Hot dog! It’s late October and the crappie are absolutely burning it up, friend.
Now is the time to load up on some of the year’s biggest, most-aggressive white perch. I’m not kidding, friend. November is one of the top two or three months of the entire year to catch quantity and quality crappie.
At the time of this writing, it’s the first week in October. The fair is in town, and, yes, as always, “fair weather” is upon us. It’s going to be in the low to mid-50s in the morning, and I can’t wait to hit the lake.
Fishing for me the last couple of months has not been good. I don’t mind admitting that if I had to write about my last successful fishing trip, I’d have to go back to June to recall a good day on the lake.
I haven’t fished much this summer, and the few times I went I just wasn’t really into it.”Hot days, slow bites, older-age have something to do with it, for sure.
Plus, for the first time ever in my life, I was robbed this summer. That’s right: Some slime-ball, low-life, so-and-so broke into my boat storage unit and stole practically all my fishing poles and crankbaits. They also got four depth finders, two deep-cycle batteries, two trolling motors, 34 rods and reels — and, did I mention they stole over 2,000 crankbaits?
My last fishing trip was at the Crappiemasters National Championship event held in Washington County in late September. Let me tell you a little about it.
The fishing for most of the 154 competing teams was not good. Only about half of the competitors were able to catch the tournament limit of seven fish each day of the two-day event.
Top teams from all over the country fished five lakes on a “you pick ’em” basis. That is, teams could fish any part of the two days on lakes Whittington, Lee, Ferguson, Washington, Chico or Paradise.
The winning team was somebody you never heard of from some place you ain’t ever been with a two-day total of just over 24 pounds. That’s 14 crappie total weighing just over 24 pounds — not that great for a national championship, in my opinion.
The Magnolia Crappie Club had a dozen teams in the event, and our best effort was turned in by Shelton Culpepper and David Thornton of Eagle Lake. David and Shelton finished fifth overall with a weight of just over 20 pounds.
Not bad for a couple of jig fishermen from Chotard. Congrats, gentlemen — you represented Mississippi very well.
I fished the event with my son-in-law, Kris New of Glen Allen. We pulled crankbaits for two days with little to no success.
You always learn something at these events if you pay attention. We fished around a “professional” crankbaiting team from somewhere up north.
These “pros” had a super-slick walleye-looking boat — one of those wrapped jobs advertising their biggest sponsor. I was thoroughly impressed with their presentation and their hustle.
These long-liners were pulling planer boards in front of their crankbaits. Now, for you uninformed, a planer board is a device that drives your bait at a prescribed angle out to the side and behind your boat. The planer board swims on top of the water with your bait following out there behind it somewhere, and it has a little flag that goes down whenever you get a bite.
Now, brother, let me tell you: These fellers had their routine down. The first time I came across them we were headed directly toward one another. I was admiring their good-looking rig and saying to my son-in-law, “Kris, look coming here, bud. These fellers know what they’re doing. I bet they have a box full already.”
As we got closer, I noticed one of the fellers waving at us. Then both of them were waving at us. Then I noticed that they weren’t waving at us; they were frantically waving us off and yelling something I didn’t quite pick up.
As we drew closer, I finally saw those yellow planer boards spread out there in the lake — right smack-dab in the middle of my path.
I hung a hard left to avoid my first encounter with a planer board. As we went past the fellers from up north, I swear I think one of them called my son-in-law a dumb ass.
Maybe he was referring to me since I was the one driving our boat.
Well, anyway, once I got past their spread of eight planer boards (which covered at least 100 feet from outside planer to outside planer), I looked back and watched them fish.
Friend, my dear, deceased fishing buddy Jim McKay used to say, “Too much sugar for a dime” — and, had Jim been in my boat that day, that’s exactly what his observation would have been.
I’ve never seen two fellers work so hard at catching nothing. Why, one of them young fellers was constantly reeling in one of those yellow boards, and the other one was reaching out as far as he could in a frantic-type state, grabbing the trailing line and retrieving the crankbait.
Shoot, they never slowed down.
As I said, I was impressed with their hustle. Yep, friend, they had to hustle just to keep up with their stuff. We never saw them catch a fish, but they were sure working at it.
I had never considered using planer boards. After watching these “pros” from up north in that sponsored-wrapped walleye boat with all that unnecessary equipment and effort, I can safely say that I won’t be adding planer boards to my ever-growing repertoire.
Cranking basics 101
Let me take you through the basics for gearing up for long-lining.
You need some pole holders. I pull my baits out the back of my boat. I built a trolling rack that holds six rod/reel combos across the rear of my boat.
I like baitcasting reels for this method over spinning reels, but either will work.
Speed control is important. I have a Minnkota Terova 101 (the thieves didn’t steal this one) that has GPS-controlled “cruise control” on it. I pull at speeds between 1.2 and 2 mph, depending on lighting conditions and water temperatures.
One of the most-important variables is how far back you troll your crankbaits. I’ve settled on a maximum length of 100 feet. From there, I might decrease the length of the line back to my baits, if necessary.
Having had all my crankbait poles stolen caused me to gear up again. So, I went to Academy Sports and bought all the Diawa Crossfire 6-foot, 6-inch medium-heavy baitcasting rods they had. I bought these rods because they had the length of handles and the medium-heavy action I was looking for in a graphite rod, and they didn’t cost an arm and a leg.
To these I added Abu Garcia Black Maxes and Silver Maxes that I bought at a real deal on eBay.
I’m an expert at loading line onto reels. Just ask any of my fishing partners/friends. I have perfected exactly how much line and what type to load on my reels for the kind of fishing I do.
This is important — pay attention.
Take a baitcasting reel in the same size category as a Black Max and do the following.
First, load 110 turns of the handle of 8-pound monofilament onto the spool. This is only a base filler line. You’ll never fish with it, so you can use the cheapest mono you can find.
The next steps are precise, and you need to take notes. You’re going to need three different-colored braided lines. I use three different strengths — 15-, 12- and 10-pound tests.
On top of that cheap mono, I tie orange-colored 15-pound braid. Step off 100 feet as you spool off that 15-pound braid and mark the 100-foot spot.
To the orange 15-pound braid I tie blue 12-pound test. Step to your 100-foot spot, cut the unspooled line and then retrieve the second color braid onto the reel.
Finally, I tie on 10-pound yellow-colored braid. Step off the same 100 feet, cut, retrieve — you’re set.
Now, what you have is a reel that has three 100-foot presets. So, when you break off that first time and even that second time — and you will — simply tie on another bait and keep fishing. It’s important that you keep the knots between the three colors on the reel at all times. I don’t care how good you are at tying knots, yours will break, too, when you hang a stump.
Planer boards, line counter reels — naw — not for me. I like catching ’em as big as they grow with as little hustle as possible.