Summer crappie fishing can be challenging. It’s hot, the bugs are out, the fish seem content not biting your best lure, there are lots of “weekender” boaters and jet skis everywhere, and did I mention it’s hot? On the other hand, smart crappie fishermen use what summer gives us to our advantage.

For one thing, the heat puts crappie on predictable patterns. Look, they don’t like the heat, either, and they will locate to the coolest places they can find close to schools of shad. Whether that cool spot is only a foot or 2 deep under a shaded stump or close to springs and other cooler incoming water or just above the thermocline, crappie are easier to locate in the hot summer than at other times of the year.

And, I don’t know about you, but I can get my summertime fishing in from sunup till about mid-morning and avoid a heat stroke.

Nothing says I have to fish right in the middle of the hottest time of the day.

Cranking on the Rez

I’ve got to tell you about a recent trip on Barnett Reservoir. Tommy Moss, my crappie tournament partner, and I took Hunter McKay, a third-grader from Brandon, fishing a few mornings ago.

Hunter’s Great-Grandpappy, Jim McKay, and I had taken Hunter on several trips beginning when Hunter was 5 years old.

Both Tommy and I had been tournament partners with Jim prior to his death two Christmas mornings ago, and if any of you have been reading my stuff in the rag, you’ll recall some of my favorite Jim McKay stories and pictures. Jim was a special friend to Tommy and me, and we were looking forward to putting Hunter in the boat with us.

The day we picked was not the best: A brisk south wind had the Rez rocking and rolling when we got there just after dawn. We put a life jacket on Hunter, and Tommy watched over him on the back deck while I managed the boat the best I could with the trolling motor from the front deck.

Right off the bat — first bite of the morning — Hunter almost went all the way in. In his excitement to grab the first trolling pole, he forgot to stop walking, and Tommy grabbed him by the collar just as his feet were getting wet.

"Alright, Johnson, it’s your turn next time," Tomy said. "Go ahead and empty your pockets. Lay your phone, watch and wallet out on the deck so it won’t get wet. The next time Hunter walks off the back deck I’m not going in after him. You’ll have to get him."

"Okay, bud, but you’ll have to drive the trolling motor," I said.

We fully expected Hunter to get all the way wet before we got back to the bank — it was such a rough day. But, it didn’t seem to bother Hunter.

"Mr. Paul, this deep-sea crappie fishing is awright!" Hunter exclaimed as he reeled in another slab. "I like being in the fighting chair."

We were trolling cranks off the back deck — six poles altogether — and Hunter was responsible for keeping up with all six and reeling in the fish.

We fished for a little less than an hour and a half, and when we finally got back to the parking lot and counted Hunter’s fish, he’d caught 19 really good ones. Going through them, Hunter declared, "I claim this one!"

"Hunter, they’re all yours. You caught them all."

"Naw, I mean I claim this one for supper tonight!"

Tommy and I learned from his Grandmother Pam that he’d learned to speak up or get left out when the dinner bell rang, especially if there was fish or game on the table.

Not long after that, I fished with Brian Broom, outdoors writer and editor for the Clarion Ledger. Brian and I had a great day catching some big striped bass and hybrid striped bass.

We started out looking for Hunter’s crappie, but the stripes had moved in so we just kept fishing and catching.

Shoot, we left them biting. We were cut up, worn out and just plain tired of catching one right after another. Great sport, friend.

Nothing else that weighs 6 pounds or more in the Reservoir gives you such a fight. Brian stated that he thought we probably caught 20 or so. Man, it felt like I’d caught 20 by myself during the two or three hours that we battled them.

Great day, either way.

Cranking on the Rez can produce crappie, stripes, catfish and an occasional largemouth. All are fun to catch. Makes you want to come back again and again.

Don’t worry, Hunter, Mr. Tommy and I are planning another trip for you where you can catch them as big as they grow, as long as you want.

Just take a few swimming lessons between now and then, will ya?