John's Journal... Entry 85, Day 1
Keep Up with the Crappie's Movement
EDITOR'S NOTE: I now know why anglers consider Weiss Lake near Centre, Alabama, on the Alabama/Georgia border, the Crappie Capital of the World and why Steve Pope of Centre, Alabama, ranks as one of the best guides anywhere. Pope has guided on Weiss Lake for 13 years and knows the water and the fish there like the back of his hand. His crappie-fishing techniques radically will change your ideas if you fish structure. This week, Weiss Lake's Crappie King will share his secrets for trolling, choosing a jig, locating fish and catching a limit of colossal crappie at Weiss Lake.
From Steve Pope, I've learned a very successful key to crappie fishing. During the prespawn, you have to keep up with the movement of crappie throughout the day. "As water and weather conditions change throughout the day, the fish move higher and lower in the water," Pope explained. "The crappie in the prespawn move more shallow as the day gets warmer. If you catch fish in 6-feet-deep water in the morning and continue to fish 6-feet-deep all day long, you may not catch any crappie in the afternoon."
Using his depth finder to locate schools of crappie, Pope trolls the handmade jigs his wife Cheryl makes through the water column that holds most of the fish. He also watches his trolling motor speed indicator.
"The speed at which you troll determines the depth at which your jigs run," Pope stated. "You can increase or decrease your boat speed and keep your jigs in the water depth where the crappie hold. Once you determine the water depth and the trolling speed you need, you can catch crappie all day at Weiss."
A master at interpreting his depth finder when he's out fishing, Pope has learned that when he's fishing in a bay where crappie spawn at this time of year and doesn't see crappie on his depth finder, he'll discover the fish either extremely shallow or very deep.
"If the crappie hold into 1-1/2-feet of water, you won't see them on your depth finder because they move out of the way of the boat," Pope reported. "So, when I don't spot crappie on the depth finder, I increase the speed of my troll to put the jigs in that 1 to 2 feet of water to catch the crappie I can't see."
Too, sometimes you can't see crappie against the bottom. In the spring, if Pope fishes shallow and doesn't catch crappie, he'll slow down his trolling speed to make his jigs float right off the bottom. "When the crappie hold against the bottom, you can't see them on the depth finder," Pope commented. "They're there, and you can catch them, but you just can't see them."
Pope also explains the number of fish he catches in an unusual way. On the day we fished together, three of us caught 40 crappie, according to Pope's count. However, in actuality, we caught 160 fish -- releasing all the throwbacks. Pope only counts the number of crappie of legal size (10 inches or more) that go into his livewell.
"We usually get one keeper crappie out of every four fish that we catch," Pope reported, "but we generally catch fish all day. I've seen days where my party of two will have their limit of 60 crappie by 10:00 a.m."
To learn more about how to catch big crappie on Weiss Lake, or, to check out fishing conditions at Weiss, contact Steve Pope at (256) 927-6617, or go to his website www.weisslakeguideservice.com.
For other proven tactics on how to catch crappie, return to Night Hawk's Homepage, and click on books. To receive a brochure or to order John E. Phillips' book, "The Masters' Secrets of Crappie Fishing," which contains more than 50 experts' tips for catching more crappie, call (800) 627-4295.
TOMORROW: Weiss Lake's Colossal Crappie