Remember my telling you about catching fall crappie using crankbaits in a recent column on these pages? In November 2007, Jim McKay and Tommy Moss, both of Brandon, surprised us all by catching the winning weight on Ferguson Lake using Bandit crankbaits they borrowed from me.

Well, it's happened again - bigger and better than before.

Guess what. The top four teams at the October 2008 Ferguson event either "pulled" crankbaits or "pushed" Beetle Spins. Move over, Minner Man, it's a new day on the fishing pond these days.

The Winners

McKay and Moss did it again, and this time their winning weight was even heavier than last year's - 10.5 pounds. Their best seven crappie weighed in at 11.41 pounds.

Gil Woodis and I, pulling crankbaits, too, weighed in our best seven at 11.21 pounds. Hey, Gil and I may be slow learners, but we did pay attention last year.

And William Clark of Clarksdale, fishing by himself, "pushed" Beetle Spins all day - a new technique altogether. His best seven weighed 10.62 pounds.

Let me tell you more about Clark's technique: He witnessed teams having success with cranks on previous T-Days, and he decided to try it during our offseason this summer. He called me several times to ask about rigging up for cranks, and later to brag about the limits of Enid slabs he was catching pulling cranks. We talked several times this summer, and it was obvious that William became proficient pulling cranks.

Tried something different

Then, for some reason, Clark's crankbait pattern stopped working. He called me perplexed and wanting to compare and swap tips and techniques on getting back on the crappie pattern.

"I'm thinking about trying a jig or a small spinner on my long poles along with the crankbaits. You ever tried this before?" he queried.

"Yeah, William, years ago after I started catching a few crappie on cranks, I tried some of what you're thinking about right now. I tried two crankbaits on one line. That was too much trouble as far as I was concerned. I tried crappie jigs tagged 15 inches above the Bandit. I tried tagging in-line spinnerbaits above the Bandits.

"I caught several crappie at Enid on floating in-line spinners that were designed to catch walleye. Plus, I caught them on Rooster Tails and Mepps spinners tied above the crank.

"The best combo set up for me was a drop rig with a heavy weight on the bottom with the crankbait positioned about 15 inches above it, and on a three-way swivel 15 inches above that I tagged the floating in-line spinners. Guess I got away from it just because it was too much sugar for a dime."

He was undeterred.

"Well, I'm going to try pushing some Beetle Spins this summer, Paul. See you at Ferguson."

And, he did, and he perfected the technique.

Pushing vs. pulling

Where I was "pulling" my spinner rig using a 1-ounce weight, Clark took it all the way to "pushing" his rig using a heavier 5-ounce weight. As explained in previous columns, "pushing" vs. "pulling" artificials involves using a really heavy drop weight so that your presentation is more vertical - directly under the tip of the pole as opposed to dragging or "pulling" your baits several yards behind the boat.

Pushing trolling set-ups gives a more precise vertical presentation, allowing you to fish what you see on your fish finder. This is especially important if you're trying to keep your baits precisely on a drop or crease, or if you're working underwater structure located with your trolling-motor transducer.

Additionally, for a one-man team, managing multiple pushing rigs is easier than pulling several rigs.

One word of caution - and for me, this is a biggie. Five ounces of weight overpower every crappie pole that I've seen, including the new ones advertised to handle this extra heavy - almost downrigger size - weight.

Say it ain't so, Joe

Clark and others who have bought the popular brands of professional trolling poles marketed with the claim of handling 5-ounce drop weights find themselves pointing these expensive rods skyward just to prevent the rod tips from dragging in the water. A 5-ounce weight bends that hundred-dollar pole double. I don't care what the brochure or catalog says.

Here's a suggestion: Tie one on. Before you go to the lake, while you're still in the store, experiment with various size weights by loading that high-dollar pole with enough mono to thread through all the eyes on the rod. Tie the end to the reel seat of the rod. Leave about 6 feet of line hanging from the tip, and then tie on that 5-ounce weight. Case closed.

Don't forget that those Beetle Spins will add another ½ ounce or so to the rig and that the drag from the water while "pushing" them at relatively fast trolling speeds will also tend to pull the rod tip down.

Adjust and modify

I think I'm better off using shorter, stiffer rods with a little less weight. I limit the weight on my pushing poles to 3 ounces, giving up some of the vertical presentation advantages. If I'm going to push baits from the front of my crappie boat, I use the heaviest action 7-foot flipping stick I can find and a casting reel loaded with 12-pound-test mono.

Additionally, if I'm going to run two artificials on this drop rig, I like for the bottom lure to be a Bandit crankbait.

Colors are important here, too. Like jig skirts, the color of your Beetle Spin or crankbait makes a big difference. Don't be bashful about changing out your lures until you find the color that the fish like. Crappie are as color sensitive as any game fish - more so, I think.

I'm convinced that crappie don't really care what the color pattern is on the top half of your lure. Crappie feed up. They attack lures above them in the water column, not down or even horizontally. That means that a crappie really only sees the bottom side of your crankbaits.

I'm guessing that lure manufacturers figured out a long time ago that those pretty color patterns we see displayed on the peg board in the lure section of our favorite bait store catch more fishermen than crappie.

Woodis and I take a selection of permanent-marking Sharpie pens with us. When we pattern a color that seems to be working, we try to change all our baits to the same color from the selection of lures in our tackle box. If we don't have the color, then out come the Sharpies to modify the color of the bellies of our baits to match. Crankbaits with light-colored bellies like white or chartreuse are easier to modify.

Too much sugar for a dime? Nah, not to fishermen who have discovered that catching 'em as big as they grow using these unique methods is an absolute hoot.