I admit it. I’ve gone crankbait crazy. Look, I’ve fished for crappie every which way I’ve ever heard of, and, right now, I love to pull crankbaits for crappie.

I apologize to you old traditional farts who love to just jig fish and think anyone who does any thing different is really not a crappie fisherman. Y’all probably need to turn the page. This month’s crappie column is going to hurt your feelings.

Look, I love to feel that thump as much as the next guy on the end of my jig pole. I love bouncing those crawdad jigs off the bottom, catching those closed-mouth slabs. I love flipping a cork and minnow or cork and jig into and around fish-holding structure. And I’ve bought enough minnows to support every bait shop in Rankin County. Like you, I believe that slow-trolling live minnows is hard to beat. But … .

Last winter, I bought a bunch of these solid-white Wiggle Warts, and then I bought some lure paint, and then I went crazy “inventing” color schemes lure manufacturers haven’t thought about.

I’ve spent several days this spring and early summer experimenting with these custom-painted crankbaits on Barnett. Look, these aren’t fancy. I am not an artist. I don’t own an airbrush machine. It’s just that I went a little crazy buying these solid-white lures, and I had to find a way that I could paint them any color I wanted. I’ve determined that only a few of my weird color schemes don’t work.

Crappie are definitely picky when it comes to the color of the crankbait they’re going to hit. As with jig skirt colors, I find that what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. It becomes a trial-and-error thing for me. If one color is not working, change, man, change.

How many other people do you know who own over 600 crankbaits? Right. None. I’m one of a very few crazy people who just can’t get enough of this stuff. Plus, did I mention that I got a really good deal? Make that, I got several really good deals on Ebay last winter?

I’ve never thought that a crappie, or any other fish for that matter, gives a hoot about the fine, pretty details lure manufacturers build into their baits. Hey, it’s dark down there, and at Barnett and lots of our other lakes, it’s real muddy, too. Do you think a fish really has time to study whether that lure swimming by at 1.7 mph, 13 feet deep, has a scale pattern or not?

A crappie looks up to feed. Can he even see the top side of a crankbait?

Come on. You and I both know that lures are painted more to catch fishermen first, then the fish. Frankly, I prefer solid colors without all the fancy details. I can add a stripe or change the color of the belly or tail or add some red to the head and throat area. Give me a less-complicated crank bait, please. Maybe then, lure prices can come down a little. Hey, $5 and up for a good quality crankbait ain’t funny any longer. Paint ‘em all in solid colors, and cut the price in half!

Let me share a few things I’ve learned in a relatively short but interesting time. These tips have more to do with peripheral, support functions than actual fishing techniques. Shoot, I can’t tell you everything I know.

Tip: Lure boxes are a must for not only storage and organizing your baits, but for rust prevention as well. I love those new Flambeau Zerust tackle organizers — Model 5004, specifically. They are a really good idea and a really good value. These things really do work. Your stuff is just like mine — it’s gonna get wet if you use it. Even the best dry-storage compartments on your boat are not immune to condensation. The Zerust works.

Tip: Change lures often until you find a depth and color they like today. I tie Duo-Lock fasteners on all my lines. This allows faster change of crankbaits than cutting and retying. I can never find those little bitty scissors in my boat when I’m in a hurry. Can you? And most pocket knives, yours included, don’t cut braided line very well.

Tip: Buy solid-colored lures and some Sharpie Permanent Marker pens. You can quickly and effectively “doctor” that basic lure any way you like, right on the spot. Trust me, seems to make a difference sometimes.

Tip: Every fishing-supply vendor sells vinyl lure paints that work great. And here’s a little secret that I promised that I was going to keep to myself: Try some of that Performix Plasti Dip. Most hardware stores carry this product. It dries quickly and leaves a softer feel to that hard-plastic bait. Not sure if the softer feel makes any difference, but I know that adding a patch of red to a solid-green bait does.

Tip: Kroger — that’s right, I said Kroger. Go to the school-supply aisle. Look for the Brown Nylon Brushes in the Apple Barrel label. A couple of bucks for 10 brushes that work great is a really good deal. While you’re there, buy one of those little paint pallets. You can mix basic colors together in small quantities to create a whole new shade.

Tip: Bandit Lures of Sardis runs “specials” on their website. Example, I just bought a bunch of solid-chartreuse 200s and 300s at a great discounted price, and got free shipping, too. I’ll doctor these basic solid-color lures any old way I want with my Sharpies, my Plasti Dip and/or my vinyl lure paint.

Hey, I know I’ve got this cranking thing figured out. I was on the lake just yesterday when a buddy of mine, Hugh Krutz, called to ask, “Paul, you trolling crankbaits?”


“Catching any slabs?”


“Can I have your fish today?”


So Hugh met me under the shade tree at the boat ramp later that day. I had kept him a dozen slabs. You should have seen the look on ol’ Hugh’s face when he dug those huge, as big as they grow, fish out of my livewell. Shock, disbelief, awe — kind of looked like a kid on Christmas morning.

“Crankbaits, huh?”