Fish the Right Depth for Crappie
Day 1: How Kent Driscoll Uses GPS to Find Open-Water Crappie
Editor’s Note: To catch crappie at any time of the year, you need to find the right depth to fish for them. Over the years, I’ve learned that fishing at the correct depth influences whether or not you catch more crappie more so than the kind, the sized and/or the color of bait you use. Last summer sweat streamed down my face as though I stood under a hot shower. My skin started turning the color of a red cherry, and the air I breathed felt as though it came from a blower under a hot Franklin wood-burning stove. I couldn’t believe Kent Driscoll of Cumming, Georgia, an avid crappie tournament angler, and I had caught so many crappie, particularly big ones, in that kind of weather. The air temperature had reached over 100 degrees, and no wind blew.
In July, most southern crappie fishermen and probably crappiers all over the nation prefer to spend their time sitting inside in the air conditioning, drinking iced tea and dodging the heat. But I’ve learned from Driscoll that crappie fishing doesn’t have to end when the crappie spawn does. Driscoll catches crappie all year in places where most crappie fishermen don’t fish. He’s learned that depth unlocks the mouths of crappie when they are not spawning.
“The two keys for catching crappie at almost any time of year, except during the spawn, is finding the bait fish and identifying the water depth where the bait fish are holding,” Driscoll explains. “The crappie will be holding generally within the same water depth as the bait fish. During the summer months, you may find the crappie suspended out in the middle of a lake where you see schools of bait fish. I carry two GPS units on my boat. On the front of the boat, I have a Garmin hand-held GPS receiver, and on the back of the boat, I have a GPS receiver built into my depth finder.”
The GPS receiver provides two functions for Driscoll. When he catches a crappie, he hits the MAN-OVERBOARD button on his GPS receiver to mark the exact location of where he’s caught the crappie. Crappie travel in schools, during the late spring, summer and early fall,” Driscoll explains. “So, most of the time when I catch a crappie in one location and mark that spot, then I’ll troll back through that same area and catch one or more crappie out of that same school.” Too, the GPS receiver enables Driscoll to determine the speed at which his jig travels when he catches the crappie. The speed the boat’s moving influences the depth of the jigs Driscoll trolls. Four factors determine how deep you troll a crappie jig, including:
- the weight of the jig itself
- the diameter of the line
- the amount of line let out and
- the speed the boat travels.
When you’re trolling jigs for crappie, knowing the speed at which you troll becomes difficult, because boat speedometers don’t show speeds of less than 1 mile per hour. However, a variance of 1/10 of a mile per hour in speed can raise or lower your jig enough to put it in or pull it out of the strike zone of the crappie. “To determine the speed at which I’m trolling, I watch my GPS receiver, which tells me within 1/10-mile how fast I’m going per hour,” Driscoll comments. “I can also look at my GPS receiver and see the speed the boat was traveling over that spot when I caught the fish. When I go back to that site, I can duplicate the speed and have my jig travel through the same water depth as it was when I caught the crappie.”
To learn more about crappie and how to fish for them from the masters of the sport, click here for “Crappie: How to Catch Them Spring and Summer, a new eBook from Amazon’s Kindle by John E. Phillips. Or, you can go to http://www.amazon.com/kindle-ebooks and type-in the name of the book to find it. You can also download a free Kindle app that enables you to read the book on your iPad, computer or SmartPhone.