May shouldn’t be dismissed

Winners of MCC’s tournament stop No. 8 were Keith Simpson and Monty Blount, whose best seven fish weighed 16.44 pounds.

Experiment with different crappie techniques

Can you believe it? It’s May, and, in most places in Mississippi, the crappie spawn is over. Elvis has left the building!

Or, has he?

I used to hate crappie fishing in May. Seems I could never find the post-spawn critters, and the few I did find were either flat-bellied females or completely worn-out males — no big fish for me in May, just little-bitty worn-out throw backs. I hated May; proclaimed it the absolute worst month to crappie fish — No. 12 out of 12, the bottom of the barrel, find something else to do in May. Hell, catch up on your yard work.

Now, that’s bad.

Not any more, friend. I’ve learned how to catch the good ones in May. Last year, it was one of my very best months for consistent, day-after-day limits of good-sized crappie.

“What happened?” you ask. What changed my rating for May from dead-damned-last to now one of my top 3 months to crappie fish?

Shoot, man, I just learned how and where to fish in May.

Here’s one important lesson: Post-spawn crappie scatter.

They are no longer on predictable patterns like they are during the prespawn and spawning seasons. That means you have to cover more area of surface water to find “holding areas” for the good fish.

Why, darn near anyone can catch a mess of crappie when they’re biting and in predictable, well-known spawning grounds.

Believe it or not, although I love to catch crappie any time, catching limit after limit of April spawners just doesn’t hold the same appeal. The thrill is gone. It’s just too easy.

And, from my perspective, there are too many part-timers — once-a-year fishermen — on the water, taking up space in the parking lot and endangering folks, including themselves, on the water with their less-than-adequate boat-handling skills and knowledge of danger zones that exist on every lake.

Now I refuse to fish on the weekends during the height of the crappie spawn. I must be getting old or something.

Where to go, what to do in May

Back to catching crappie this month. Last May, I put the minnow poles and the jig poles down, and started cranking for crappie. I was amazed at the results. It’s taken me a couple of years of trial and error, but I’ve gotten the cranking for crappie technique down, friend.

In fact, now my crappie tournament partner, Tommy Moss, will tell you that I’d rather be pulling crankbaits any time of the year than minnow fishing or jig fishing.

Indeed our “cranking windows” are different. Tommy still thinks cranking is for summer months only. I, on the other hand, find cranking productive at least nine of the 12 months of the year — maybe, 10 out of 12 months.

The only tournaments this season (which started in September and runs through June) where I didn’t argue the point about pulling crankbaits was at Sardis in February and Grenada in March.

Our April tournament was held on Arkabutla, and at the time of this writing (which is pre-Arkabutla), Tommy and I are still arguing about which poles to load in the boat. Because of the great success we’ve had in the past on Arkabutla, I’m pretty sure we’ll be using No. 12-size minnows — that’s as big as they grow, folks — and 3/0 hooks.

But, I’d still like to take a practice day and run some shallow cranks in areas where we ordinarily minnow fish on ’Butla. I might smuggle a crank or two onto the boat before we head north.

In May, I’ll be pulling crank baits exclusively. I like mid-range (6 to 10 feet) runners this month. Mississippi-based Bandit 200s are hard to beat. And, I must say that I became a real Bomber Model 4a fan last May.

Match colors of the lures to the color of the water. One new appreciation I gained last year was the versatility of white lures in all types of water and lighting conditions.

But if I only had three colors I could use regardless of the water, weather or lighting conditions, I’d be sure to have white, orange and chartreuse somewhere in the boat with me this month.

I’ve learned that trolling speed can be as essential to getting it right as lure selection. Manage your trolling speed using some sort of GPS system. That’s not such a big deal any longer. GPS units come in lots of sizes and varieties from wristband units to fish finders with GPS built in. Shoot, now, the newest trolling motors have GPS in them, making the trolling motor easy to put on cruise control to maintain that “just right” speed and lure presentation.

Experiment with different speeds when you pull cranks — from 1 mph to 2 mph — and 10ths matter. There is a huge difference between 1.4 mph and 1.7 mph.

Speed influences everything from running depth and action of the lure to the reaction time you give a crappie to bite that crankbait. Experiment with your speed, and be precise.

And fish where the fish are.

In May in Mississippi, I think locating bait fish is a key to finding crappie. Other important factors include finding and fishing drops, submerged creeks and ditch banks.

But, remember that you’re going to have to cover a lot of water. That’s why pulling crankbaits will give you a whole new perspective on catching post-spawn crappie as big as they grow.

By the time you read this little ditty, I’ll be pulling crankbaits at Enid’s $100,000 World Record Crappie Tournament (May 4). This is an open event, and, if the fine promoters from the Water Valley Main Street Association run the show the same as they did last year, everyone will be fishing for the guaranteed $100,000 world-record prize plus the Top 15 places that Magnolia Crappie Club pays at every one of our tournaments.

Last year, the event brought out nearly 60 teams. Come join the fun. I can tell you that we caught more fish at Enid last year than at any other lake we’ve ever fished.

Long-time tournament competitor David Thornton of Eagle Lake declared, “Paul, Shelton and I caught at least 200 fish today,” at last year’s weigh-in. “Culling down to the legal limit and then culling to our best seven tournament fish was a job, man — a real job!”

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