By Tim Huffman
September 12, 2011
There are times when you’re excited and moving fast, other times slow and sluggish, but most of the time you’re somewhere in between. It’s the same with fish so you need to adjust your presentations and jig actions to match their activity level. Here are a few basic guidelines.
NORMAL BITE- typical fishing day.
Slow and Steady. One of the simplest actions to use when casting is a slow and steady swim. This works when crappie are slow, normal or active. The swimming action at steady speed entices bites and gives excellent feel of the bottom, cover and bites. Set the hook immediately when you get a strike.
Float/Fly Quick Pops. When casting with a float try using a series of three to six quick pops followed by leaving the bait still for five to ten seconds. Keep a close eye on the float for any signs of a strike. This is a productive and fun way to catch crappie.
Do the Shake. When vertical jigging drop the jig down to the proper depth and shake it rapidly. Small but rapid shakes gets the attention of the crappie without scaring them. Hold the jig still after shaking and wait for the hit.
SLOW BITE - a front, water condition or something else has put fish in a no-bite mood.
Crawl. When casting, really slow the jig down. Reel as slowly as possible but keep the jig in the strike zone.
Rapid Tapping. Vertical presentations can be kept still yet give jig action by tapping the line with your finger. This seems to aggravate crappie just enough to cause them to hit a jig they otherwise ignore.
Dead Jig. There are times when no action at all is the best. This ‘dead jig’ presentation keeps the bait in front of the fish for a long period of time. (The jig really isn’t motionless because it’s impossible to keep the end of a long pole totally still.)
Horizontal Walk. Pitch a bait past a piling or stump and let it pendulum back to you. It will have both a vertical fall and horizontal movement. When you move the jig move your rod tip about three feet sideways and hold it still. In both situations the horizontal movement might be what the fish are looking for on a particular day.
AGGRESSIVE BITE- when fish are actively feeding and quick to hit a bait.
Reel, Pop, Pause. Casting allows you to let the jig settle and retrieve at whatever speed the fish like. This will likely be fast when fish are active. Turn the reel handle for a couple of turns, follow by a sharp pop and then a pause. The retrieve is a good way to cover a lot of water, get a crappie’s attention and trigger a strike.
Hop Up. The most popular vertical jigging action is to hop a jig up and down followed by a pause. The more aggressive the crappie the more hop you can give and the less time you have the leave the jig still. Also, don’t hesitate to run the bait next to or in cover for more bites. It’s a good way to catch aggressive crappie.
Do the Bump. When you drop a bait into the strike zone feel for the cover with your jig. Once you feel it, bounce the jig on the wood a few times to get the attention of nearby crappie. A heavier 1/8-ounce jighead works best for this.
A curly or paddle tail bait is the best jig for casting. These tails give more action on the retrieve. A typical roundhead jig works and there are times when the flash of a Road Runner adds bites. In Yamamoto baits look at the curly tail or 3-inch Swimming Senko.
Vertical presentations for very active fish calls for jigs with active tentacle tails including a tube jig. In lakes with big fish, the longer Tiny Ika is a great bait.
Vertical presentations for slow, sluggish crappie try the Yamaminnow or maybe the Tiny Ika cut to 1.5-inches.
Remember these recommendations are rules of thumb created through experience. Crappie don’t read so they are not bound by these rules and will often prove us wrong. Therefore, don’t be afraid to break the rules for presentation actions and type baits.