The Ultimate Panfish League - - 2004-2011
By: Bob Bohland

  They   say   everything  is  bigger  in  the  south,
including  the  crappies.   The  tactics  o f southern
guides often go unnoticed or ignored by anglers in
the  north,   mostly  due  to the  fact  that  northern
crappie anglers are content to sort through small
fish as fast as they can catch them with small jigs,
and  don’t  really  want  to  worry  about way s that
might  catch  them more and  bigger fish.   Little do
they   know   they   are   missing   out   on   several
sure-fire ways to catch some real monster slabs,
“I  have  caught  some  of  my  best  crappie  while
using cranbaits” says Oklahoma guide Barry Morrow.

  There are actually two different ways to use crankbaits for crappies, pushing or
pulling. “Pulling crankbaits is using one or several poles keeping them spaced apart
and long lining 20 -60' or further behind your boat. Pushing crankbaits is having poles
in rod holders at the front of the boat, usually four to eight poles.  By adding weight in
front of a swivel, 1.5, 2 or 3 oz., you can push the cranks in front of the boat.  You
simply adjust the depth you want and weight you need to hold the cranks down and
push with your trolling motor” notes Morrow. Pulling cranks works better for clear
waters where fish can be spooked from the shadow of a boat, whereas pushing
works very well on stained waters and gives you much more control over how and
where you fish the baits.

  While the southern guides generally use rods longer than 10 feet, these can be hard
to come by in the midwest unless you order from a southern dealer or have a custom
rod builder make one up for you. Don’t let this deter you from using rods you already
have at your disposal, a 6 or 7 foot rod will work just fine for fishing crankbaits for
crappies, according to Morrow, “The key in your pole is that the tip action is soft
enough that it won't rip the bait out of the fish on hook set and yet have enough back
bone to control the fish.” The most important thing when pushing or pulling cranks is
your spacing, generally you want at least 3 feet between baits to help prevent
tangling when you get a strike.

  Crankbait selection is also very important as you want to be able to know the exact
depth your bait is running at to maximize your fishing time. “When looking for crank
baits, I'm looking for a bait that will troll at the depth of 8' - 10' with 50 foot of line out.  
Like the Lindy # 5 Shadling,” adds Morrow. Also with the colors available for the
Shadling, you can match any bait the fish may be feeding on. Speed also plays an
important aspect in how Morrow fishes his crankbaits for big slabs, “I have found
that 1 mph to 1.5 mph works best for pulling cranks.” So make sure you have a good
GPS unit to monitor your speed.

  There are several times that cranks will outshine almost any other bait
presentation, spring and fall are two great times as the fish are eating more at these
times of year and in transition from one area to another. “I would pull cranks when
ever the fish are in a transition stage from deep water to shallow flats or flats to deep
water.” Says Morrow about the best times, “This could be a spring to summer
pattern or a summer to fall pattern.  Your looking for suspended fish or fish feeding
along channels or just off the channel on flats. I've also pulled cranks along dropoffs
where fish will be suspended in that 8' to 14' range.”

  Next time you wanna boat a limit of real slab crappies, don’t hesitate to take some
info out of the playbook of a southern guide who fishes slabs for a living. Crappies
don’t behave differently just because of how far north or south they are, guides like
Morrow simply have more time to perfect their skills chasing these big slabs,
uninhibited by ice. Where it is legal, fish more than one line while trolling cranks as
Morrow does, “You have more lines out and can have different colors to work with.”
Also don’t feel overwhelmed if the presentation doesn’t pay off for you right away,
there is lots of “trial and error” according to Morrow, but once you learn this
technique it will pay off by allowing you to catch the biggest and most aggressive fish
in a lake.
Southern Style Slabs