Rabbit Rogers may change the color of his jig heads and skirts, and he might even consider adding a minnow to the back end. But, that's secondary to another factor in catching crappie.
“When it comes to crappie, I always say it’s not so much what, but where,” Rogers said during a crappie trip in near 100-degree heat. “Crappie are naturally aggressive so if I put a bait in his face, I feel he’ll take it. Sounds obvious, but location is so critical.”
Rogers, who catches fish all year round, offers these not-so-obvious tips for the summer on his home waters of Barnett Reservoir. Here’s a tip about his tips — heed them. Rogers is nothing if not an experimenter.
He catches fish, a lot of fish, and often gets bored with a daylong jig-n-jerk, jig-n-jerk pattern. This is a guy who is not beyond trying to find something that doesn’t work, just so he can continue his learning process.
Deep horizontal cover: A jig man who will only occasionally troll, Rogers is always fishing close to structure and cover (structure being natural contours, and cover being timber or other masses).
“In the summer, on Barnett, it is critical to find deep cover close to deeper water, like the edge of a channel or an old lake,” he said. “This time of year, I do better on the lower open end of the lake. That’s where the shad are, but the fewest fishermen, too.
“If you really want to find fish, find or create horizontal cover. Crappie want to be underneath something.”
Double overhand knot: Rogers uses a simple knot on his jig, designed to let the lure hang from a loop for natural action.
“It's just a simple overhand knot, except that I do two overhand twists instead of one,” he said.
Rogers puts the line through the hook eye once and allows several inches to work with. He then makes the same knot used in the first step of tying shoe laces, wrapping the tag end around the terminal end. He repeats the twist a second time to add strength to the final knot. Then, as he tightens the knot, he uses his fingertips to form a small loop, making sure it is not big enough to wrap on the hook point before cinching it tight.
Adjusting hook’s bite: Rogers likes his jig hook to have a larger “bite” so, unless he finds some heads with wide-gapped hooks, he manually opens up the tip.
“I want it to be more open, so I take pliers and bend the hook down a little toward the head,” he said. “Then I bend only the tip up. Most people just open the hook. By closing it first, it keeps the same angle on the hook.”
Alter and glue skirts: No matter what kind of tube or skirt he chooses, Rogers isn’t shy about altering them.
“I fix all the colors I’ll need the night before, and one thing I do different from a lot of fishermen is I always epoxy my rubber skirts to the jig head,” he said. “It prolongs the life of a jig. If the tube tears, I just tie on a new jig. Also carry some Sharpie markers to add dots and fire tails. I also tear the skirt a little around the hook to free it.”
Vary jig head, tube colors: Rogers uses a 1/16-ounce jig in the summer, varying his color heads not to match his skirt.
“I rarely use the same color head as I do skirt,” he said. “And you better not go out there without some small minnows in summer. Sometimes, you have to have them.”
What’s my line: Rogers has always used Gold Stren monofilament, in a 10-pound test.
“Gold is the key, not size,” he said. “You have to see a lot of the bites, because you don't feel them all, and a lot of time in summer, the fish may move up in the water column for shade purposes and if he hits it on the way down, you have to see the slack form to even know you have a bite.”
B’n’M man: No other poles but those from B’n’M of Mississippi get in his boat.
“They’re simply the best,” Rogers said. “I started with them because they are a Mississippi (West Point) company, but I stayed with them because they are so good.
“I usually go with a 12-footer for jigging, and it's especially good in the summer when the fish are so deep. You have a longer reach, and fish are easier to handle at the end of a long pole.”