Saturday, June 12, 2021

Crappie Crazy continued

| May 13, 2021 12:00 AM

In my last column, I talked about one of North America's favorite fish, the black crappie.

At the time, I was sitting in Tiptonville, Tennessee on the shores of Reelfoot Lake, a top 25 crappie lake and a

bucket list destination of mine for many years.

March thru May is typically a very popular time there, as the resort prices will indicate, so I was there at prime time!

And yes, crappie were caught!

Reelfoot Lake was created by Earthquake, unlike so many of the South's TVA funded manmade lakes. While I only fished a small portion of it, it is a large body of water with a lot of diverse terrain, cover and access.

Flooded timber and submerged cover are always great places to find crappie, and the Southern part of Reelfoot has that in spades.

Cyprus trees grow everywhere, and anywhere there are multiple trees growing in two to five feet of water you will find crappie and bluegill, or bream as they are called in much of the South.

One of the more popular tactics for pre-spawn crappie is taking a long (10-15 foot) rod and presenting a jig at the base of a Cyprus tree. Stealth is important, and if you can’t hit a quarter with a jig nine times out of ten while casting or pitching, you will want a longer rod to put that jig right next to the tree.

Jigs under slip bobber is another popular tactic, keeping the bait precisely in the strike zone the entire time. All finesse tactics indeed, and will test your skills and patience for sure!

With a rented jon boat, and no electronics or even a trolling motor, and armed only with a couple of seven-foot spinning rods, I set out to catch a few of Reelfoot's slab sided black crappie.

The weather cooperated for a few hours the first day, the next two days I faced wind, rain and thunderstorms.

I proceeded to catch crappie, Sheepshead (freshwater drum), catfish and a few sunfish, pretty much everywhere I fished, but the better crappie were definitely hanging near the Cyprus trunks.

Pitching small marabou hair jigs, and jig heads with a soft plastic tube from three to six feet away and putting them a foot or so away from a tree trunk certainly produced. Having a rod set up with a slip bobber ensured always having a bait in the zone while working on my casting accuracy.

It is always fun watching a float disappear under the water and many anglers there only used float rigs. At the end of the day, my aching right shoulder was evidence why!

If you are planning to pursue crappie in Northwest Montana this spring, these tactics will reward you if adapted to our local waters. Pitching jigs up near cover, whether upright or laying down, will typically get an immediate strike, while jigs tipped with plastics, grubs or pieces of crawler under a float will remain in the zone for as long as it takes for a fish to find it.

In fact, most panfish will respond to these tactics, as will larger predator fish if in the area.

And speaking of our local waters, our river and stream opener is this weekend (third weekend in May) and anglers will find most running high and muddy.

Exercise extreme caution if fishing moving waters as the water is still very cold and fast moving.

My advice is to stick to the lakes, looking for the warming waters typically found on the North and East shorelines where afternoon suns can impact the temperatures. (Think Eastbay on Flathead Lake in the Spring, it is shallow and warms faster than any other spot on the lake, and attracts perch by the bushel).

Whatever fish you pursue this time of year, remember to take a kid fishing, especially on those nice weather days!

Our guides are on the water daily and would love to help you catch some fish and learn some new tactics! I’ll see you on the water.

Howe is the owner/outfitter at Howe’s Fishing, A Able and Mo Fisch Charters. Call 406-257-5214 or at