Phase II: The Spawn
Many of you probably already know about the spawn and are taking advantage of the easy catching and filling live wells full of fish! I love this time of the year, crappie are on the banks spawning, turkey hunting, and mushrooms are popping up. All of this great action seems to happen all at once and the window of opportunity is never long enough! This is a great time to get outdoors and get the kids some fresh air!
So, you may be wondering what you need to be doing and where you need to go to catch the crappie… or maybe you’re just a seasonal angler looking for a new way. Since most of us are from the Mark Twain Lake area, I will refer to it as our source for Crappie.
Many techniques can be used to catch crappie this time of year. The first one is an ultra light pole, some 6lb test line, a bobber and minnow hook. You can not go wrong using minnows for bait. I hook my minnow through the bottom of the mouth and comes out through the top of the head right between the eyes, but be sure not to get too far back because you can kill the minnow and it will not do the job as well. Most of the Crappie you will catch will be males, if you’re fishing right next to the bank in shallow water. Depending on the water temp, time of day and water clarity, will determine where the fish are. For example: Lets say it’s 60 degrees, little muddy water and early afternoon… I would take my bobber rig and go into the back of a cove and cast up next to the bank. There are so many factors and details that play into this. So, if I am fishing the bank, that means my bobber will not be set more than 6 inches from my hook.
Next method is a single 10 inch pole by Jenko, Kevin Rodgers signature series, with a cheap reel just to hold the line. On this set up, I use 15-20 pound braid line, Power Proline is my choice but there are many others to choose from. When doing this technique, I use a 1/8 ounce ProBuilt Jig Head. In my opinion, color is not a huge factor this time of year. I will dress my ProBuilt Jig with a black chartreuse, 2 inch rubber bait of choice, and there are many styles and brands to choose from. Using a 10 inch pole allows me to flip up next to the bank and work my bait back to me covering different depths of water as it also keeps the boat further off the bank. I can also cover water faster and fish laydowns and brush quicker. Crappie love cover! Crappie will be on the bank or 10 feet off the bank or in between. It is just one of those things where you just have to find them. With this method, we are taking the bait to the crappie and getting reaction of bites. Male crappie become protective over crappie beds and eggs from the female. The females move in, lay eggs, and move out. The males stand their guard.
The next method is spider rigging and it can still be used during this time, especially if they are just off the banks. Spider rigging?? What is that? The way we do it is, 8 poles, 2 guys (or gals) off the front of the boat. These poles are 16 feet long Ozark Rods and we have a rod holder for each pole to sit in. We would use a double or a single rig, which is two hooks per line or 1 hook per line depending depth of water. We use a variety of baits from minnow, to Thumper Jigs and ProBuilt jigs tipped with a minnow( I do not recommend this for a beginner). If you’d like to try it, go with someone who has the equipment or experience, or you can call Kenny Wilkinson at Wilkee’s Crappie Guide and tell him you want to go spider rigging. His number is (573) 822-8680.
So lets recap on what you need to do to do to find crappie: head into a cove with steeper banks that have pea gravel or smaller rock, and look for tree laydown and brush next to the bank. Start shallow and work your way off the bank. The upper parts of the lake (north fork, otter, middle fork, south fork) will spawn first and then move down the lake. Yes, the whole lake does not spawn at the same time, so if your favorite spot is not working, be patient because it still may be early. Muddy water will bring them closer to the bank. Fifteen crappie is the limit per person each day. Mark Twain Lake does not have a length limit.
The pro tip of the month is from Mr. Ronnie Capps. I sent him a message and he responded with: “Mark, I have plenty I can share, but to be specific about spawning, after the male white crappie start to color up from hormone rush and being in shallow water to camo themselves, I like to tip my jig with wax worms. I typically wad three, four or five up at a time and always keep them fresh. They work very well during the spawn, but the attraction goes away after the males start to lose their color. It is usually late June in West Tennessee.” Mr. Capps and his life long partner, Steve Coleman are legends in the crappie world and have won more tournaments than anyone out there. They just recently won 1st place on the American Crappie Trail on Ross Barnett Lake, which makes that 2 years in a row! Get on YouTube and type in “American Crappie Trail” to check them out.
Good luck, Happy fishing and as always, take a kid fishing!