Pushing crankbaits for crappie

Old dogs can learn new tricks

One of the great things at my age is trying something new. And, believe me, at my age it’s hard to come up with something new — something that I haven’t tried before.

You all know how I love to pull crankbaits to catch crappie, right? In January, I tried something new: pulling cranks.

I caught 75 or so crappie pulling cranks at Okatibbee on tournament day. Nothing new about that, except that it was January and the surface temp was 47 degrees — not 74 degrees.

In the past, I would have told you not to waste your time pulling crankbaits until the surface temp moved above 60 degrees.

But, hey, I tried it — slowed my speed to 1.1 mph from the usual 1.5-plus mph — and it worked.

Fast forward to a Magnolia Crappie Club tournament in March on Grenada. The conditions were awful. The lake came up more than 9 feet in four days.

And it got muddy — brother, can you spell m-u-d-d-y? I’ve never seen a lake so muddy, and to add to our fishing misery, the wind howled above 20 mph all day.

By now you have probably seen and heard that Grenada Lake is ranked as the No. 1 crappie lake in the entire country.

Trust me, even under the most terrible fishing conditions, we found a way to put fish in the boat. The heaviest seven-fish stringer went more than 17 pounds, and the Big Mama was well over 3 pounds.

And, on one of the practice days, my fellow competitors made fun of my taking off my minnow-fishing rigs (after a day of catching the limit on minnows) to tie on crankbaits. They took a couple of jabs at the insanity of trying something new.

Nothing new about my pulling crankbaits 90 to 100 feet behind the boat, but now I was convinced that I needed to try pushing cranks on very short string in front of the boat in very shallow water.

My thought process went kind of like this: The fish are in really shallow water, but they are not everywhere in shallow water.

If I push cranks using 4 or 5 feet of line under my 16-foot trolling rods at 1.1 mph, I can cover a lot more shoreline and determine where the most fish are living.

Never mind that the water is very, very muddy and the fish probably can’t see my lures. But, the high winds won’t affect my ability to catch fish as much as it would if I were slow-trolling minnows.

So, I just laughed right along with my tournament pals as I took off my minnow hooks and tied on bright-orange and red shallow-running crankbaits.

And, it worked, friend.

Look I was as surprised as my parking-lot buddies, but I truly loved trying something for the first time and seeing it work. It was a lot of fun.

Using 4 feet of 10-pound mono, I tied on my crankbait first. Then 15 to 18 inches above that I placed a 1-ounce egg sinker.

Loop your line through the egg sinker four times to prevent it from moving on you.

Above that, on the top end of the leader, I tied on a crane swivel. That rig was then tied to the braided line coming off my 16-foot-long trolling poles.

And, no, the 1-ounce weight did not bury my rod tip when placed in the front trolling rod holders. I have some new 16-footers that are the stiffest I’ve found.

Look: I get no freebies from anyone. So when I tell you that the Wally Marshall 16 -footers manufactured by Lew’s Rod Company suit me, you can trust that I am telling you true.

One thing I take seriously about when writing this column is that I won’t let paid endorsements make it into my space. I can honestly say I’ve never written about any free product received from manufacturers looking for endorsement and publicity.

Frankly, past a few free packs of jig skirts that every other tournament entrant got up at Reelfoot Lake at a Crappiemasters tournament a few years ago, I can’t think of any free stuff coming my way.

Well, OK, a tournament fishing buddy of mine gave me a couple of planer boards earlier this year that had been given to him, insisting that I try them. I told him I didn’t know how to use planer boards, and that they probably wouldn’t get wet.

But, hey, that might be my next newest thing to try.

Brother, the point is that I pay for my stuff, just like you do. Now, I admit that I got those 16-footers at a one heck of a good deal from Academy Sports. I went in looking for a stiff 16-footer and found the Lew’s rod on the rack, shook it a few times, liked the feel and stuck the bar code under the price scanner.

BAM: Just like that, those $80 rods turned into $32 rods.

I flagged down a stock clerk and asked her to double-check the price.

“Yes, sir, the price is $31.98 each,” she said.

“How many of these do you have in stock,? I asked.

She checked and told me there were 10 available.

“I’ll take all of them, if you can find them,” I replied.

And, friend, that was one of the best deals I’ve run into in a long while.

So, my Grenada tournament partner — Chad Thompson from Pasha Lake, Canada, who was in Mississippi on a church mission trip — and I pushed crankbaits in 3 to 6 feet of water and had a blast catching ’em as big as they grow.

We pushed those cranks at 1.1 mph, covering lots and lots of shoreline. And, it seemed that practically every time I changed direction to miss a stump or follow the bottom contour we got bit.

Those Grenada slabs just couldn’t resist those bright-orange crankbaits when they darted one way or another.

Chad’s a real sport. Speaks Canadiam — “’ay.” Here’s a plug for you: If you want to go bear hunting or catch a walleye, check out www.pashalake.com. Tell Chad I sent you.

Hey, it’s a new technique — pushing crankbaits. It works. Try it.

Now where’s that crankbait sales representative. I need to work out a deal with him.

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