Doug Wynn: Get Your Gear Together Now!
Welcome from the tan Excel Bay Pro 203 "Fishful Thinking".
In my previous article, I touched on things one could do to get ready for spring fishing while the weather is not fit to be on the lake. I get calls, texts, and private messages on forums about what tackle and gear I would suggest for a beginner to get started in crappie fishing.
A large percentage of my guide trips are folks who want to see what the crankbaits for crappie is all about, especially after the "crappie spawn" when many fishermen gear up for other species or put the fishing gear up till fall or next spring.
I enjoy many different techniques for catching crappie but as a guide, I have to be realistic as to the fact that many folks who step in my boat really won't have a clue about ANY technique. Many folks will be total novices or haven't picked up a pole in years.
I had the pleasure a couple of years ago to take a husband and wife team from Illinois. The husband had called and asked if I could help his wife catch her first fish ever. Now, this lady was well past 60 and had been on some big-time fishing trips in Alaska and other exotic locations but had always come up short of tallying a fish in the boat. I told her husband I would try my best but there are zero guarantees in fishing.
After the introductions and my explanation of what we would be doing to catch crappie and why, we headed out a short run to start the day. After an hour of my best tactics, we were still without a fish in the boat. The lady asked me if I had ever had a day without any fish. I told her no and today was not going to be that day.
Shortly after she caught the first keeper of the day and her life - a nice 12-inch black crappie. OH MY GOSH!! You'd thought she had hit the lottery! There were smiles all over and a bunch of pictures. One of those is proudly displayed on my web site. The rest of their booked time plus about three more hours additional time were spent catching several nice crappie and bass.
The smiles and hugs made it a great day.
Now that I've set up my reason for doing what I do and why, we need to get into what gear works for me. I'm not going to make this a commercial or say that my gear is better than other gear on the market, it is just what I've found works for me and my clients.
I use rod holders mounted to my boat for 95% of the fishing I do. I've found trolling is a relaxing way to fish and very productive from early spring until late fall. It is also easy for inexperienced anglers to learn quickly. My rod holders are made by HiTek Stuff. They are strong but very versatile. By installing extra bases all up and down the sides of my Excel, I can move the holders and use them for not only holding the rods and poles while we fish, but also hold the extra poles I have along.
I couldn't find the rod storage racks I needed for my Bay Pro so I built my own. After trial and error, I came up with a design that allowed me to attach my holders to the sides of the HiTek uprights. My design caught the eye of Mark Ridl from Cornfield Crappie Gear and he asked if I minded him putting the design into his production and product line.
For my long poles for longline trolling, power trolling, or pushing/pulling crankbaits I depend on Southern Crappie Rods. I use their poles and rods from six feet to 16 feet. They are made of Kevlar and are tough as nails. They are only available on their web site.
My shorter rods I use for the back of the boat are a mixture of several different brands. I prefer a medium to medium heavy 6-7 foot bass rod with a trigger grip and cork straight handle.
My spinning rods for redears and casting for crappie are also a mixture of brands but I do prefer a 5-7 foot ultra-light to medium light action rod. My spinning reels are also a mixture of brands but I do prefer a reel that will hold 100 yards of six-pound test line.
I also keep some push-button spincast reels in the boat for those who are not comfortable using a spinning reel. One word on spin-cast reels - a late, great friend of mine, David Coursey, was one of the best redear fishermen I've ever known. He used a Zebco Pro-Z02 spincast reel with a 3.0-1 gear ratio. They are pricey but the best bluegill/redear reels on the market.
I use Okuma Magda15 and Shakespeare ATS line-counter reels for my trolling crankbait fishing. The line-counter feature lets me be exact in the depth I am running a particular bait. I use the Precision Trolling Data app on my I-Phone to know what depth a huge variety of baits will run at a particular speed and with a particular line. I know that sounds complicated but if you ever use it, you will wonder how you ever did without it.
For line, I like the Vicious or Bass Pro Off-Shore hi-vis yellow 6-8 pound test for longline trolling and casting light jigs. On my line-counter reels, I use Trilene Big Game 12-pound test Solar Collector Green exclusively. Many sources will tell you to use 10-pound test when trolling crankbaits but they are talking about deeper lakes with little to no bottom cover. Kentucky and Barkley are full of natural and man-made structure that will reach out and grab crankbaits on a regular basis. I find the 12-pound Big Game lets me recover twice as many hung-up baits than 10-pound test line will.
While on line, I'll drop a secret if you agree to keep it under your hat - ditch the high visability line when fishing for bluegills or redears. Clear or low-vis green line will improve your catch a bunch. I found that out the hard way. Trust me.
I use a wide variety of crankbaits depending on the conditions and areas I want to fish. A new bait that just hit the market that has been amazing in the numbers of big crappie we have been catching is the new PICO INT Series crankbaits. They will be showing up on sporting goods shelves this spring.
Crappie baits will number on the gazillions if you look around. Jigs and jig heads are up to you and your preference. I do use a pony head or "roadrunner" type spinner jig head much of the time when trolling. I use 1/8 ounce and 1/16 ounce jigheads most of the time. I might go to a 1/4 oz if I need to run a larger plastic bait and deeper. I always keep a big selection of the removable type split-shot weights in case I need to customize the weight of my bait or the depth.
When I'm spider rigging or trolling very slow, I like the "Snake-in-da-brush" weights from Podunk Ideas. They are locally produced and will improve the number of hung minnow or jig rigs you hang up and get back.
This article will just lightly touch on what gear I use and own. My wife swears our garage contains more tackle than the local big-box store carries. I'm sure many of you can relate. I hope you read something that will make you a better fisherman. Nothing compares to time spent on the lake. If I can help you get your new gear together to try some new-to-you tactics, shoot me an e-mail. It's listed on my web site. I prefer no calls unless it is for bookings.
Get that gear ready. I'm hearing some rumblings from those who have been brave enough to endure the rotten weather and have caught some decent crappie. I hope to have my first on-the-lake report of the year in a few days.
Welcome to our slice of Heaven.
Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to all affected by the horrible shootings at Marshall County High School.
157 Chase Loop
Benton KY 42025