Flat-lining still works on crappie

Paul Johnson

February 29, 2008 at 10:04 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

Barry and Tony Warnock of Vicksburg boated these slabs during a Magnolia Crappie Club tournament on Grenada.
Photo by PAUL JOHNSON
Barry and Tony Warnock of Vicksburg boated these slabs during a Magnolia Crappie Club tournament on Grenada.
Funny how things have evolved in crappie fishing, isn’t it? I mean, if you’re like me, you’ve tried lots of different things to catch a white perch.

Now, you may not be quite as daring as I am when it comes to trying the latest, greatest, newest crappie lure or technique. After all, I’ve admitted here some of the weird and unusual trials and errors I’ve experienced chasing crappie. And I must admit some of the gadgets I’ve tried were designed to catch me, the fisherman, not so much the fish.

What brings this to mind for me is a recent chance meeting I had with a couple of bass fishermen who just happened to stumble onto a group of us Magnolia Crappie Club boys coming off Lake Washington at a recent pre-tournament practice day. After seeing our nice catch, they quickly became intrigued with our drift-fishing technique. They wanted a lesson on how to rig up just like we were. I showed them how to rig their bass rods for drift fishing, and gave them a few “secret” hooks to try.

A few days later, one of them called me to get lesson No. 2. Seems he and his buddy couldn’t stand it after seeing our nice catch on Friday, and came back the next day rigged out to catch some Lake Washington crappie. This fellow lives in Virginia, and he was convinced that what he learned in Mississippi would work great in Virginia. He mentioned that they do mostly “flat-lining” up in that area when fishing for crappie.

“What’s flat-lining?” I inquired. “Oh, you know, we just tie on two or three jigs and troll them way behind the boat. We catch fish, too. Maybe you should try that some time down there in Mississippi.”

I thanked the gentleman for the advice, and didn’t tell him that I used to do that 25 years ago. Then, all I had to fish with were a couple of Lew’s worm rods outfitted with Ambassador reels. My other gear included a J.C. Penney trolling motor (yeah, they really used to sell these at J.C. Penney) and the battery out of my pickup.

I’d drive over to Eagle Lake to Maxwell’s Landing, and rent a small john boat. I’d take the battery out of my truck and strap that trolling motor onto the stern of that little boat and start out across the wide-open middle of Eagle. I’d tie as many as half a dozen Slater jigs about a foot apart on my line, and keep moving until I caught a fish. Then I’d start working in wide circles around that spot, usually catching several fish.

I knew nothing about structure fishing, jigging, fish finders, oxygen levels, surface temperature or the big boats some of us fish out of today. Just my little J.C. Penney trolling motor and me and a paper sack full of Slater jigs. Shoot, some days I’d catch a lot more fish than I do these days.

Fishing was a lot simpler then. Recalling those days, I also remember almost sinking that little boat more than once in winds that caught me a long way from the bank.

The good ol’ days

I remember one of those days when I was directly across the lake from Maxwell’s Landing on Eagle Lake. A gale-force wind hit the lake without warning on what was a clear, bluebird day when I first put in. I didn’t realize the peril I was in until I tried to get back to the landing, and got about midway across the lake.

That little trolling motor just couldn’t go in that strong headwind, and the waves were beginning to fill my little boat. I had no choice but to strap the trolling motor down in a mostly straight-ahead direction and grab the sculling paddle I had with me. Problem was that every time I moved to the bow of the boat to pull with that paddle, the water would start coming in even more over the front of the boat.

I’d jump back to the middle of the boat and start bailing with my metal minnow bucket, then I’d jump back to the front to row some more. It was too far to turn back, and the bank in front of me was getting no closer.

Now, over there on the bank next the landing was a local fellow by the name of Foster. I knew Foster to be a regular who hung around Maxwell’s and other Eagle Lake landings, helping out for tips and free fish. Foster was sitting in the shade of a big cypress tree drinking a six-pack of Budweiser, and watching me.

I yelled. I screamed for help. I waved frantically every chance I got in between the bailing and rowing. I was in a pickle!

And, Foster? Well, ol’ Foster never moved. He just sat there in the shade watching me, enjoying the “breeze” and his beer.

Finally, I suppose God figured he had scared me sufficiently, and the 30-m.p.h. wind died enough to let me make it back to the landing. I was soaking wet, shaking from fear as much as from being wet and cold when I hit the bank at Foster’s feet.

“Foster, couldn’t you see I was in trouble? Why didn’t you come help me? Man, I almost drowned out there!”

As Foster finished that last beer, he thought about my rants, and slowly and quietly said, “Mister, I’ve got better sense than to get on this lake with the wind blowing that hard. Most folks do.”

Well over the years, I graduated to bigger fishing boats and better crappie fishing gear. Don’t know whatever happened to my Lew’s worm rods. Don’t know why I quit using Slater jigs. Don’t know why I quit “flat-lining.” The J.C. Penney trolling motor finally gave up for good.

And, as I recall, those Eagle Lake fish 25 years ago were every bit as big as they grow today.

Jane and Rabbit Rogers of Brandon show off a couple of really nice Grenada crappie. These 2-pound-plus slabs were caught jig fishing at a recent Magnolia Crappie Club tournament.
       



View other articles written Paul Johnson