I'll try anything to catch a crappie. I admit it. When it comes to crappie gear, I'm a crappie-a-holic. I mean, I'm the first and sometimes the only one I know to buy and try the latest gimmick that claims to catch crappie.

I guess part of the reason for this affliction is that I love to brag about catching crappie with a "secret bait" you don't have.

There have been times when the stuff I ordered from some place way off works and makes me look so smart and innovative. Then, just as many times, after I've rushed to open the box that FedEx just delivered, I end up shaking my head and asking myself, "What was I thinking?"

I'd like to tell you about some of the strange things that work and about some of the weird things I've tried that did not work. Lots of you braver, riskier types can identify with me. Admit it. You've bought some fancy-smancy thing advertised to catch anything that swims, only to learn that the only things this new gizmo catches are gullible fishermen. Let me tell you about some of my winners and losers.

Remember Fool a Fish? Yes, I admit it. I bought some of this stuff. It was expensive, too - over $30 for this secret potion. This little spray bottle was supposed to put invisible attractants on my bait and lures. "Invisible" is certainly the right descriptor here. They should change the name to "Fool a Fisherman."

But, colored hooks are a winner. Specifically, octopus-style colored hooks, size 4, are the ticket, boys and girls. Trust me here. I like orange, pink, chartreuse, blood red, flame red and glow. Match the color of your hook to the water and light conditions using the same guidelines you use for changing your jig skirt color. And the octopus-style just doesn't miss a fish.

Does the whole glow in the dark thing work? The answer is yes and no. Under the right conditions - that being clear water on dark days or at night - things that glow tend to attract attention, which can lead to more bites. Glow hooks, glow beads, glow spinner blades, glow jig skirts, glow jig heads, glow stick-on eyes, even odor attractants formulated with glow ingredients all work - sometimes. But don't bother if the water is muddy or if it's a bluebird day.

Glow rocks, on the other hand, are a complete waste of time. Some enterprising fellow way up north somewhere decided to paint his 1-ounce drift weights with glow-in-the-dark paint. The idea was that the light way down there in the dark would attract every fish within half a mile. Sounded logical to me!

I anxiously took them out of the box as soon as FedEx brought them to let the sunshine "charge" those puppies up. Now let me tell you, they got the glow part down pat. These little buggers put out some kind of light. I believe you could read the newspaper by one while sitting in the dark.

Do they help catch fish? Not no, but heck no! If anything, they run off every fish in the dad-blame lake. About the only thing they're good for is finding your way in the dark.

Corks work. I still love pitching a cork and jig around structure. Hey, not every old idea is a bad one. You and I learned to fish watching a cork. We made our own from every thing from a feather quill to the cork taken from a Dr. Pepper bottle cap.

Nowadays, corks sure aren't what they used to be. Have you tried the crappie "popping" corks, those half-a-bobber plastic things? Don't bother. Maybe the crappie out in Texas or up in Missouri are attracted to a fisherman making an awful racket by popping a big piece of plastic on top of the water, but I can't make them work around here.

Or how about minnows with racing stripes? Now we're talking! Finally, I can paint my live minnows anyway I want. They actually make a product in several "fish-catching colors" that works like a magic marker allowing you to customize your minnows. I bought one in every color.

Have you ever tried to paint a racing stripe on the side of a minnow on a windy day when you've got four drift poles out and each one of them has three minnows on the line? I have. Thumbs down to this craziness.

What about adding the extra flash of a small spinner to your crappie hook or jig? Does this work? Jig heads with a small spinner blade attached do work. There's a new one out now that incorporates a red hook and a blood-red willowleaf spinner blade. I can't wait to try it.

Stay away from pre-tied "spinnerbait rigs" and in-line spinners.

Crankbaits work, too. Trolling crankbaits is primarily a summertime technique that you jig-fishing purists will never understand. The trick is to troll your crankbaits at the right speed and depth in water holding suspended crappie.

Some other weird stuff that did not work for me includes the following:

• Ice-fishing jigs. What was I thinking?

• Screwball Floating Jig Heads. Are you kidding me? You would think the name would say no-no.

• Red fishing line. I'm confused. Can you see red under water or not? Translucent vs. opaque. I've read all the literature. I'm still confused.

• I've tried leeches, earth worms, crickets, roaches and, yes, even those live, exotic South American grubs that have teeth. The latter chewed their way through the shipping carton and escaped - hundreds of 'em everywhere inside my pickup. Just give me a No. 6 minnow, please.

Will I continue to look for an edge? You bet. We crappie-a-holics just can't help ourselves. When will that next catalog get here? I need help. Get me to counseling.

One last note: The Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks hosts several kids fishing rodeos every year around the state. Katfishing for Kids is held the first Saturday in June at the agency's really nice facility, Turcotte Labs, on Highway 43 at the Natchez Trace, north end of Ross Barnett Reservoir. It's free, and it's a great half day of good wholesome outdoor activity for your kids. Bring 'em on out. The crappie club provides lots of volunteers every year to assist you and your children with catching 'em "as big as they grow."