Testing the waters

This nice Barnett slab was caught by Will Ferguson pulling crankbaits with his dad, Dee. Will and Dee are very competitive when they fish the tournament trail.

Experiment with new baits and see what works

I went to the lake this morning with my 10-year-old granddaughter, Harlee Johnson.

“H.B. (I call her by her first two initials a lot of the time), we’re going to pull some new-to-us crankbaits this morning,” I said. “They’re called Flicker Shads. They look like the shad that these Barnett crappie like to eat.”

“Papaw, what do the other baits we’ve been fishing with look like?” she asked. “Are shad blue and pink or green and yellow or red and chartreuse?”

“Well no, babe,” I replied. “The baits we’ve been catching crappie on don’t look anything like that they eat; we’ve just been fooling the fish with those crazy-looking lures. This morning we’re going see how these Flicker Shad work.

“Now look: I’ve got three different sizes of these Flicker Shad — a No. 5, a No. 6, and a No. 7. The No. 7 is the largest of the three and swims the deepest. We’ll put on two of each size to begin with and see which size they like best. You back Papaw and the boat into the lake, and then park the truck and trailer over there in the shade.”

I had heard about Flicker Shad from an out-of-state tournament team that won a Grenada event a couple of years ago pulling Flicker Shad.

So when I ran across them on sale while searching for some other stuff on Cabela’s website, I thought I’d give them a try.

Good, quality, name-brand cranks have gotten high. They want $6 and up for these things now. So, the $2.88 sales price with free shipping and no sales tax was just too good to pass up.

I ordered 75 of these baits, hoping they’d catch fish.

H.B. picked out our six colors, making sure we had two baits of each size. We tied them on, and the morning was under way.

Even before we could get all six lures in the water, we had our first bite.

“Look, Papaw, we’ve got a bite already!” my grandaughter said.

Harlee reeled in a nice little blue cat.

“Not exactly what we’re fishing for, but it’s a start, Papaw,” she said.

Then bam and bam-bam — we had two fish on.

H.B. reeled in a nice crappie, and I reeled in a small one.

“What size bait did they hit, H.B.?” I asked. “Turn the bait over and read what it says on the belly of the bait.”

“Uhh, No. 7, Papaw,” she said. “They both hit a No. 7.”

It wasn’t long until we got bit again.

“No. 7 again, Papaw,” Harlee informed me. “I think we need to be fishing No. 7s on the rest of these poles.”

She began reeling in the inactive rods. Smart girl; catches on quick wouldn’t you say?

So once we tied on all No. 7s, we got really busy.

“I’ve got another one, Papaw,” Harlee said. “Look you got a bite on, too!”

We didn’t fish long, but we caught a dozen or so crappie.

Harlee, a really good competitive swimmer, had swimming lessons today beginning at 10:30. So we quit at 10 and we ran over to the lakeside YMCA in the boat, where she met her cousin and aunt for the rest of the morning’s activities.

H.B. drove the boat, too.

Lure Review

The Flicker Shads caught fish. At least the No. 7s did.

All the baits in all three sizes ran true, requiring no fine tuning or on-the-lake adjustments. Something I just absolutely hate is a crankbait that won’t pull in a straight line.

We caught fish on every color we put out, I think.

The only thing I changed was the hooks. I’m a fanatic about red hooks, and the Flicker Shad comes with a funny-shaped bronze hook.

On the No. 7s, I put a size 6 in the front hook position and a size 8 on the tail. On the No. 6 and No. 5 lures, I used two size 8 hooks.

Braided line

I pull cranks with braided line. I buy a really inexpensive brand that I get on Ebay straight from China: Costs about a 10th of what I’d pay for similar-quality braid in the local stores.

I use braided line for a couple of different reasons.

First, it seems to last longer than mono. The action of the lure also is easier to detect at the rod tip with braid; I can tell real quick just by looking at the rod tip if the lure is working right or if it has fouled for some reason with braided line.

And I like the colors.

That is, I use different colors of braid on the same reel so I can tell exactly how far back my lures are and so that I can run them all at the same length behind the boat.

When I load a reel (and I use Abu Garcia Silver or Black Maxes only), I put forty handle turns of 10-pound mono on first as a filler. Then I reel on 99 feet of blue braid. Then I put on 99 feet of orange braid. Then I put 99 feet of yellow braid on.

Sometimes, if the braid I’m using is really skinny, I can get a fourth 99-foot section of braid on my reels.

I like 12- to 15-pound braid, and the diameter of these braid sizes is comparable to 4- and 6-pound mono, respectively.

Harlee and I ran into Dee and Will Ferguson out on the lake during our trip. They love to pull cranks, too, and were having a great morning until they found the stripers.

The first pass through these bigger fish demolished their crappie setup, cutting their morning a little short. Seven year-old Will started competing in MCC tournaments with his dad when he was 4. Not sure if Dee has taught him how to back the boat trailer yet.

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