Old-timers may not like it, but progress is part of life. Heck, if my dad still had his way, he'd have me out in the fields harvesting and threshing grain stalks by hand.

Even if we had an International Harvester, he'd have it parked in the barn afraid I would break it by pressing the buttons.

New ways of doing things - like harvesting grain with a combine rather than hand - are a fact of life. And while new ways of doing things often doom entire workforces, the opportunity to retrain and advance is what keeps us pushing forward.

I'm not sorry the invention of the telephone put all those telegraph operators out of work because they retrained as switchboard operators and probably went on to have better lives.

If the old ways were good enough, they wouldn't be the old ways.

Take Grenada crappie guide Brandon Fulgham for example. He's spent countless hours catching crappie by drifting shallow water with a jig pole in each hand. One drift. Two poles. Two jigs.

He just knew he was leaving fish behind, so he started experimenting, reading and learning. Through the use of an infinite number of resources and advancing fishing technologies, he started figuring out how to fish in such a way that he became confident that he was catching every single crappie that was going to bite.

Combining crappie he calls it. And just like that big old International Harvester doesn't leave anything but stubble in the field, combining crappie doesn't leave much behind.

"When crappie get in shallow water, you can mop them son of a guns up with single jigs as long as you've got a big spread of poles and cover a lot of water," Fulgham said. "All you're really doing is pushing a big spread of poles out the front of your boat with a single jig under each one."

But like teeth at the front of a combine, an unbroken line of jigs pushing through whatever they come across is sure to make quick work of the situation. Whatever a combine comes across is harvested and threshed. Whatever Fulgham comes across while combining crappie is caught and cooked.

Fulgham and his guiding and tournament partner Patrick Stone combine crappie during the spawn when the fish are in shallow water. Some of their earliest successes with the technique came on lakes Grenada and Enid.

The water had been low, and grass grew to the point that it matted out on the surface. After the water came up enough to cover that mat, Fulgham and Stone knew it was still there even though they couldn't see it. They also knew the crappie would spawn in that grass.

"The water was only 4 feet deep, and the top of the grass mat was down 2 feet," Fulgham recalled. "We couldn't fish a double-minnow rig because we would have stayed hung all the time, so we rigged up with single 1/4-ounce single-hook jigheads, placed the poles in rod holders and started pushing those jigs over that grass mat."

As they pushed forward, their jigs would bog down in grass from time to time, which would pull the tips of their poles down. Under increasing pressure from the forward momentum of the boat, the jigs eventually popped out of the grass. When they did, the crappie just killed them.

To begin, Fulgham and Stone check a lake's regulations to figure out how many poles they can have out. They've fished as many as 10 poles, but they more typically stick with eight poles - four on each of the two front rod holders. At a lake like Grenada where they are limited to only three poles per person, they obviously stick with six total poles.

Their personal preference is to set their poles so that their rod tips are as close to the water as they can get them. Eight inches seems to be about right, as anything higher than that makes it more difficult to tell when they are getting bites. They feel they are more apt to see a bite when they are looking down at their rod tips.

"We also want our baits bumping off stuff like cypress knees and grass, so we try to set them as close to the bottom as possible without having them drag," Stone said. "All we do to keep our baits in the right zone is to take up and let out line as needed according to the water depth."

Since many of Mississippi's lakes run a little murky this time of year when crappie are in shallow water, Fulgham and Stone rig their lines with Southern Pro Umbrella Tubes. These particular tubes have more tentacle tails than body, and Fulgham believes the extra large tails pulsate in such a way to make these jigs more easily found in stained water.

Other than the importance of the tail's vibration, the fishing partners like to use dark colors in dark water and bright colors in clear water.

"It's actually the opposite of what you think you need to use," Stone said. "Just about the only color we use in murky water this time of year is black/chartreuse - kind of the best of both worlds. It's dark and bright."

The anglers thread these jigs onto different-weight jigheads based on the conditions. If crappie are acting a little finicky in a post-cold front situation, they lighten up. If the fish are really active as shown by how they are grabbing and running with the jigs, they aren't opposed to rigging up with a weight up to 3/4 ounce.

All electronics in the boat are turned off, too. Fulgham explained fish-finder transducers tend to emit a clicking noise that can sometimes spook shallow crappie.

If they could get away without running the trolling motor, they would, but they feel that keeping it turned down very low and using it sparingly combined with no electronic noise gives them enough stealth to move through 2 1/2 to 5 feet of water without spooking the fish too badly.

After positioning all their poles out the front of their boat, Fulgham and Stone methodically push their spread of baits forward at about 0.2 or 0.3 miles an hour. They try to leave the trolling motor off more than on, but they will bump it on and off to keep their momentum barely moving forward.

"We try to move slow enough so that our lines are hanging straight down," Fulgham explained. "Don't move so fast that your jigs can't keep up because you definitely don't want a big sweep in your line as you move forward. If that happens, you're baits aren't running at the depth you need them to be. They'll be running shallower than what you expect."

A GPS at the front of their boat helps Fulgham and Stone stay on track as they methodically move around a shallow flat. By tracking on long lines from deep to shallow, they are assured that they have effectively presented their jigs to every crappie on a flat.

"Most of the time we look for some kind of ditch, a swag or some kind of contour on bottom," Fulgham said. "Maybe a hollow with a creek coming out of it. The fish come and get on the sides of those contours where they will bed up. Find these kinds of structures with your GPS, and then start running parallel to the sides."

As they make parallel lines back and forth, they move progressively closer to the structure. Their GPS shows the lines they have made, and each line shows their approach to the structure. They hit the fish ID button when they catch a fish, and when several of those icons show up on the same line, they make repeated passes on that particular line.

"Because we're in shallow water, the crappie really don't have the depth to run from us," Fulgham said. "And hopefully we don't leave any fish behind. This technique isn't just for the bigger lakes like Grenada and Enid, though. It will work well in the Delta lakes, too. Lake Washington and Wolf Lake are two good examples."

The thing about harvesting and threshing grain by hand nowadays is that it might offer a little nostalgia for a little while. The same could be said for grabbing a single jig pole and fishing shallow water.

However, farmers who really want to get something done turn to their combines to get more done in less time.

If you're looking to get more done in less time the next time you're on the water, don't bury your head in the sand. The world is moving on around you, and the only way to keep up is to change with the times.

Combining crappie would be a good place to start.

Contact Brandon Fulgham with North Mississippi Guide Service at 662-809-6874.