Kevin Dahlke/Chad Peterson
Crappies in the spring and fall can be predictable as to their locations, as they prepare for the spring spawn as well as the fall feed. They use the same basic areas for each of these two seasons and once you figure out those trends, you can be prepared for each of these.
But, once the spawn is over, these fish seem to vacate these said areas and become the ghosts of the lake, as they seem to have moved to another. What does an angler do and how do they prepare in their search for some summer time crappies? Waters are warm, do the fish move deep or do they stay shallow?
If it isn’t evident, right away, that these fish are going to be easy to locate for catching purposes, an angler may choose to fish for another species and wait till those known seasons come along to go back to pursuing the crappie once again.
For those that are persistent in trying to fill their need to catching some crappie in the warmer summer months, where do those that succeed at catching them, find these fish and what are they using for getting them into the boat. There are many ways to fooling the crappie, and one way that we are going to look at is “Trolling” crankbaits for them.
In the summer months, the crappie will hold to the weed lines, which can be deeper or shallower depending on the area. Trial and error play a big role in finding out which weed lines are more productive than others and which different features in the weed lines, will help the cause as well.
Anywhere the weed lines make an abrupt turn or create a corner, these areas can hold fish on a regular basis, as they hold baitfish consistently there as well. Understanding your electronics and how the weed lines run, where they go as you follow the shorelines, a few passes through these areas will give you a good understanding as to where the fish are congregated.
For the trolling bait, using the 1” or 1 3/8” SALMO HORNET, these baits are of the smallest Hornet’s being offered and have a single treble hook that allows for getting through the weeds a bit easier. There are many colors that this bait comes in and after fishing it over different passes, keep changing the colors until you find the color combination that works for your waters on that given day.
Your fishing line weight will play a big part in how deep these lures will run, as the heavier the line weight that you use, the shallower the bait will go. Using a lighter line, this will allow the bait to go deeper with less resistance being trolled through the water. For fishing waters that you will be following the weed edges, 4 to 6-pound test will keep that bait at a good depth that relates to the zone the fish are hanging.
Rod selection does have importance for trolling these baits as well and the depths that they can be run at. For the rod selection, the St. Croix Triumph in the Medium Light action in 7’-0” or longer, allows for better control during the troll, as well as having the forgiveness in the action when the fish hits the bait.
When trolling with a few people in the boat at the same time, the longer rods work better for allowing those fishing the out sides of the boat, giving them more reach out away from the boat and, allowing you to control where the bait runs, versus the depths that you are trolling at. One side of the boat the bait will be running in shallower water than the other side of the boat.
Trolling speeds is something that needs to be figured out each time that you are out fishing as the fish relate differently as each day passes with varying weather conditions. Speeds are also related to how thick the weed edge is that you are trolling, as 0.7 MPH works well when the weeds are thicker, and 1.0 MPH works well when that edge of weeds are thinner.
If the weeds are on the thicker side, going to fast will drive the bait deeper into the weeds, causing the hooks to be filled with weeds constantly. By slowing the troll down, the bait won’t dive as deep and keeps the bait somewhat higher and that way it will be coming through more towards the tops of the weeds and staying more weed free.
If the type of weeds that you are trolling is on the thinner side, a higher trolling speed can be achieved and this in turn will allow you to cover more shoreline edges as well. You will have to experiment with the trolling speed and seeing what the fish are looking for and the color combination that they more desire.
You can set up your trolling patterns, to running the boat, so that the inside line is trolled just inside of the weed edges. Then the outside line, can be run in a little deeper water and it shouldn’t take long till the fish start dictating as to the depth range that they are preferring on that given day.
Weed types can play a role as to how the fish relate as well, which species are relating to which weed type and which types are more relatable. Weed types can consist of the stringy grass version, coontail and cabbage, most importantly for trolling weeds is that they are very green and healthy, as these types of areas are producing oxygen, cover as ambush locations and are attractants for the baitfish that these fish are seeking.
Trolling can seem either as something that looks easy to do or can be intimidating to some until that right combination of speed, bait color, line weight and rod action are matched up. Once you start getting the pieces all figured out and working together, there isn’t another way of fishing that can out produce on any given day.
Even though we are talking about targeting crappie with this technique, it will also catch a wide variety of fish species on each trolling pass. Other fish that are regularly caught doing this can be northern pike, bluegill, perch and of course bass. This is a great way of getting kids involved and catching some nicer fish, and they are going to want to go fishing with you more often.
Editors Note: The authors Kevin Dahlke & Chad Peterson are Salmo Field Ambassadors. They work closely together at Hook Set Media Outdoors by creating content, video, and articles for companies they partner with. Information can be found at: www.hsmoutdoorsllc.com