North country crappies: Tactics for the slabs of summer
I’m hearing lots of comments and questions about the big crappies of summer. Despite negative chatter among some anglers, these fish absolutely are catchable in July and August.
Yes, locating suspended crappies in the summer poses some challenges, but once you find them, you’ve won 50 percent of the battle of catching these important fish.
First, understand that crappies can move up to four miles in a day, so they may not be where you found them yesterday. Begin your search over sunken islands and other areas with structure. They’ll move into these spots to feed early morning and late evening. During the day, these slabs remain catchable. They’ll often suspend off rock piles, sunken islands, or near structure.
Look for areas with some algae or weed growth, which ignites the food chain by attracting zooplankton, then minnows, and then gamefish like crappies. On some bodies of water, especially clear bodies of water, check deep weedlines – around the edge.
Use a liquid crystal graph to locate these crappies. Mark them, but remember that they’ll move during a given day. To avoid spooking these sensitive fish, seldom will I anchor. If you do find a legit school, anchor on the outside edge and cast to them.
As for rod, line, and tackle, I use 4-pound-test fluorocarbon line in tandem with a long, 7-foot-plus light-action walleye rod. A long rod allows us to target more pinpointed areas while also accomplishing longer casts. It also helps us secure good hooksets with the all-powerful center portion of our rod.
Use a light-action spinning reel rated for 4- to 8-pound-test line. Such a reel, instead of ultralight, larger spool, means less coiling and friction, so more distance casting-wise.
And lures? Jigspins are very productive all summer, either trolled or cast. Also, hair jigs, tube jigs, and jig-and-plastic combos deliver summer after summer.
In a tough bite, tip your plain jig with a minnow. Plastics alone often will perform for active fish. With neutral fish, I employ a dressing with a minnow. Always err on the side of going too small with a jig, but 1/16-ounce is a good average.
If you have fish behaving somewhat aggressive, using live bait is just wasting time because you’re constantly changing bait. Stick with scent plastics if you can.
Be careful not to overpower or underpower you jig. One that’s too heavy with a small plastic will put twist in line and look unnatural. Same thing can occur with a light jig and too-heavy plastic.
Finally, I troll for crappies in summer using a livebait rig. Start with a snell length of 4 feet, then use a bottom-walking sinker. Three-way rigs are a legitimate slab option, too.
Finally, crappies are sight feeders, and they can distinguish color 15 feet away. Always start at the top of the school when working these fish, never at the center. Launching in the middle of slabs with your presentation will spook them.
Good luck catching crappies during these long days and evenings of July and August.