Spring is in the air, and we all know what that means, Crappies are on just about everyone's mind.
With the warmer temps, the flats are warming up and it hasn't gone unnoticed by the fish. On a recent trip to Clinton last week with my buddy Cory Gilbert the water temp on the main lake was only 42.8 degrees, while it was up to 51.4 degrees in the back where the creek dumps in. We fished along the edges of the channel drops with 1/8 Oz jigs rigged with plastics from Z-Man fishing products and Top Secret Jigs. It seemed the bigger fish were holding tight to the bottom right where it falls off into the deeper water. We just worked our way up and down the edge picking up bites every few minutes or so. Although the backs of the flats offer great fishing early in the Season, they are very prone to getting muddied up by a good rain storm or two.
Don't mind the obstacle course-
These flats are full of trees, stumps, old fence rows and all other sorts of neat ways to trash a lower unit. On the other side of that though, it has plenty of great hiding spots for those bigger fish taking advantage of the warmer water. The most important thing to look for is a channel running through the flat so the fish do have some deeper water near by to run to when the cold fronts come rolling in.
Early Spring still has some pretty chilly overnight temps, and the fish aren't very big fans. They will push out into the creek channel and just sit out there scattered and suspended waiting on the Sun to get it warmed up. The afternoon bite is best with the better fishing coming on sunny days with calm winds. After that water has warmed up those fish will be sitting tight to the shallow cover just waiting to smack the daylights out of the first jig that comes by.
I was able to get the boat over to Clinton last week to Guide for one of my favorite clients. I was actually over there twice last week, but I will make the Tournament an article of its own.
With these cold temps recently, the fish are getting into some pretty big schools already. We had to swing by two other brushpiles I dropped in there along a ledge last year before finding a nice sized school of fish, but when I found them, boy did I find them.
After getting lucky and crossing paths with one of the biggest schools of Crappie I've seen anywhere in Kansas, I tossed a marker buoy about ten feet or so past the brushpile into the wind. You have to allow for a little bit of wind drift when placing a marker buoy, if not it will drift over the pile and just be in the way.
Within seconds of dropping the trolling motor in the water, we had two nice sized Crappies decide that our Slim Swimz by Zman Fishing Products looked tasty enough to risk spending the afternoon thrashing around in the livewell. We went on to catch upwards of seventy to eighty fish by the end of the trip.
Braid is a must...
I had both of our rods rigged with unpainted quarter ounce heads, with 1/0 sickle hooks, tied directly to twenty pound test Power Pro braid. When you get snagged, that twenty pound test braid will bend those sickle hooks right out. Just bend it back into shape and keep fishing. Braid is also better at holding up to the zebra mussels that are all over some of the older brush piles.
Quarter Ounce heads seem heavy to most Crappie Anglers, but here in Kansas where we always have wind blowing you around like crazy, it is almost a must in order to keep your jig vertical and line tight.
It was classic video game fishing. Using my Humminbird 1199 to place our baits about a foot or so above the brush was key to our success. Knowing exactly where your jig is in relation to the structure you are targeting is crucial this time of year. More often than not, the active fish will be hovering at the top of the brush piles. Being able to see your jig a foot above the pile on your sonar screen, then watching the Crappie swimming up to it and anticipating that thump that usually comes along with it is the best.
For those of us that know better than to winterize our boats, the best brush pile fishing of the entire year is finally upon us. As the water temps get on down into the thirties, the Crappie are really going to start stacking up thick along the channel ledges and breaks. It isn't uncommon this time of year to see double, and even triple limits come out of a single brush pile.
One of the tricks to that is what is referred to as "video game fishing ",
I can tell you it is by far the most fun you can have while fishing. Nothing is better than seeing a fish moving up to your jig on a sonar screen and anticipating the thump. It is basically the same thing ice fisherman do while hovering over that tiny hole in the ice staring at a 2D sonar screen watching the fish come up and smack a jig or spoon, except we are doing it out of our boats just before it all ices over, and in the Spring just after the ice melts, but before they start moving to stage for the spawn.
With all the different options out there as sonar technology advances, nothing beats having a good, regular 2D unit on board. With that being said, there are a few things you need to know and fully understand such as the different beams and frequencies, as well as how that translates into bottom coverage so that you can not only properly use your electronics, but effectively employ them as well.
Seriously folks, study the illustrations below and learn the math, It's not just for rocket scientists anymore. It can drastically improve an anglers success rate.
Knowing how the two different beams work and what the bottom coverage is in relation to water depth will help you pinpoint where fish are in relation to the boat, your jig, as well as cover. If you see fish coming up to your bait but not hitting, It can help you make decisions on bait colors, styles, and presentations as well.
This picture is from last Winter while guiding some clients out on Perry. My Humminbird 1199 is mounted on the bow and shows fish moving around a brush pile we were sitting on. The solid marks are fish that are directly in the sonar beam, and the faint mark above the pile was a fish that was on the outer edges of your beam. Using the math above,..how far away from the center of my transducer beam was that fish ?
Knowing how to figure things like that out can tell you how close or far away to hang that rod tip from the boat so that your jig is right in front of his face, things like that is what will drastically improve catch rates.
Fully understanding how your equipment works enables you to use it more effectively , which will enable you to fish more efficiently. After all, why sit out in the cold if your not able to go home to a plate full of steaming hot Crappie fresh out of a grease bath. Fishing time is far to hard to come by to let it just be wasted by not knowing how to maximize the use of your equipment.
It was a fun time running all over Kansas this year fishing the tournaments. We hit all the popular Crappie spots, and below is how they stack up according to the numbers on the size of the average fish, not by biggest. Don't forget to use the Lake Links on the Homepage to plan your next trip, you will find everything you need to know all in one spot.
By the numbers:
Average Fish- 1.17 Lbs
Biggest Fish- 1.95 Lbs
Winning Bag- 11.75 Lbs
This lake was by far the favorite stop on the trails this year. It has more than enough standing timber and brush piles to keep you busy, as well as plenty of really nice Crappie. With food, lodging and bait close by, you owe it to yourself to spend a day down there.
By the numbers:
Average Fish- 1.15 Lbs
Biggest Fish- 2.11 Lbs
Winning Bag- 10.03 Lbs
One of the more popular Lakes in Kansas with it's proximity to Topeka and Lawrence, Perry gets hit pretty hard and for the last few years, it wasn't really giving up much in the way of size but that is definitely changing. Perry set a new KCC Record giving up the biggest Slab to ever be caught in a tournament when Brandon Manis of Top Secret Jigs pulled in a 2.11 pounder.
By the numbers:
Average fish - 1.14 lbs
Biggest fish - 1.73 lbs
Winning Bag - 9.09 lbs
Always known as a big fish lake, Melvern gave up several really nice tournament bags this year. With the cooler weather getting these fish to start stacking up on the ledges and brush, it will offer some really nice fishing this Winter.
By the numbers:
Average Fish- 1.04 Lbs
Biggest Fish- 1.49 Lbs
Winning Bag- 8.49 Lbs
Another nice spot to find some solid fish. Pomona offers something for everyone regardless of your preferred way of fishing. With standing timber, brush piles, as well as rocky ledges, it's a fun lake with plenty of solid fish.
By the numbers:
Average Fish- 0.97 Lbs
Biggest Fish- 1.93 Lbs
Winning Bag- 10.76 Lbs
Even though Clinton gets quite a bit of pressure, it never fails to offer some excellent fishing. With plenty of brush along the main channels, it is a great place to spend a day on the water. Clinton has always been a popular Winter Crappie spot, and I see it being just as good or better this year.
One thing to keep in mind, some of these numbers came from Summertime tournaments, after the spawn, so the fish will weigh a bit more as we get into Winter. with them filling up on shad and the females filling up with eggs. Hopefully you guys that like to track numbers as much as me will enjoy this article, and although it didn't make the Top Five cut, Hillsdale is a lake to keep your eye on. It always has plenty of fish, and during the KCC Hillsdale tournament, a 1.93 was brought to the scales, so the big fish are in there for those not afraid to work through the trees and get to the upper end of the lake.
For those of you that prefer to fish smaller lakes, I would suggest the power plant lake at LaCygne, South of Kansas City, Geary State Fishing Lake, near Juntion City, or Carbondale East that is just South of Topeka, KS, all are really good Crappie holes sure to offer up a fun day on the water. Don't forget to always take that extra second to do things right this Winter and fish safely. Mother nature isn't known for giving second chances.
The Fall bite will be wrapping up soon as we transition on into the starving times. With some of the weather we have had around Kansas lately it isn't any secret that Winter is just right around the corner. We all know what that means, some of the best Crappie fishing of the year is just right around the corner too. Once the water temps start dipping into the forties they will start moving to the Wintering spots. The Slabs that have been on schooling shad all Summer roving the open expanses of the Main Lakes will begin stacking up on ledges and brush in numbers that can climb into the hundreds. Like everything in life, the bigger the reward, the greater the risk, and Winter Crappie fishing is no different. There are a few extra precautions you need to take before venturing out in the cold.
The first thing you need to do is go over your boat with a fine toothed comb. Drain and replace the fluid in your lower unit. If it has water in it you will have to replace your lower unit seals. Oil floats, and any water in your gear case is going to freeze up on you. Best case scenario when that happens is you won't be able to shift it into gear until the engine exhaust heats it up enough to thaw it out. Worst case is you have so much water in it that it freezes up and actually cracks your lower unit housing or trashes the gears and bearings due to lack of oil. After every trip you take you have to fire the outboard up and let them idle for a few seconds in the parking lot to clear the impeller housing and purge the water jacket. If you don't you run the risk of the water in the impeller housing freezing up and blowing the seal, that will cause water to end up in your gear case as well. And before it ends up in the comments on the group Facebook page, We are well aware that none of that is in the owners manual. Most likely because they assume your boat was Winterized and stored away or because they don't mind selling a few extra lower units to the parts and maintenance shops.
Some underwater video of a Wintertime school of Kansas Crappie
Some other things to make sure you do is make sure your PFD is up to the job. If you haven't checked the Co2 cartridge all year now is a good time to go on and do that. Flailing around in water with temps hovering just above freezing isn't the time you want to discover it isn't working. I myself just wear a regular zip up kind under my Parka. The parka keeps it out of the way of my line and such plus it helps keep you warm, and you don't have to worry about a bad Co2 cartridge. One more thing you should do is stick your phone in a ziploc bag and keep it in your pocket. If you fall in and can't make it back to the boat you will have a dry, working phone to call 911, if you don't your a dead man, that phone is gone the second it gets wet. If you can, try to avoid going out alone. Try to find a buddy to tag along in case something happens. If you do end up going out by yourself you need to make sure somebody knows exactly where you are headed in detail. What Lake, ramp, area you plan to fish and when to expect you back. Also, try to avoid wearing your hunting gear unless it is your Blaze Orange. In the event the worst actually happens and people have to come looking for you it tends to help make things a bit easier if you stick out like a sore thumb as opposed to blending in to the reeds and brush along the shoreline. You also need to have a complete second change of clothes stored in a dry bag in the boat. Just trust me when I say it's a good idea unless a seven mile run back to the truck for them after a dip in 41 degree water with a 38 degree air temp just sounds like an awesome time to you.
You need to be aware that you are completely on your own in the Winter, I can't possibly stress this fact enough, KDWPT will pull their boats out of the Marinas and have them Winterized and stored on land for the Winter as well as the USACE Park Rangers. The Marinas are working half days if they are even open at all. If your out by yourself and something goes wrong, No one is there to save you. The water temps in the Winter will kill you long before the Sheriff or Fire & Rescue could get a boat in the water and reach your location so play it safe. As long as you do it right, there is no reason you can't go out and safely enjoy the Winter bite, you will be glad you did. It really is some of the best Crappie fishing of the year.
There has been a lot of talk lately about the R3 issue, but there are still a few that have no idea what it means...R3 is for Recruitment, Retention, and what they call Re-Activating former outdoor enthusiasts. Here in Kansas, it is mainly the hunting side of the house that is in trouble, not so much for the fishing side. Although I didn't get to deep into the numbers for the entire nation, it looks to me like that is probably true for most of the Country.
Unless you live under a rock, you have noticed that fishing as a whole is blowing up across the country, Now with 3 different National Level Crappie Tournament Trails, with Crappie Masters, American Crappie Trail,
and Crappie USA, not to mention the new MLF Bass Tournaments,...and the insane amounts of money and TV exposure they get.
Anyway, back to Kansas and why hunting as we know it is a fight that has already been all but lost. There are several reasons such as modern opinions and trends towards guns, animal rights, and so on, as well as other social and economic factors, some of them occurring before many of us were even born. The rural areas of the State are going to continue to decline due to residents leaving for the bigger cities or just leaving the State altogether, while the major population centers such as Kansas City, Topeka, Wichita and such will grow slowly over time from the residents relocating from rural Kansas to the city in search of jobs and so on, but even with the population of the State projected to grow, it will be at a snails pace compared to the rest of the Nation according to the Studies I have read on the issue....if you look at fishing lisc. sales from 2015 to 2018....it will reflect the slow but steady snails pace growth the population studies predicted... I will leave links to those below.
What that basically means if you think about it, is a further decline in hunting Lisc. sales for Ks.
I just don't see guys that grew up hunting the family farm and were forced to move to the city for work being that keen on hunting overcrowded public lands. Especially if you consider how expensive it is after gear, tags, clothing, butchering costs. I myself think that is the reason hunting is declining and fishing is growing. More hunters have come to realize fishing is a more affordable way to enjoy the outdoors and that they will always have easily accessed flood control lakes with ramps, unlike hunting land, with access becoming harder and harder to come by.
A brand new novice fisherman can get started for less than a hundred dollars. That will cover a fishing license, a Shakespeare Rod & Reel combo, a few lures and your in business....winner winner, fresh fish for dinner.
But for a brand new, novice hunter to get going.....he will be lucky if a hundred dollars will even cover just his boots, not to mention tags, permits, tree stand, the latest bow, the scent killer suit, the grunt calls, arrows, broadheads, ...starting to see where this is going ? In today's job market and economy, among the age bracket of younger Americans being looked at to fill the ranks,.who has money for all of that ? I can tell you who, a very select few that had well off parents,...not the commoner ,..Not after paying back college loans, a car, internet and cell phone bills, house payment, food and utilities and so on, not in this day and age.
The hunting industry chose to cater to the minority...Well to do White Guys with trophy wives that hunt in more makeup and diamonds than the local Evening news anchor, that exclude the average guy because he cant afford to drop a few grand every time a banquet or raffle comes up,..that want it all to themselves so that they can hunt for Trophies,... and ignored the majority, the Dads and Grandpas that hunted for food, and to spend time with the young ones over a bowl of deer chili or stew,.. those were the true few that held hunting the closest and taught it to the kids and grand kids. A greedy, money grubbing industry that made the average hunters feel alienated and inferior unless they had a private lease with 4 food plots and a sanctuary, with the latest and greatest of everything has squandered, perverted and ruined an entire hunting heritage and what it used to mean to be a hunter, The industry made that bed, and now it can't seem to accept the fact it's time to sleep in it.
A point made obvious when you still see guys pushing an age old recipe for disaster that has already been proven not to work trying to organize these R3 banquets and raffles. Your either a complete moron for not realizing by now a 15 year old boy is more concerned with girls and cars as opposed to hanging out with a bunch of old people at a banquet, or your a crook trying to use the 50-50 raffles to line your own pockets and manipulate connections with outdoor groups for your own ends.
There are some things that could turn it around such as stopping outfitters from leasing land. If they do not actually own the land out right, they should either not be allowed to offer guided hunts, OR... be REQUIRED BY LAW....to allow X amount of your Average, Resident..lisc holders per acre, per year, to hunt on it....why should a farmer let the State turn his farm into a walk in hunting area when he can make a killing from these Outfitters that run around trying to snap it all up. But that will never happen, and here is why, your politicians are part of the well off white guy crowd, and they won't hunt with the likes of you filthy commoners, they tend to hunt with guys that own hunting lodges with massive tracts of real estate and campaign contributions, you know what they say, money attracts money, so who's side do you really think your officials would be on if it came down to it, you commoners or the buddies they have with hunting lodges. It's sad to say...but hunting as we knew it is dead and gone, at this point just be happy you were alive to enjoy it before it was bought out.
Unlike the fishing industry, that aggressively focuses on the youth and beginner movement by organizations like BASS, BFL and FLW that pushes Highschool and College level tournament series on a nationwide level, as well as the Regional BASS, BFl, and FLW Trails for beginning adult tournament anglers, even us, tiny little ole KCC is bringing a beginner division to our own trail next year.....but the Hunting industry has done nothing of the sort, instead opting for things like pointing a finger at the kids and saying they are lazy and would rather play video games.
Nice cop out I guess, but as a guy that led some of those " lazy teenagers" , through two different Combat tours in Iraq, I can tell you first hand the youth of this Nation are capable of some very amazing things when they are given guidance, direction, and a fighting chance. They will step up and fill those ranks if they had a good reason to do so. The kids didn't fail the hunting industry, the industry has failed the kids.
I guess if there is anything to take away from this, we as Anglers have to make sure we don't let the things the hunting side of the house has done come over to the fishing side. It should never be about the size of the fish, but all about the size of the smile it brings, especially if it is on the face of a child. Also, just because your in a Bass boat doesn't mean your better than the guy in the jon boat...it's only money....it may buy boats...but it won't catch fish. Finally and most importantly, Whether in person or on social media...be respectful and supportive, the survival of our sport depends on Encouragement,... not Discouragement. I know I am not the only guy that was ever told if you can't say something nice...like...good fish, or nice haul....keep your mouth shut and say nothing at all.
After waiting all year, it's finally here ! We have all worked hard to get a Top five finish to secure our spots and chance to be called 2018 KS State Champs, now all that's left is to put the fish in the boat and earn that Title. Let's all remember to fish hard, fish safe, and may the best Team win. Below are the details for this weekend's Event. It's going to be interesting to see who wins all the money, not to mention the Title !
It will only be open to Teams that have had a Top 5 Finish in either a KCC or KCT Event, or finished in the Top 5 in the Points Race for either Trail.
This Tournament is going to be held on Perry Lake
Sept. 8th & 9th. It is going to be a 2 day, Combined Weight event and will determine the Team that will hold the Title of 2018 Kansas State Champions.
***Entry Fees will be $300.00 Per Team, Big Fish Included
*** Boat Captains must fish with the same Team Members as when Qualifying spot was earned.....If any Boat Captain has multiple qualifying finishes, he may chose from any of those to determine his Championship Team.
The boat ramp for this weekend is located behind the Perry State Park Office across from Rock Creek Marina, below is a map for those who need directions. The button will lead you to our contact info if you have any questions.
It's amazing how many people think Crappie only spend the Spawn roaming around shallow water. Not true ! Here in Kansas, If you know what to look for, and where to look for it at, you can stay on Slab Crappie all Summer long and into early Fall without ever having to fish any deeper than 8 ft of water. My Tournament partner, Don Beckstrom and I have been focusing on the 3 to 8 ft range and have done well enough with that pattern this Summer to be sitting 5th out of 43 Teams in the KCC Team of the Year Points Race,....Yep, you read that right, 5th in points and fishing no deeper than 8 ft since May. The fish Don caught that pulled down the win for us at the Big Fish Shootout on Eldorado recently, a 1.47 lb fish, was caught in 2.7 ft of water next to an old hedge tree,...in August. It was 97 degrees outside,a howling South wind, rollers and whitecaps on the main lake, one of which soaked us,..to be honest it mostly soaked Don, when we found ourselves stuffing the boat through a 4 foot roller trying to get back to the ramp for weigh in. You know, just your average Kansas Summer day.
What you need...
The most important things to make sure you have is twenty pound test or better braided line for those nasty old hedge rows along the old fence lines, and a good 10 ft jig pole. You want one you can beat up a little and not worry about. Setting hooks in heavy timber, your gonna crack your rod a time or two on an overhanging limb and branch, not to mention using the tip to knock a stuck jig loose in a shallow submerged brush pile, So you want one that can handle the abuse.
Speaking of stuck jigs, the fish that hang out shallow tend to be the bigger fish, and they like the bigger baits. I use hand ties I make myself, or solid body tubes from Top Secret Jigs on 1/4 Oz heads with 1/0 sickle hooks. Minnows on a drop shot rig dipped around the tree stumps is another effective way to target these fish.
Where to look....
The first thing you want to do is get as far away from the Dam as possible, You need to have stained, dirty water for this bite to work. If the water is to clear it will let to much sunlight through the water column and push the fish out deeper to get away from it.
I like to fish the backs of the coves where the feeder creeks dump in and hit the tree rows on the shallow mud flats, The dirtier the water, the shallower you can get away with fishing.
Don't try to work every tree you see on the flats, focus on the smaller fence rows that run in straight lines or along the edges of a channel drop.
Always pay close attention to every fish and try to find the pattern within the pattern. Got it,..your after fish in the shallow trees, that's the pattern. The pattern within the pattern would be if you've figured out they are on the sunny side of the tree, shady side,..just under the surface or smack on the bottom....if they seem to be in hedge trees on the shady side all the way on the bottom,...then forget fishing every single tree you see and just focus on the shady side of hedge trees, don't worry about the oaks or poplars. Your just gonna waste time, beat your boat up, and not have very much to show for your efforts.
As Crappie anglers, we constantly find ourselves at the mercy of Mother Nature, and for the most part we are able to handle what she throws at us. We are able to purchase gear that helps us deal with the rain, heat, snow or cold. Wind on the other hand, that's a bit different. Yes, we have clothing that keeps it off of us, but it does nothing for keeping the Lakes from getting kicked up, and let's face it, fishing in whitecaps while trying to work jigs over brushpiles is just a pain in the rear end, not to mention dangerous.
One way to get around this problem is by staying off of the Lakes altogether, and fishing the feeder creeks and rivers. They offer plenty of fishing opportunities, with good numbers of Bass, Crappie, and Catfish, as well as being a great place to get out of the wind. The numerous laydowns offer plenty of places to drop a jig and pull Slab sized Crappie out of the tree tops. The dirty, nutrient rich water that runs through them always provide you with healthy fish to spend your day chasing. For the most part, they average ten feet in depth and will usually have well defined drops along the banks that fall off sharply.
The spawn was fun, and here in Kansas, anglers of all ages were quick to make the most of it. But now that it's over, isn't a reason to put your Crappie gear away, maybe you just need to add a few things to your gear list. Night fishing in the right areas can be just as productive, and on some nights, even better than the spawn. Even though I fish from a boat, there are plenty of places for bank anglers to take advantage of the night bite. The key to it all is being in the right places at the right times with the right equipment.
During early Spring and through the Spawn the best places tend to be the backs of the coves or mudflats near deeper water. They tend to be the first places to warm up in the early season as well as where the pre-spawn fish will start staging. I recently took a couple out on a night trip to Lake Perry here in Kansas. Using a propane lantern hanging off the Driftmaster rod holders to light up the area around a brushpile in 3 to 4 ft of water, on the high side of a ledge that rolled off into 12 ft or so, we put 18 nice, pre-spawn Crappie in the boat in just over 2 hours. Be sure to watch the video below and you will get an idea of how it all comes together.
As the dog days of Summer set in, fishing for Crappies at night offers numerous benefits over daytime fishing to anglers of all ages. Your not dealing with day boaters, jet skis, or roasting under a blazing sun. Summer gives me some of my most productive fishing trips of the year, with one or two hundred fish nights possible. I will target coves with standing timber in eight to sixteen feet of water. I have found over the years it's best to hang them from a tree that is somewhat close to the water, after thirty minutes or so it will start stacking up the food chain, with plankton showing up first, followed by Bluegill, Crappies, Catfish and so on. Once the bait ball builds up and gamefish begin feeding, that feeding frenzy will basically run all night long until the rising sun washes out your lantern light.
When the leaves start to change colors with the onset of Fall, it's time to start working deeper water. Generally I will set up on steep rocky banks where the old river channels run close to the shoreline, or rip rap close to deep water such as on the dam or on a Marina jetty. I still fish the same pattern I use the rest of the year with a minnow on a slip bobber, I just fish it a little bit deeper, around 15 ft or so. It all depends on what your Electronics are showing you, but as a general rule, try to put your minnow about a foot or two below the depth the shad are holding at, the game fish will be set up right below them and that will put your bait right in the Crappies strike zone. This pattern will hold through the end of Fall until it starts getting to cold to be out there at night. No matter what time of year you go out on a night trip, safety needs to be a high priority, always let someone know where you will be, what ramp your using, and when to expect you back. The Lake is a very different place in the dark than during the day, and highly recommend using a guide on your first few trips out.
On a recent trip to Parsons, Kansas for a 3 day fishing trip targeting two and a half pound, plus sized Crappie, I was eager to get settled in and down to business. I had heard from several people that S.E Kansas hides some real trophy sized Slabs and couldn't wait to try and get my hands on one. On our first day we talked to several people that were on the bank and all of them had some really good sized fish,...but only a few, nobody had caught more than five, but the fish they had were absolute giants.
Sometimes as fisherman we like to think all the latest toys we buy is the key between fish pictures and sunset pictures. In a world of side scan and 360 sonar, trolling motors linked to satellites whizzing around the planet, and six digit price tags on fishing boats, it's almost unthinkable that waiting on a slip bobber with a minnow is the best way to go. Who do these fish think they are ?...making me sit here and wait on a bobber to go down like some fisherman from 1940. All the magazines say I should be able to cast this new lure, or that new jig, or maybe that new jig on a slip bobber,..and if none of that works, surely trolling cranks behind those fancy new planer boards will trigger a strike,..right ? ...Nope !
Trust me ,..we tried it all, and the only thing giving up the fish was minnows on corks, just randomly cast over the open water that was just out from the spawning banks. We managed to get a few fish in the boat, some in the fifteen inch range, but nothing close to the quality of fish known to be in that body of water.
After finally admitting defeat, on our way back to the ramp we stopped to talk to a local Angler that was hanging out on a dock, sitting on top of his beer cooler and listening to some tunes on an old radio. He told us the key to that Lake is patience. Sometimes you just take what ya got, go the the lake and just fish. Using poles that looked like catfish rods, and what looked like 6500 series Ambassadors reels, he pulled in his stringer to show us 2 of his better fish, both of which would be wall hangers by any Lakes standards. After lifting our jaws off the deck and putting our eyeballs back in our heads, we both kinda came to the same conclusion....sometimes the old way really is the best way, sit there soaking minnows and wait on that cork to go down.
Burlington Construction Inc. is in the middle of completing some much needed repairs and upgrades to the ramp and docks at Eisenhower State Park. To celebrate this occasion Burlington Construction Inc is doing a camping giveaway, be sure to follow the instructions in their link for a chance to win.
It's almost that time of year again. Spring is finally here and it's time to fish !
It is pretty common knowledge that the funds set aside for KDWPT to offer the free fishing licenses for Disabled Resident Combat Veterans is never enough, and as sad as it is, year after year we have Veterans that miss out. These folks put it all on the line, here is a chance to give back. We have a Veterans Day Tournament that raises money for this, but that isn't until November when the fishing is basically over for the year. We will keep this going until Apr. 27th, the Friday before the Special Olympics Tournament at Clinton. The Friday before the Tournament I will be at the Clinton State Park Office to personally pay for the fishing licences on behalf of KCC. Must show proof of KS residency as well as a DD 214, OR a copy of your VA Ratings. to qualify.
In this Article we are going to touch on something I doubt the majority of fisherman ever even stop to consider, and why most of what you see in Ads and on social media about color combos is just hype. We have all seen it, this " New" color combo or that is going to help you catch more fish, and all others are obsolete,..like the fish decided to hold a General Counsel and voted they didn't like
your old stuff anymore. The truth is, the fish could care less what brand of jig or who's face was on the package that you are using.
Before any " New" lure or color combo catches anything anywhere, it has to catch some fisherman that was walking down the aisle at the Outdoor Store or browsing online, and since the backlash can be severe depending on how cool your wives may, or may not be with your fishing habits, they put some Pro's name or Face with it to get you. Tackle companies are more concerned with catching your money, not fish.
What Really Matters....Refraction
We have all read the same stuff about water clarity and weather conditions dictating color choices, But... there is third thing that needs to be considered, and that is how refraction affects the color and size of your bait at different depths when your staring at your tackle box trying to decide what to tie on.
The very second your jig touches the water it changes color as well as size, and most people have no clue. Refraction will make your bait look bigger by 1/3 of it's size, which is good, Big fish really do like big baits.
I have had a ton of people in my boat over the years, and it isn't really a secret that my favorite colors are Black & Yellow ,Red & Chartreuse, or a Wht & Chartreuse. Yes I have all the other colors too, but I have found over time these are really as far as I have to go to get fish just about anywhere because of how those colors transform at 15 & 25 ft. ....You will see it in the video below.
I tend to worry about profiles of baits more than colors. I like big jigs, with ribs that is going to move a ton of water as it moves that the fish can sense, as well as sound that I get from using the rattles from Bobby Garland, and I use 1/4 oz heads with 1/0 hooks, this keeps my line,... 20# Power Pro, vertical and tight, allowing me to feel every branch in the brushpile as I work my jig through it. I control how fast my jig is falling through the brushpiles by how fast I raise and lower my rod tip, not by using lightweight jig heads, that will just leave you getting snagged every 5 minutes because you can't feel it.
It seems a lot of people think Crappie are shy and timid or something, and only want a tiny little jig or grub, this couldn't be further from the truth, especially with bigger fish. Don't treat these fish like they are wimps that will only eat very small baits,...get mean, drop a big ole fat noisy jig down and watch what happens, especially in murky or stained water, this will help fish find your bait more than color ever would. For instance, you have heard,....Oh, the little spot of red on my lure is to look like blood from being wounded.....growing up as a kid in Florida and being introduced to scuba diving and seeing how colors change under water,....red at 15 or 20 ft is actually going to look brown.
See for yourself in the video below, stop it at the 23 second mark,...15 ft deep, and again at 29 seconds...25 ft. I think you will be quite surprised when you see what you really fish with as opposed to what you Think....your fishing with.
As I sit here waiting for Winter to see it's way out, which in my mind, can't happen soon enough, I decided to look closer at a few of the more popular Lakes in Kansas, pull out some numbers from Weigh In's past, add them up and see where they landed. The numbers are from the KCC Tournament Anglers, derived by adding up the Big Fish Contest Weights, and the Overall Weights of each individual Angler. So you can see the size of the average Big Fish weighed in at each Lake, as well as the Average Tournament Bag based off each Anglers best 7 fish.
Located in Manhattan, KS, Tuttle Creek has taken the Honors of producing the winning fish for our Big Fish of the Year Contest two years in a row, Dustin Hobbs won the braggin rights in 2016 with a 2.04 and Derek Mazurkewycz took them in 2017 with a 2.07
Average Big Fish- 1.64 Lbs
Average Tournament Bag- 8.87 Lbs
One of my favorite lakes to fish, Melvern is always a favorite stop on the
KCC Tournament Trail. Although wind over 10 mph can make for some interesting boat rides with the whitecaps that can kick up, there is tons of man made brushpiles in there, so you can always find a somewhat sheltered place to fish.
Average Big Fish- 1.61 Lbs
Average Tournament Bag- 8.72 Lbs
Easily accessed from either Hwy 77 or Interstate 335, if you enjoy jigging standing timber, El Dorado is the Lake for you. It offers more backwater coves full of trees than you could fish in a week and never fails to deliver some solid slabs. Even if dipping trees isn't your thing, you still have plenty of rip-rap, ledges, BNSF Railroad and Hwy bridges, as well as an old water intake tower.
Average Big Fish- 1.57 Lbs
Average Tournament Bag- 8.34 Lbs
One of the more popular Lakes to fish with it's proximity to Lawrence, KS, It offers a mix of standing timber and man made brushpiles. Even with it's popularity, which also translates to pressured, It never fails to show us some quality fish when we visit Clinton for Tournaments.
Average Big Fish- 1.47
Average Tournament Bag- 7.73
Another one of the more popular Lakes in Kansas, Perry gets fished pretty hard being just outside of Topeka. It offers loads of man made brushpiles, ledges, bridges, as well as some standing timber in the back of Slough Creek. During the Summer boating season, it offers 2 Marinas, as well as offering food and even lodging at Rock Creek Marina. Perry has been hit with some pretty good floods in recent years during the spawn, and although you can still catch plenty of fish, the quality fish have been tough to find during the last few Events resulting in some pretty poor averages.
Average Big Fish - 1.28 Lbs
Average Tournament Bag 7.13
Although these Tournaments happened at different times of the year, it is still a fair representation of the Lakes and the fishing they offer. To get a more accurate picture of our Lakes and the quality of Crappie swimming around in them, I will be organizing an event at the end of the upcoming 2018 Season where we will Email a form to anyone that asks for it, to fill out at your favorite Lakes while fishing the Fall and early Winter bite next year. It will ask you to use a set of hand held fishing scales to weigh each fish you catch, not just your best ones, but all of them so we can figure out the Averages from each Lake, after all the information is collected, I will put it all together and post the results. If I can get enough people to participate, KCC will make it an annual event so we can track our favorite Lakes from year to year. Look for the Event to get posted to our Facebook page, if you are not already following us , hit the button below and look for the Event invite in November 2018.
Date: Lake: Ramp: Charity:
April 28 & 29th Clinton Lake Ramp #2 Special Olympics
May 12th- Perry Lake Jefferson Points Fishing's Future
June 23rd- Hillsdale Jayhawk Marina Fishing's Future
July 7th- Pomona Ramp #2 Fishing's Future
August 4th- El Dorado Sailboat Cove Fishing's Future
August 5th- El Dorado Sailboat Cove Single Pole Shootout
Sept 1st- Melvern Eisenhower West Fishing's Future
Sept. 8-9th Perry Jefferson Points State Championship
Nov 10th & 11th- Milford Farnum Creek KDWPT Vets Lisc. Fund
Dec 1st- Clinton Ramp #2 Toys for Tots
I've come to accept being asked questions about the gear and tackle I use for Crappie fishing as just a part of life these days, and in particular, questions about rods and Jig-poles. I've been known to set the hook on a fish or two, and I've done it with just about every brand of jig pole there is at one point or the other.
In this article we will break it down by price range, 2 good budget rods, Allstar and B'n'M, and 2 that are a bit more on the higher end, ACC Crappie Stix and Outlaw Crappie & Walleye Poles, below is what I like and dislike about them.
B'n'M- Buck's Best 10' Rear Seat Ultralight Jig-pole
Overall it's a pretty solid pole although I have a problem with snapping the tips, which, when your out three to five days a week, is going to happen to any of them eventually. But these have really light tips, although super sensitive, they tend to snap pretty easy, so be careful when that braided line wraps the tip, take it from me, if you tug on it a bit to hard trying get it to unwrap,..it'll snap.
Even with that being said, for no more than they cost, (around forty dollars or so), As long as you pay attention to the line wrapping the tips, it's a pretty good deal. Super light, well balanced with the right reel on it. It has a super soft tip with a pretty solid backbone about half way down. I like to fish single pole/ single jig, and it's an easy rod to fish with 8 hours straight in Tournaments, as well as people I take out on Guide trips.
They are pretty easy to find, just about any store with a fishing Dept. will have them. Overall, not a bad pole to have in the boat, and like I said, as long as you pay attention to the line wrapping the tip, and not try to use an Ultralight to drag fish out of heavy timber cracking limbs when you set the hook, you won't have any problems. B'n'M have been around for a long time, have a solid reputation, not to mention the Tournament Teams they have.
AllStar 10' Mid Seat
Altogether it's a pretty good pole, I don't think the quality or attention to detail put in to building it is as good as B'n'M, but it has held up well over the two years I've had it, with the exception of the 2nd and 3rd eyes from the tip wore loose and had to be reset with the help of some super glue. I put an Okuma reel on it, probably one of the best balanced rods I've ever fished with, pretty sensitive, decent backbone. Not as easy to come across, I've only seen them at Academy, but for the money, $49.00, not a bad deal. If I could catch them on sale, I'd buy another one, but to be honest, If I was going to go out right this second and buy a good budget jig pole, I'd go the B'n'M route.
ACC Crappie Stix- Mid Seat 10'
I bought a couple of these about 2 years ago or so. It's been through it all and is as solid as a rock. Well built, very sensitive, tough as nails too. I have caught countless fish with it, especially in thick, standing timber. I've smacked the tip on tree limbs on hook sets more times than I can count dragging Slabs out of that heavy stuff, beat three or four water snakes in the head that were trying to come hangout in the boat with me, and still catching fish on it. The only complaints I would say I have is it isn't very well balanced, Kind of heavy on the front end, and just kinda heavy overall compared to others, and there is an eye about 3 inches from the tip that loves to grab your line and wrap it all over itself. Pretty hard to find here in Kansas, we only have one shop that carries them as far as I know of.
Outlaw Crappie & Walleye Poles 10' Mid Seat
If I had to put my finger on any one pole and say it was my favorite, this would be it. It's about a seventy five dollar pole, but worth every penny. Super light, soft tip, rock solid backbone that kicks in about 1/3 of the way down. Nothing to hold it 8 hours straight in a Tournament, I've had mine for 3 1/2 years and still going strong. Kind of a smaller company, you won't see them at too many shops, the same shop that has the ACC's , Don & Tom's in Topeka, is also the only shop I know of with Outlaws. I've pulled Slabs out of trees, beat snakes in the head, cracked my bird dog on the butt a few times trying to rescue my lunch,...seriously, set a sandwich down to put a fish in the livewell around that dog and he will show what being a sammich ninja is all about. My Outlaw is the rod I keep to myself and don't let anyone else use and is my go to pole without a doubt. I hope this helps answer a few questions, any of the rods I've written about are worth the money and will get the job done, but like anything, after a while you start to prefer certain things over others, and this is just how I feel about mine.
Derek Mazurkewycz caught the biggest tournament fish of the 2017 season with his 2.07 he brought to the scales at our Tuttle Creek Tournament. Considering it was a Summertime affair, it really was a solid fish. This make two years in a row that Tuttle Creek has taken those bragging rights, last year Dustin Hobbs won Big Fish of the Year with a 2.04 from Tuttle Creek at the Ducks Unlimited Tournament. The details of our Big Fish of the Year Contest is on our Home page, but by bringing in the biggest,...he will be getting a replica mount of his fish from Kenny's Taxidermy and will have it presented at our opening Tournament in 2018.
KDWPT held a Commission meeting Thursday to discuss proposed changes for the 2018 season and beyond. It's nice to see them going into some of these proposed regulation changes with the mindset of wanting to create " Trophy Fisheries"....one instance of that would be implementing a 21 " Min Size Limit on Smallmouth Bass at Glen Elder.....Among the proposed changes that would apply to us Crappie Anglers is as follows,...
El Dorado- Changing the daily creel limit from 50 a day to 20 a day.
Cedar Bluff- Implementing a 10'' Minimum length limit
La Cygne- Removing the 10'' Minimum length limit
Below is a link to the video from the meeting, if you want to skip all but the fishing regulations, hit the button below, click on the video that was uploaded on Thursday at 12:58 and skip to the 02:17 mark. If you fish any of these three lakes, I'd be sure to keep an eye on the KDWPT signs at the boat ramps after the New Year.
Crappie University presented by Bobby Garland Crappie Baits is coming to Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas starting Feb 7th. It is a 4 week course from some of the best in the business and is sure to be money well spent. Our 2017 Tournament Schedule has us fishing on the best Crappie Lakes in the State next year and would be a great place to implement some of the Techniques & Tournament Tactics you pick up at the course. There will be copies of the KCC 2017 Schedule avail. at the JCCC Campus so be sure to grab one.
We've had a lot of fun running all over Kansas this year. The things I have learned from fishing at the Club Tournaments has improved my Crappie game 10 fold. It's nice when once a month, every Crappie nut in Kansas comes out for a meeting of the minds. It's like softball, Except for guys who for the most part are far to lazy or old to run anywhere, unless they see the pizza delivery guy going the wrong way...it's mostly for bragging rights and being the guy that gets all the hand shakes for finding the best fish,...the money is just an incentive for those of us who sometimes put in 2 and 3 hour one way trips to get there.
Watching this thing grow has been quite an interesting ride so far. We have helped many great causes and raised a pretty fat fist full of money that we have donated. For 2017, and being a member of Outdoor Writers of Kansas myself I have decided to keep it local. We are teaming up with Outdoor Writers of Kansas to raise the funds it takes to offer the Scholarships, Outdoor Adventure Camps, and the other programs as well. Brent Frazzee and I will be fishing the 2017 Tournament Season to continue improving our Crappie fishing game, as well as have a blast representing OWK while giving us a chance to capture the fun on film and write about it.
Running the Facebook page, I see plenty of guys that could easily hold their own but never seem to make it out. I get the impression people think you need an expensive boat or don't want to be around a bunch of inflated egos and attitudes. It really isn't that way, nobody cares what kind of boat you have, truck you drive, what baits you use and so on. It's like anywhere else, some guys keep to themselves, but everybody is friendly, we all crack on each other, mainly good Ole boys having fun and trying to do some good in our Neighborhoods helping out where we can.
Crappie fishing isn't much different than anything else in life. To get good at it you have to put in your time, start out where you can and work your way up from there. The Tournament Guys have all become really good friends, and we'd like to see some more of you come out. I know plenty of you have the boats and fish all the time, I'd be willing to bet if you showed up and met everybody, it would only take showing up to a KCC Tournament one time and you'll be hooked. Get some friends together, get the finishing touches on the boat, and come fish with us, the 2017 Schedule has us fishing on some really good Crappie holes, might as well tag along.
With the help of local Taxidermist Aimee Martin of Great Outdoors Taxidermy for offering to do a replica mount for the Winner, Kansas Crappie Club was able to hold a Big Fish of the Year Contest.
It was a fun little adventure as we traveled across Kansas this year enjoing the great Crappie fishing this State has to offer. We got to see plenty of good fish come to the scales, but none of them were as nice as the surprise Dustin Hobbs recieved at the Single Pole Shootout on Tuttle Creek in Manhattan, KS. The weather that weekend was about as good as it gets for fishing, although we did have a bit of fog on the water that morning.
Dustin, along with his Tournament Partner Will Bevan, were out on the Main Lake using his Lowrance HDS Gen 3's to take a peek at a few waypoints before putting his Motorguide Xi 5 to work holding them over a submerged tree that was covered in Crappie. The first jig down was dropped by his partner Will and was hit by something huge he said, probally a Catfish that got off the hook before showing himself making all but one of the marks Dustin was looking at on his HDS Gen 3 scatter.
The particular tree he was fishing sat in 20 ft with the top of the tree being 10 ft down or so. He said he saw the fish come about 2 ft up out of the tree and smack his Jig. After hooking up, his first thought was he had hooked into a big Drum or White Bass. Much to his astonisment though, his big Drum was actually a Monster Slab, and after realizing he didn't have his net handy, he crossed his fingers and just flung him in.
This was the first year Dustin put away the Walleye gear and really focused hard on Crappie he says. He had a great year fishing the Kansas Crappie Club Tournament Trail. He consistanly placed towards the top and ending up in the Top 3 and Winning Big Fish several times this year.
He fishes out of an Evinrude powered Deep V Ranger, rigged with Lowrance Electronics and a Mototrguide Xi 5, when asked what baits he uses to fish and place near the top, which is where I've come to expect him to be, he simply said,.....Garlands,...Always.
Just dropping a few quick lines to touch on an upcoming 50/ 50 split Fundraiser for KCC and Fishing's Future. I have been getting asked for Club Shirts and our Logo Lisc Plates, as some of you know,....this is funded out of my VA Disability, and the things I want to do for the Club and the things I actually can do for the Club are sometimes 2 different things, so this is going to finally fix all that. Phil Taunton has taken point on this, and he has really knocked it out of the park. I will have a full list of prizes in the next few days posted to the Facebook page, tickets will be going up for sale soon, and the drawings will take place out our Council Grove Tournament during our Spring Crappie Camp on the 6th and 7th of May, 2017. The Spring Camp is going to be a big deal, with a Kids Derby,
Giveaways including an Old Town Canoe at random during the day, a fish fry contest Sponsored by Quail & Upland Wildlife Federation, and a live band and dinner hosted by Council Grove Marina for us. It's sure to be a great time with Awesome Prizes that include Camping Gear from Coleman, an Abu Garcia Revo STX combo, a Lifetime Kansas Fishing License, and much more. Full details coming soon, for more information the point of contact will be Phil Taunton and we are looking for Volunteers to help sell tickets,...of course there will be fishing trips and jigs for anyone that helps. This is gonna be a good time,...so be sure to start letting everyone know.
We have our 2nd Annual Toy Drive coming up for Topeka Toys for Tots. We will be holding it at Clinton Lake in Lawrence, KS on Sunday, November 6th. We will be having the shootout the day before as a fun way to get in some last minute practice. No Membership fees required and it's open to anyone that wants to fish. Last year we held it at Melvern and had a really nice turnout and toy drive, as well as haul in some super nice Slabs with several coming in over 2 lbs. If we are able to match last year It will be a success, but I am hoping to smash it ! It's not often you get to have this kind of fun while making a direct impact on a child's life. This year for the Big Fish Prize is a Guided Hog Hunt for 2 at Rockytop Ranch Outfitters in Oklahoma, and it only takes 1 fish to have a shot at it. If you have a boat and a fishin' buddy, it would mean alot to see you there.
This article is in response to the many questions I get in regard to the night fishing I do and will cover the basics enough to give you the ability to put together a successful outing. Of all the different ways to find and catch Crappie, night fishing is my favorite. No running and gunning from brush pile to brush pile, no standing for hours with a jig pole in my hand, at night it's all about relaxing. With just a minnow under a slip cork, probably the most basic of rigs, I have hauled in stringer after stringer of Crappie over the years fishing under the lights, and it is an effective method of fishing for them year round.
The first thing one should take into consideration is safety. The Lake you are so comfortable on and familiar with during the day, becomes a totally foreign place after the sun goes down. Landmarks and horizons seem to vanish, buoys and bridges easily noticed during the day, become invisible hazards at night. During Winter with the low water temps, never go alone and always have a spare set of clothes packed in a water proof bag. Always let friends and family know where you will be, and when to expect you back home. Fishing at night does come with added hazards, but for the cautious and careful angler, night time is the right time.
I have found over the years that a full Moon, or very near to being full is the best time to plan on putting a trip together. Not only does a full Moon help illuminate some of the lake hazards like buoys and so on, it also gives Game fish the ability to feed on schools of shad that are backlit by the full moon. It's no secret that Crappie are low light feeders, and anyone that has ever been on the water at night during a bright, full moon knows what I am talking about. You can hear fish breaking the surface and smashing schools of bait all over.
Although the market is flooded with different styles, colors, and sizes, not mention the price tags on a few of them, I find that the old school floating white light works as good as any for open water. It also happens to be the cheapest also, and lasts as long, or longer than the more expensive LED's. For Stands of timber I like to hang propane lanterns from tree limbs. The reason I use two different light sources for different areas of the lake is shad behave much differently around standing timber than they do in open water. In stands of timber, shad will circle the tree trunks, and in that situation a simple lantern works just fine.
The fish really don't care what color light you have, they aren't there to admire your equipment, they are admiring the ball of shad that are gathering around it, and after noticing how shad behave around different lights I have owned over the years, the reason I went back to the Old School floating styles for open water,....is the shad will circle around the beam that casts down, where as submersible lights don't cast a beam, and it greatly dampens it's effectiveness. You will see what I mean about the shad circling the beam in the video.
When it comes to picking a spot to fish on any body of water, the first thing I consider is shad. If you are in an area that isn't holding bait, I can promise you it won't be holding much in the way of fish either. My favorite areas to target are bridges over a creek or river channel, areas of standing timber, or large Marinas. Once I find bait fish present in any of these areas, I have also found the Crappie, as well as a spot to tie the boat off before I bought a GPS enabled trolling motor. If your boat is rigged with one, it saves you the trouble of being tied off or dropping an anchor rope out of the back of the boat.
Setup, Bait, and Rigs-
After finding a spot with shad breaking on the surface, scanning with sonar and seeing fish, whether on structure or scattered out on the schools of shad, I get about securing the boat. Whether it be with a rope tied off to something, anchor out the back or a GPS enabled trolling motor. After that, you want to get your lights out about 45 mins before Sunset. The plan is to let the Daylight fade into your fishing lights, and it will take an hour or so for the foodchain to build up. The first to show up will be the plankton, followed by the shad and Bluegill, with Crappie underneath them, followed by Bass, Catfish and so on.
Your sonar will let you know when things are getting thick under your boat, this will also tell me how deep the fish are holding under the ball of shad, and therefore, how deep to set my lines down. I always use minnows and will vary the presentation between vertical fishing and slip floats. The floats help me see a bite on the rods off to the sides or in a blind spot. You will want to try to keep you baits right on the edge of the light. In typical ambush predator fashion, the Crappie sit back in the shadows and dart in and out of the bait ball.
I hope this article helps give you a good idea of basic night fishing techniques, and helps give you another option when it comes to putting a nice mess of Crappie in the grease. Below is a video that a really good friend of mine put together and shows some of what I touched on in action so you can visually see how to get out there and get it done.