On a calm, muggy August day when the mercury rose above the 95-degree mark, my brothers-in-law and I sorted through more than 70 Truman Lake crappie to fill our limits of 15 fish each. We would have caught more, but we ran out of minnows while the fish were still biting.
Most crappie anglers were tying up to a tree and fishing deep, but we spent the day covering a lot of water flipping minnows to a variety of targets and weaving our way through the maze of flooded timber. Despite the heat and the water temperature hovering above 80 degrees, we still managed to load the livewells while fishing less than 10 feet deep.
You can catch summertime crappie with a variety of methods and lures, but most of these techniques are suited for deep water. A Truman Lake guide showed me a way to catch big crappie using a method similar to flipping for bass. He used a 8 1/2-foot fly rod that he converted into a spinning outfit combined with an ultralight spinning reel. Attached to his 8-pound test line was a Styrofoam bobber set 8 feet above a pinch-on sinker and a gold 3/0 Aberdeen hook. The long rod allowed him to deftly dip the minnows next to the flooded hardwoods while keeping the boat a safe distance from the brush to keep from spooking the fish. When I adopted this system I started catching several limits of 10- to 14-inch crappie during some unbearable summertime heat waves.
The key to catching these hot-weather crappie is finding the right depth and structure where the fish are holding. On lowland reservoirs, crappie suspend in the flooded timber along main lake points, bluffs and channel swings. Most of the summertime fish I catch at Truman usually suspend around 8 to 10 feet over depths of 30 to 40 feet. I've found the flipping technique works best in stained water on sunny days and in clear water during cloudy weather.
Flipping for crappie resembles the bass fishing version of the technique, but allows for less sophisticated and cheaper tackle. My tackle includes a 10-foot B'n'M Buck's Graphite Jig Pole and spinning reel filled with 6-pound test Berkley FireLine. The longer rod gives me greater accuracy when I flip my bait to a target and still allows me to keep my boat away from the trees to avoid spooking the fish. Using the thermal-filament line allows me to flip my bait into the heaviest cover without worrying about breaking off on a fish or snag.
The rest of my flipping tackle consists of a bobber stop and bead, a Freshwater Tackle Easy-On Slip Bobber, a 1/8-ounce pinch-on sinker and an Eagle Claw 3/0 gold Aberdeen-style hook. When I reach one of my favorite spots I watch the depth finder to determine how deep the fish are suspended and then I set my bobber stop at that depth.
If you lack the proper electronics, you should set the bobber stop at 8 feet and then adjust it above or below that mark until you can determine at which depth the fish are holding. I attach the sinker just above the hook. In this position the weight usually knocks the hook off of a snag when I let the line go slack. The larger hook also hangs up less than smaller versions and it keeps little fish from swallowing the bait.
Since I want to match the size of shad that time of year, I buy 1 1/2- to 2-inch shiners from the bait stores. I hook the minnow through the bottom lip first and then come through the top lip. This allows the minnow to swim more naturally and keeps it alive on the hook longer.
A lively minnow works best, although active fish will gulp down dead shiners. Check your minnow every couple of minutes to see if it's still lively.
When I find a row of hardwood trees on the main lake, I start flipping the outer limbs of a target to see if any fish are out chasing shad.
If this fails to produce, I flip to the base of the tree next. I usually let a minnow swim around the cover for about 30 seconds before trying another target. In most instances, if a crappie is hanging around the cover, he'll attack the minnow as soon as the bait enters the crappie's lair. In addition to flipping the obvious cover that extends above the water, I also dip my minnow into the timber that's barely visible beneath the surface.
When the summer heat climbs to the 100-degree mark, try flipping for summertime crappie and you'll learn a quick way to fill your stringer full of quality fish.
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