Tip 1 - Fish A Floating Line
If you remember that fluoro sinks, mono is sorta neutrally buoyant and braids nearly float, you can overcome a number of challenges—like when spring slabs suspend near the surface.
There fish are feeders, but not chasers, so pinning a jig below a float is an effective way to target them. But there are drawbacks. For one, even a small float can spook fish. Two, it’s tough to cover water when fishing this way.
An effective alternative is stringing your favorite spring crappie outfit with a light superline like 4-pound FireLine Crystal or 5-pound Power Pro. You’ll enjoy great casting distance without a float, and the line won’t sink your bait. A 1 ½ to 2-inch tube like a Southern Pro Lil’ Hustler, Berkley Atomic Teaser or Northland Slurpies Small Fry threaded over a 1/32-ounce jig head, is the final piece of the puzzle. Work the bait slowly, pausing between twitches, and let the fish tell you what they like best.
The last two years I’ve landed hundreds of suspended crappies this way, even when fishing water as deep as 14 feet. —Steve Pennaz
Tip 2 - Look For A Better Way
Whether you’re slaying them, or suffering through a drought, always be thinking about how you can improve your catch rate.
On a small Oklahoma lake, last year, I and Berkley marketing rep Josh Ward had caught a few crappies, but the action was less than furious. Thinking that a larger profile might be the answer, I swapped the yellow grub body on my 1/8-ounce Beetle Spin with a 2-inch Gulp! Alive Minnow. Josh switched, too, after I started catching bigger crappies, and outfishing him 4-to-1. Soon after, he dubbed the new bait Beetlejuice.
More than likely it was the new color or bulkier body that boosted our success rate, rather than the scent and flavor benefit. Either way, you can bet it’s in our arsenals again this year. The point is, even when panfish are the target, never stop analyzing your quarry’s behavior and turn it to your advantage. —Ryan Gilligan
Tip 3 - Orange Is Best
Crappies migrating to and from spawning areas often stage in flooded timber. If an Osage orange tree is part of the mix, “fish it,” advises pro angler Kevin Rogers of Peculiar, Mo. “I don’t know what it is about that species of tree, but crappies love it. I catch more and bigger fish off Osage orange trees than any other type.”
The preferred approach for Rogers and his father and tournament partner, Charlie, is to dabble leadheads dressed with Bobby Garland Slab Slay ‘Rs, through the branches.
Tip 4 - Give ‘Em The 1-2
In the spring, give crappies the 1-2 punch, according to Jeff Gustafson of Kenora, Ontario. “Use a fast-moving lure like a size 6 X-Rap to locate fish on submerged structure, then switch to something like a Slurpies Small Fry, he says. “One tip when fishing small tube baits: remove one or two tentacles from the tail to create a slot for the hook. It’ll help the tube swim straight and minimize line twist.”
Tip 5 - Drop In On Perch
The places that attract yellow perch—shallow bays with sparse weeds in spring, the edges of humps, or sand/gravel or mud flats, in the summer and deep rock piles during the fall—are all perfect set-ups for fishing a drop-shot to locate fish. Tie a size 6 octopus or size 4 Walleye Finesse StandOut hook six to eight inches from the tag end of a 4- or 6-pound fluorocarbon mainline, and bait with a lip-hooked minnow, leech or softbait. Large perch are more bottom-oriented than small fish, and seldom chase a fast-moving bait. Move slowly, while fishing vertically. —Kurt Beckstrom
Tip 6 - Bluegills And Bugs
T.J. Stallings, marketing manager for Daiichi, Tru-Turn and Blakemore, cut his angling teeth on bluegills. “They love to eat bugs,” he says, “so my first color choice for an artificial is always dark, opaque and bug-like—something brown or dark green. And slow will land you more fish. Bugs don’t move that fast.”