The summer crappie pattern is on. Talk about a hot bite — brother, it’s been hot on the lake in more ways than one the last few weeks.
And, although the older I get and the softer I become, I really, really don’t like fishing in hot weather; what I do like is crankbaiting for crappie — and the hotter it gets, the better they like those cranks.
I’ve learned a few things since last summer regarding cranking for crappie. Let me just say I’ve expanded my thinking and knowledge.
I used to think the full moon was a real problem for crappie fisherman. Y’all remember that great-big full moon back in early May — the historic one — the one that only happens once every hundred years or so? I figured no way this close-as-it-gets full moon is going to do anything but stop an ongoing strong crappie bite.
But, brother, let me tell you, on the day of the fullest of full moons, we had a $100,000 crappie tournament at Enid Reservoir.
"No one could have caught more crappie than Shelton and I did today, Paul," said David Thornton, the weighmaster for the Magnolia Crappie Club. "No one — no, sir, no one — true story."
And, I’d have to agree with David. Tommy Moss and I wore the paint slam off our crankbaits on T-day at Enid.
I have no idea how many crappie we actually caught, but I know that both Tommy and I were absolutely glad when "stop fishing time" came.
And, it was the same story for practically every team that entered that first-ever $100,000 Open (more on that a little later).
But, we had one of our best "catching" days ever on a super-full moon day.
Let me get back to the expanded knowledge I’ve gained since last summer regarding cranking for crappie.
I pushed the water temperature a lot just to try to prove a point. You know, the old standard that whenever water temps are below 60 degrees crappie won’t hit a crank.
Just ain’t so, friend.
Granted, you may have to slow down a little, change locations and try different baits and colors than you use in warmer temps, but, friend, a crappie eats every day, and she’ll hit and inhale the right crankbait in temps as low as 45 degrees.
I learned that if I used slightly wider-bodied lures that have a wider, slow wobble and slow down to 1.1 to 1.4 mph, cold water — at least down to the mid-40s — doesn’t matter.
Worden Fat Fish and Storm Wiggle Warts in a couple of sizes and several colors work very well when slowed way down in colder water.
People often ask me what colors to use. I have a list of favorites for particular lakes and conditions that include temperatures, clarity or not, sunny or overcast, depth, etc. I could fill a book on condition combinations that influence my color selection.
A short obvious list includes the oranges, chartreuses, reds, pinks and lots of varying shades and combinations of these popular fishing colors.
But, what I’ve learned that works great in clear to moderately stained water in low-light conditions — very early or very late in the day and on heavily overcast days — is white. That’s right, plain old basic white.
I admit that I accent my solid-white lures with a splash of color — maybe a little red stripe or a red tail or a solid red bill. I use red hooks on my white lures. In fact, I change practically every hook to red, eventually.
Finally, I’ve learned that too often I fish too deep with my cranks; I fish under the active fish. I’m trying my best to teach myself to not keep going deeper whenever I lose the bite; rather, I’m trying to move up in the water column some. It works sometimes, it seems.
Well, did anyone catch the world record?
As you know from last month’s issue, the town of Water Valley and the Magnolia Crappie Club hosted an open crappie tournament at Enid offering a possible top prize of $100,000 to anyone who set broke the world record.
Enid is the home of the current world-record white crappie. Caught in 1957, by Fred Bright, the Enid monster weighed 5 pounds, 3 ounces.
Offering a huge reward for a new world record seemed the right thing to do on the day Water Valley was hosting its Second Annual World’s Largest Crappie Festival. And, I’m here to tell you, the MCC Open event drew some interest. We had our largest regular season tournament ever, with 55 boats entered.
And the anticipation and fanfare surrounding the top prize was a lot of fun for every tournament participant.
But, no, we did not catch a new world record. Didn’t even come close. The heaviest fish of the day was a little less than half the size of the world record.
But, we had big fun on a wonderful fishery that is loaded — I mean loaded — with 11 ¾-inch crappie.
At Enid, a crappie must exceed 12 inches to be a "keeper," and I know we all just got tired of catching and releasing nearly legal fish all day.
Look out next year, however, and for several years to come. Enid is primed, brother, to produce huge limits every day for everybody with a hook and a pole — even a crankbait.
We’ve already set our tournament date for next year — the first Saturday in May during the World Record Crappie Festival we’re coming back, and we can’t wait to see how much those nearly legal fish will have grown in 12 months.
Magnolia Crappie State Championship next
The highlight this month is the Magnolia Crappie State Championship. This annual two-day tournament will be held June 22-23 on two lakes: Eagle and Chotard.
The format is different this year. For the first time ever, competitors can choose how and where they want to spend their fishing hours.
Current Magnolia State Champs are John Harrison of Calhoun City and Kent Driscoll of Cumming, Ga. These two great fishermen caught them as big as they grow at the Grenada-held State Championship last season.
Tournament organizers will set the fishing times, and let the teams fish either/or both lakes.
The event will pay the Top 20 teams each day, and then pay the team with the heaviest two-day weight an extra $500 and declare that team the new state champs.