Better Ways to Find and Catch Hot-Weather Crappie with Brad Whitehead
Editor’s Note: Brad Whitehead of Muscle Shoals, Alabama, a crappie-fishing guide on Pickwick Lake and the Bear Creek Watershed in northwest Alabama, uses a War Eagle 754 VS boat, designed by Roger Gant because it’s specifically set-up for side pulling, a form of trolling where the electric motor is placed on the side of the boat. Then instead of pushing the boat forward, the trolling motor is used to pull the boat sideways. With this form of trolling for crappie, three or four anglers can fish with their lines straight out in front of them, and each angler’s lure will travel through new water. Knowing how and where to find and catch crappie when the weather’s extremely hot is the number-one concern on most crappie fishermen’s minds this month. This week, Whitehead will tell us where to find hot-weather crappie and how to catch them.
Question: Brad, what rod, reel and line do you use at this time of year, and how do you use them to catch hot-weather crappie?
Whitehead: I’m fast-trolling and pulling nine rods with 1/4-ounce hair jigs tied on 8-pound-test line on each of them. My trolling motor is pulling the boat at 1.1 to 1.3 miles per hour, covering a large expanse of water in a short time. I prefer to start early in the morning and catch all the crappie I can before the weather gets so hot that my fishermen (clients) are uncomfortable. Even if the day’s flat and calm with 100-plus-degree temperatures, by side pulling, my fishermen can feel some breezes and still catch crappie.
Question: Where will you be fishing?
Whitehead: Late in the evening and at night, the baitfish the crappie feed on, which are primarily shad, pull-up out of the deep water and start feeding on flats. I fish Pickwick Lake, which has plenty of flats off the main river channel with a number of underwater stumps. Too, Pickwick still has the original structure that was in the lake before it was inundated. So, the crappie follow the shad and the baitfish up on the flats. The crappie usually can be found there early in the morning, until the weather gets hot and the sun rises high, forcing the crappie to go deep. Although 1.1- to 1.3-miles per hour is the most-productive trolling speed, I will vary my speed throughout the day to determine if the crappie have moved-up in the water column.
Question: Since most speedometers on a boat don’t register in increments more than 1-mile per hour, how do you keep up with the speed?
Whitehead: I use a GPS that gives me readings of speed in 1/10 of a mile per hour, which is extremely important when I’m trolling for crappie.
Question: What other equipment do you use when you’re fast trolling?
Whitehead: I use 8- and 9-foot B ‘n’ M The Difference rods, designed by Roger Gant, 8-pound-test Vicious line and bait-casting reels. I prefer to fish with bait-casting reels because they make measuring the lines and get the lines to the right depth for trolling on the day I’m fishing easier. For instance, when I look at the depth finder and notice that the bottom is at 16 feet, and the crappie are holding at 14 feet, I can pull in line off the bait-casting reel and measure it more quickly and easily than I can if I’m using a spinning reel.
Question: What jigs do you use for fast-trolling?
Whitehead: On each line, I’ll tie on two, 1/4-ounce hand-tied hair jigs.
Question: When you’re fast-trolling, do you catch any other species of fish?
Whitehead: Yes, I do. I’ll catch just about everything that swims, including largemouths, spotted bass, catfish, yellow bass and white bass.
Question: What size bass do you catch?
Whitehead: Two pounds is probably the largest bass I’ve caught when I’m fishing for crappie.
Tomorrow: Side-Pulling Crankbaits