Catching “Dumb Crappie” With Sonny Sipes
Phillip Gentry
There’s few thing’s B’n’M pro-staffer Sonny Sipes would rather do than catch big, dumb crappie.
Sipes and his cousin Coy rely on Roadrunner heads to vertically tightline brushpiles for crappie.
Late summer tightlining is more of a game of jumping from spot to spot rather than actually trolling an area in search of crappie.
Guide Sonny Sipes refers to white crappie as “dumb crappie” mainly due to their more aggressive nature.

Question: Sonny, the calendar may say that the first day of fall is upon us but it’s still pretty hot. What kind of pattern are you fishing at Neely Henry?


Sipes: The crappie are still on their summer pattern but you’ll start to see the water temperature dropping off a little at night and warming backup during the day. The fish will start to move back up the creeks and into the shallows in another month or so but right now I’m catching plenty of them relating to a creek channel or holding on a deep water flat right off the creek channel.


Question: With Neely Henry being a primarily river impoundment, there’s a whole lot of river channel for crappie to relate to. How do you narrow down your search for late summer fish?


Sipes: I’m definitely going to fish structure. Over the years, we have put out a lot of man-made structure in the lake and so have a lot of other people. Because it’s a strong river channel, there’s also a lot of natural structure that has washed into the lake and it holds a ton of fish too. With the water temperatures still in the low to mid 80’s crappie are going to hold tight to structure and the best way to catch them is by tightlining.


Question: Tell us about the method you use for tight-lining. Is it pretty standard when compared to other vertical trolling tactics?


Sipes: This time of year I don’t troll around looking for crappie like I do during the winter and spring when they’re more scattered. Technically I’m trolling but I actually jump spot to spot, ledge to ledge and channel to channel. When I get to a spot,  I’ll get right over the top of it and bump around and move with the trolling motor but I won’t move very far off that spot.


Question: What baits work best for you this time of year?


Sipes: I tightline with a double minnow rig. The rig is weighted with a ½ ounce egg sinker and I use two 1/16 oz Roadrunner heads tipped with live minnows. We have done real well with the Roadrunner heads over the years  I find that crappie really hone in on a bait better with that little bit of flash and vibration added to the live bait.


Question: What species of fish are you catching?


Sipes: We’ll catch both black crappie and white crappie, but probably more whites. You know black crappie are the smart crappie and white crappie are the dumb crappie.


Question: (laughing) oh yea? What makes you say that?


Sipes: You won’t find holes in a black crappie’s mouth. If you catch him one time, he’s gone. He won’t bite again for a long time. He’s wised up to what’s going on because he’s figured out that bait is bad for his health. He’s a smart crappie. A white crappie is dumb. He’ll bite the same bait 15 times. I’ve caught the same white crappie 2 hours after I caught him the first time. Black crappie also hide down in the brush when a boat comes over so you have to fish close to the brush to catch him. A white crappie will suspend up in the water and that makes him easier to catch.


If you’re interested in catching some dumb crappie with Sonny Sipes, give him a call at “Crappie’s Last Bite” guide service. The phone number is (205) 919-0982.


B’n’M makes a pole that’s just right for all crappie fishing applications, regardless of the intelligence level of the fish you’re after. Visit our website at and find the one that’s right for you.