Using New Electronics to Find Crappie
Written by Doug Wynn - Published on September 13, 2022
Hello from the Excel Storm Cat 230. Labor Day is gone, and better fishing is in our near future.
I’ve been on the lake a couple of times in the last few days trying out some new electronics. Humminbird came out with the Mega Live sonar several months ago. I have had it for months but haven’t found a way to work it into my guiding until they also came out with the Target Lock recently.
Boat control is the hardest thing to learn while using live sonar. The Storm Cat is much larger than most crappie or bass boats and boat control has given me fits until Target Lock. Target Lock allows me to find a target like a stake bed or stump that contains fish, lock Target Lock on the structure, use Spot Lock on my MinnKota Ultrex.
Then I use the I-Pilot Link features on the Ultrex to ease in close to that targeted structure while keeping the structure locked in on my Helix 12 locator screen. The boat will stay in place, the structure stays visible on my Helix, and I’m able to cast to or vertical jig the fish in the structure while watching it all on the Helix 12 like a video game.
Live sonar has revolutionized crappie fishing and is now starting to change bass fishing. Being able to find fish inside structure and watch those fish react to one’s bait and presentation is the stuff fishermen have only dreamed about in the past.
Now it is making many fishermen who used to struggle to take enough home for supper, be able to select the individual fish they wish to fish for and catch many more than in times past. Seeing a fish does not mean that fish wants to bite.
Watching a big crappie swim up to a minnow or jig, seem to sniff it, then swim off can be extremely frustrating. What most don’t realize is this is the situation that has been happening since the first bait was tied onto the first hook, but we are now seeing it in real time on the screen.
My time on the lake recently has found me learning how to use my new toys. I’ve had Garmin Livescope since it first came out, so the basic workings were already known. The Garmin and Humminbird operating systems are very different so only time in front of the screens is how one learns to use them.
The Humminbird system of Mega Live and Target Lock require many more actions since they are basically two different pieces of equipment. Most of my time that would have seen a bait in the water have seen me pushing buttons. I finally have the basics down and have customized it to my needs.
The crappie have still been sought. The bite late last week was good with many 8 to almost 10 inch crappie hammering my offerings. The future of our crappie fishery is very bright. The larger crappie were more apt to ease in to check my jigs before swimming off, unimpressed.
Some would follow the jig out of cover and several feet away from cover before hammering it. Vicki and I had our last skillet of crappie and fresh squash of the season. My big crappie was just over 15 inches and put up on heck of a fight. It then found me several feet from my net. Luckily my K9 Fishing Crappie Braid was tied to my jig as I swung it over the gunnel.
I found most of the crappie toward the mouths of bays among huge clouds of baitfish. The bays are as full of shad as we have seen in years. The larger crappie look like pre-spawn fish. They are really putting on the weight. This means healthy fish going into wintertime water temperatures. Healthy fish mean better spawns if conditions cooperate.
Sunday, we found some channel catfish of bragging size that wanted to DESTROY our jigs. When I pulled up a catfish head 6 inches wide on 5-pound braid on a 13 foot rod, I knew I was looking at a lucky fish. No way was I going to try to net one that size since we weren’t going to keep them anyway.
I let him pull the jig out and swim off, but it was a fun fight. Watching a fish that size come charging toward my jig on my screen was exciting.
Look for structure along breaks near deeper water. My target depth is around 15 feet. The surface temperatures Sunday were below 80 degrees for the first time I’ve seen since spring. Cooler water will start the migration of baitfish and game fish into shallower water.
The lake levels are around 355.5. It will come down another half foot or so. I dinged up my Suzuki stainless prop on ramp gravel while loading my boat Sunday. There are gremlins out there just waiting to do much more serious damage to the boats of those who don’t pay attention to their surroundings.
Cooler weather and much better fishing is in our near future. There are a bunch of just over 10-inch keepers as well as many big crappie out there. We should see some of our best fall fishing in recent memory.
Be careful out there! There is very little boat traffic many days so help could be slow to arrive should you need it. Wear those PFDs when you are above idle speeds. Consider carrying extra clothes as the water cools. A dunking now could be a serious situation soon. Help those who need help.
Welcome to our slice of Heaven!