Taking a Crappie Break


It was one of those days—hot summer weather, with light winds and bright skies; a great day to be out, a great day to be fishing.


My buddy Mike and I fished a Polk County lake. It hadn’t gone well. We pitched plastic worms for bass and then in deeper water we threw crankbaits after them, and nothing. Not even a strike. This lake has been good to me over the years, but not on this day. We needed to make a change. A different lake can make all the difference.


We loaded the boat on the trailer and drove a few miles to another lake. Earlier in the year, after another disappointing morning on another lake, Mike and I came to this lake where in couple of hours we caught a dozen and a half bass. We were looking to repeat this kind of luck.


We motored across to the north side of the lake, where there was deeper water close to a rocky bank. Additionally, docks and boat lifts jutted out from the shoreline. We would find bass here, we were certain.


We started by casting wacky worms tight to the bank in shallow water. That didn’t work. Next, we pulled out into deeper water to fish crankbaits. That didn’t work either. Finally, we used Ned Rigs to fish the docks and boat lifts and the edges of the weeds. I felt a bump and set the hook and my spinning rod came alive as the fish raced off. It was a foot long bass. Perhaps we finally found the right pattern and bait? Ten minutes went by, and Mike caught a foot long bass. We started to get a few bites so it looked like everything was going to turn out right, after all.


We worked our way along the bank back to the landing, then continued around the eastern shore, which would take us to the southern side of the lake. There were still docks and boat lifts on the eastern side, but as we turned into the southern shore the docks and boat lifts disappeared, giving way to submerged trees, brush and overhanging trees shading the water. Still lots of bass fishing opportunities.


Mike and I had caught a few bass, but the catching was slow. Nothing like we expected. Maybe the brush on the southern shore would be better.


As we rounded into the southern shore, fishing up to submerged brush and logs, neither of us had a strike. As we got to the first tree in the water, I dropped my Ned Rig next to the brush and it no sooner hit bottom when I felt a sharp strike. Maybe we finally found the fish. The fish put up a good fight, but it felt different. Once I got the fish to the side of the boat I knew why. I had a ten-inch crappie.


A couple minutes later Mike lifted his spinning rod to set the hook as the tip bounced. Mike had an eight-inch bluegill. Both were nice fish. I looked at Mike and said “Maybe there is something with these panfish.” We certainly weren’t doing anything with the bass. “Let’s take break and give them a try,” I suggested. Mike agreed. I think he was tired of not catching any bass.

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We put the bass rods back in the rod locker and I still had a couple ultralight panfish rods in another rod locker. They were baited with small tube jigs.


We kept casting toward the sunken brush in front of us. Within a few casts, I caught another crappie, and right after that Mike got a crappie. It seemed not more than three or four casts would go by when we got a bump on the line or the line bounced slightly and we set the hook on a scrappy crappie.


Our ultralight, almost noodle rods were bent in half as the crappie pulled back before they came splashing to the surface, shooting away just under the surface of the water. We mostly caught crappies, but also netted the occasional bluegill.


We worked back and forth in front of the sunken brush and when the strikes became fewer, we just moved down the shore to the next submerged log or pile of brush. Immediately the crappies would start hitting our jigs all over again.


“This is fun,” Mike said as he dropped a crappie back in the water. And it was. We were catching fish; lots of fish. There was a steady tug on the line and a bend in the rod, which is the essence of fishing. We forgot entirely about bass and kept catching crappies.


We continued down the shore flipping light tube jigs into the brush and under overhanging trees. Wherever we went, we caught crappies. When we ended the line of submerged brush we turned the boat around and started over where we caught our first crappies. Our crappie break lasted the rest of the afternoon.


By the end of the afternoon we caught close to a hundred crappies, with a few bluegills. Some of the fish were small, but we caught enough bigger fish to fill a limit for both of us, had we wanted to keep fish. We released all of our fish, though, since neither of us wanted to end the day cleaning fish.


It had been a glorious day. We caught a bunch of fish and were amazed all over again how much fun it is to catch crappies. It was a good way to spend the afternoon, and we forgot all about how bad the bass fishing had been.