necessary. Get a good plug knocker just in case and keep it handy. 

 I generally troll with six crank baits at a time when I am alone. Spread the rod tips out to help keep the baits apart in a turn. I use 6 lb test line, occasionally 8 lb. But the thinner the line the deeper the crank will run. I only let them back about 45 - 60 feet max. Any more than that in my opinion is too much. Fish pull off when trying to reel them in from 100 feet back and that crank won't run much deeper due to line drag. A big bow forms in the line under water pulling the crank closer to the surface. You can control the whole spread better if you keep the cranks closer to the boat, trust me on that one.

 I pull them from about 1.2 mph to about 1.9 mph. The baits will reach max depth from about 1.5 mph on up to about 2.5 or even 3 mph. Any faster and some have a tendency to twirl and swim off to one side. Experiment and find out which speed works best for you. 

 I usually stick to big main channel flats that butt up against the main creek channel in the summer. Schools of bait fish will hang out on these flats. The crappies and many other game fish will be right there with them. Mark the bait and determine the depth they are suspended at. Pick some cranks that will run right through them or just above them. Now pull the cranks right through the bait and around it as well. Keep your drag set light because a big bass, striper or catfish might inhale your crank bait. 

 I prefer the Bandit series 200 and 300 above all others. I have about 25 different colors and they all work. The Bandit web site has some great depth charts that are dead on with 10 lb test line. Print out the graphs and keep them handy. I laminated some and keep them in the boat. I can get my cranks right in the fish. But my 6lb line will let the bait run a little deeper than the chart. Like I said earlier, you will need to experiment a little. 

3/9/08

I fished Cherokee lake last Sunday 3/2/08. Man what a beautiful day. 60 degrees, a light wind and bright sunshine - I got sunburn on my face - in March! How can you hate that...

The fish are starting to move in on Cherokee. I have heard similar reports from around the South East and Central US as well. This is the time of year when trolling can be extremely effective. You can cover a lot of water and present multiple baits to the fish. Flat line trolling or "long lining" as some people call it is my preferred technique this time of year.

Look for fish at the mouth's of the major creeks and coves. Water temperature is the key. Look for the warmest water you can find. Crappies will be near bye. They can be on the bottom, six inches under the surface or anywhere in between. But they will be facing into that warmer water and getting ready to move in. They are maximizing their body temperature and preparing to be in the right place when the time comes to move in and spawn. 

Your mission is to intercept them on the way in. Follow the routine I described last week. Look for the report on  the "Reports" page for the report from last week. Experiment with colors and keep plenty of minnows handy to tip your jigs with. Try two jigs tied several feet apart to get deeper and to cover two depth ranges at one time. One of my favorite rigs this time of year is a 1/16oz road runner with another 1/32oz road runner tired 24" above it. I can fish this combo from 2 feet deep down to 18 or 20 feet deep. The flash, noise and vibration from the RR blade really gets some nice fish to bite. Another good one is a large jig on the bottom, say a 1/8oz with a 2" tube jig and then a live minnow on a snelled hook 18" up the line. That one is double trouble for finicky crappies. Most can't resist a lively minnow right in front of their nose.

Experiment with different rigs and techniques. This is one time of year when you can catch fish with a wide variety of methods. You can hone your skills, tune your rig and catch fish pretty consistently until they move really shallow. 

Most of my fish are still coming from 13' - 19' of water, suspended between 1' and 6 feet of the bottom. Surface temp is 51F - 53F. Purple and Chart seems to be the ticket for me right now in slightly stained to off color water. Trolling .7 - .9mph on the GPS puts the 1/8oz jig right in the fish. 

Good luck, keep the pictures and reports coming - and take some one new to our sport, hopefully a young person, with you next time. You won't regret it.

3/3/08

Pre-spawn fish are the target right now. The key to catching these fish is locating them. Water temperature plays the most important role right now. Having some bait fish near bye helps but the water temp is going to be the ticket. I have caught fish on the banks in water temp as low as 49 F and as high as 70 F. They go when their internal clock tells them to. And they all don't go at the same time. Personally, I don't fish for spawning fish anymore. Now, now - it's ok if you want to, but I stopped a long time ago. The way I see it, if they get by me on the way to spawn, they have earned the right to do so without being bothered by me. But I get my fair share when they are moving in I promise ya' that much! And here is how I do it. 

I always start at the back of a prospective creek or cove first. I start shallow and work my way out. I know that is where they are headed so I'm bound to run into some fish on the way out. I would much rather find out the fish have moved into shallow water early than eight hours later after looking all day. Yes, they may move shallow as the day goes on, but I have found using this approach helps me locate fish faster.

I'll start with 1/64th and 1/48th oz jigs and troll the back end of the creek in 3 - 5 feet of water. Check the water temp, remember it.  I move quick and cover that area fast. I generally use brightly colored jigs even if the water is clear and the sun is out. No decent fish in 30 minutes or so, I'm moving out a little. I'll now try the first drop out from the bank in the mid section of the creek. I'm looking for staging fish in 5 - 8 feet of water. I'll switch to a 1/32oz jig and adjust my speed watching the depth finder all the time. I now have a GPS every where I go. If I get a fish I mark the waypoint immediately. And I do this every time whether it's a big fish or not. I'm trying to put a pattern together so all the data counts. I'll pull that area down both sides of the creek for another 30 minutes or so. Pay attention to which side of the creek the sun hits first. That can make a difference. Again, I'm watching the depth finder constantly monitoring depth, contour and temperature. No good fish, I'm moving to the center of the creek in that mid range and fishing the channel in 8 - 12 feet of water. Check the temp. You are looking for the warmest water. The fish could be right up near the surface in the center of the creek. So watch the depth finder closely. At this point I'll use my hand help temp gauge and check the water temp at different depths. If I find that the water down 6 or 8 feet is warmer than the surface I will change to traditional "long line" tactics and troll on out of the creek. The fish may be staging on the points or channels leading into the creek. I'll switch to a little heavier jig like a 1/16oz or even a 1/8oz and get the bait down to them. They will be easier to see on the depth finder if they are out in the deeper water. Just get the jig and speed right to drag the bait right at  the depth the fish are holding or slightly above them. Remember they won't go down for a bit, keep it above them. Experiment with colors now and use the basic rule of thumb. Bright colors on a bright day and dark colors on a dark day. Tip your jigs with minnows and keep them lively. 

 This entire process will take me no more than an hour or so, maybe an hour and a half. I fish fast, I cover a lot of water. I can put together a pattern pretty quick using this approach. I will generally only fish 4 rods when running this routine simply because I can change them out quick and control them better. But once I zero in on some fish, I'll go to 8 or even 10. 

2/5/08

Sorry for my long absence - been busy. Some of the best crappie fishing of the year is right around the corner. All the Killer Kid pictures above have two things in common - happy kids and spring time crappies. This is the time of year to take your kids or a new crappie killer fishing. Wait for a nice day, get some "minners" and a few jigs and go catch some dinner. 

The key this time of year is water temperature. If you don't have a water temperature gauge in your boat, go get a portable one. It's a must this time of year. You can get an inexpensive one at Wal-Mart for under twenty bucks. And it will be money well spent.

I start in the upper end of any lake or reservoir this time of year. That section of the lake will get the longest exposure to the sun and warmer creek and river water is coming in there as well. Warmer - are you nuts? No I'm not. Rain water and run off water is always a few degrees warmer this time of year. It may be muddy, but that's ok. The particles in the muddy water hold heat. It will be slightly warmer than the lake, trust me on this one. Look for areas where feeder creeks come in at the backs of coves/main or secondary creeks. Use your temp gauge to measure the temp from the mouth of the creek all the way to the back. You should see the temp rise a little as you move back. Watch the depth finder as you move along the creek channel edge or in the channel itself. Somewhere between the main channel and the back of that creek you will find some crappies bunched up. Sometimes they will be suspended, others they will be flat on the bottom. So look close and don't go too fast. When you see a distinct temp change or mark some fish, throw out a marker or put in a waypoint on your GPS. Keep looking. Ride around and scout the area good before setting up to troll. Yes troll. The water is too cold you say - not... As soon as the water temp starts to rise from the stable temp your lake reaches in the dead of winter, crappies will move in. They point their noses straight into that warmer water and start swimming! 

If the sun is bright they may move up to within a foot of the surface over 50 feet of water at the mouth of a creek. It's all about getting their body temperature up and getting ready to lay some eggs. Intercepting the fish on the way to the spawning areas is what you are trying to do. So look for a place you know they want to spawn, then look out in the deeper water they are coming form, and somewhere in between you will find them. Usually in the warmest water you can find. 

One tip to keep in mind is to run right up to the bank and measure the water temp before starting to troll. The water up at the bank will warm faster as it is shallower and has the bottom to help warm it up. The surface temp may be 40 in the main lake and 55 at the bank in your creek. The fish will be up there and you will be trolling for blanks. 

Old reports below

High Rock Lake - Spring Crappie Outing 4/8/06

Some of the guys from the Spring Outing on High Rock Lake 

 Another Crappie Outing is in the books. This was our sixth event if I'm not mistaken. The decision was made to hold this event on High Rock Lake for several reasons. The biggest of which was participation. And this is driven by the location and the possibility of catching lots of fish. The Rock is centrally located and has tons of crappies that are very willing to bite. The only thing that could present a problem was the weather. And, as usual, the weather presented a problem.  

 I left Winston at 5:30 AM headed for Tamarac. The wind was calm, no rain and I could see a few stars. I was happy to see that the weather man missed it by a little and hoping that the he would continue to be wrong. 

 Arrived at the Marina at 7:00 AM and met Cherokee and his family. Grizzly and his dad were already fishing. Several other die hards rolled in around 7:15 and Don Robinson and the Waxhaw crew were quick to follow. Nat and Jay were there and ready to go. Les Tate showed up as promised and was prepared to take some new comers Kenny Bainbridge and his daughter Alexis on there first crappie trolling trip. Some of the boats took off in spite of a really nasty looking thunderstorm that was pressing down on us from the East. The rest of us took shelter under the deck on the restaurant. Sure enough the rain, lightning and wind started just minutes later. Jay got a few adult beverages and coffee and we waited the storm out. 

 20  minutes had passed and we were all ready to get on the lake. The storm cleared and the sun actually came out for a short period of time. Everyone took off in there own direction with smiles on there faces. Boyce "Crappie Crazy" Bishop and I went to Duck Creek to start trolling.

 With the slightly overcast skies and off colored water we selected jigs in the mid to dark range. Seeing that most of the fish appeared to be just off the bottom we started with 1/16 oz jig heads and a few road runners as well. Within 100 yards of starting we had a few small fish in the boat. Generally this time of year I like to start at the very back of a creek and work my way out. Slowing my speed as I go to get the jigs down to the depth I see the fish on the finder. However if you have wind it sometimes forces you to do the opposite. One of my rules is never troll against the wind. Whenever possible troll with the wind. The wind causes a slight bit of current. And the fish will almost always be facing into that current. Therefore you will be pulling the jigs up from behind the fish if you troll against the wind. They get less time to see the bait as it just passes over them and disappears quickly.  Pulling it towards them, with the wind, gives the fish more time to see the bait and react to it. Anyway - I digress. We ended up with a few keepers coming from 6 - 9 feet deep on the few road runners we had out. We quickly changed to get a few more road runners out and switched to shades of blue and green jigs. We had a pretty good pattern figured out after several passes. Problem was, as is the case often on High Rock, the fish were small. One keeper out of 5 or 6 fish. 

 Ultimately we agreed that the fish were tight to the bottom, 7.5 - 10 feet deep, they preferred blue/chart 1/16 road runners and they had to be close to the bottom. This was a classic transition zone scenario. The fish were mid way back in the creek. Water temp ranged from 59 - 61 degrees. They were setup on the first break out from the bank and holding. When the sun popped out they would move up a little in the water column and feed more aggressively. But there was very little sun today. 

 Boyce and I tried a few more spots picking up a few more keepers as we went. The wind and off and on threat of T-storms kept us from trying any main channel spots. I'm sure there were bigger fish a little further out in the creeks suspended. But they were in a very negative mood and seemed to be un-catch able. We stuck to our shallow water pattern and caught some nice fish for the cookout. We headed in at 1:30 PM with 14 keepers with the largest fish weighing right at one pound.

"NC Nat" and Boyce "Crappie Crazy" Bishop cleaning some fish for the cookout

When we returned to the marina we met several other boats that had arrived early. Everyone had fish. But the comments were all the same - glad it didn't rain anymore and the fishing was slow. Although no one really seemed to crush 'em, everyone had some fish. Terry Grizzly King and his dad had the largest fish for the day. A nice white crappie that weighed well over a pound. Many others had fish that were nearly as big but once again they had the nicest fish we saw. For numbers I think Don Robinson and his friends form Waxhaw had the most fish. There were a few new comers at this outing including Alexis Bainbridge and her dad Kenny from Charlotte.

Alexis Bainbridge getting her fish out of the live well - Les Tate looks over her shoulder

A big Crappie Killer thank you to Les Tate for taking Kenny and Alexis fishing. They really enjoyed it. Nothing like seeing a kid smile after they caught a fish - killer...

 

Don Robinson and his buds from Waxhaw cooked up a great meal - Thanks Don!

We ate at 3:00 PM right on schedule. Don and his buddies were really prepared. They had everything and made it all look easy. The food was excellent and there was just enough to feed the 25 - 30 people we had to feed. Many thanks to everyone that helped out with the food and preparation. Del, we'll be looking forward to more of those hush puppies ; ). The desserts Sandy Bainbridge brought were excellent. I won't soon forget that chocolate chip cake - yum... 

I would like to thank Nat for setting up the gazebo and grounds at Tamarac for the outing. Nat is a great guy and is always a big part of every event we have. I also want to thank Nat for the hospitality and allowing the old, fat, tired crappie killer to sleep at his house after the event. 

After talking with most of the guys that fished today, the story was about the same. The fish they caught were on or near the bottom. Most were caught between 8 and 15 feet deep. Colors that were effective were in the mid to dark range. The most popular were red/chart, green tri colors, blue/chart and black/chart. Water temp ranged from 58 - 64 depending on where you were fishing on the lake.

A large time was had by all again this year. The weather was rough in the morning but gave us a break for most of the day. Boyce and I along with Nat and Jay went back out after the cookout to try to catch a few more. But the weather took a turn for the worse and we had to head back in. All in all I think the event went very well. We had over 100 people that had said they were coming to this event. We ended up with about 30. I'm sure the threat of bad weather kept most at home. I can tell you that you missed a fairly decent day and a great cookout. It takes a lot of planning, time and money to make one of these events happen. I want to thank all the people that helped with this one. Super Job! We will continue to have these events no matter what. I hope more of you will come and join us - we always have a great time. and I promise, at the next one, I'll have twice as much stuff to give away as I couldn't bring a thing this time...


Best fishes',
Mark

 

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