B’n’M Pro Series: Live Image Fishing Tips
Editor’s Note: This week’s tips and tactics article is the first in a multi-part series from B’n’M Crappie pros on how they use Live Image and forward-facing sonar to catch crappie. The series starts off with B’n’M Pro Staff Manager Kent Driscoll.
By Phillip Gentry
As the pro-staff manager for B’n’M Fishing, Kent Driscoll of Nolensville, Tennessee is in a unique position to keep up with all the latest trends in the crappie fishing world. Driscoll was one of the first advocates of forward-facing sonar when Garmin Electronics first introduced it three years ago.
“One of the things that amazed me and took a lot of the tournament crappie anglers by surprise, was that anglers using Garmin Livescope were winning tournaments,” said Driscoll in 2018. “I knew right then that this was a technology that I was going to have to learn and embrace to stay competitive.”
Since that time the use of Live Imaging and forward-facing sonar has changed crappie fishing, but it soon became evident that not every angler uses the technology the same way.
“There are guys who still troll using Garmin Livescope and other guys use single pole,” said Driscoll. “Some guys use it to find fish in structure and still others prefer to search open water and chase bigger roaming crappie. What we are seeing is anglers making this technology their own.”
Driscoll said one of the primary benefits of forward sonar is seeing fish react to your bait presentation.
Driscoll pointed out that one of the primary keys of Live Image fishing was to really dial in to the depth the fish were at as well as watch the fish as they react to your bait. He said Live Imaging was highly effective for different styles of crappie fishing.
“On my home lakes in Tennessee, I’m a big fan of slip-cork fishing with it,” said Driscoll. “I’ve spent a lot of time putting in brushpiles and locating existing structure and pitching a slip cork to the fish where I see them on the piles.”
Driscoll said his preferred rods for Live Imaging are a 6-foot B’n’M Sharpshooter for casting to fish and an 11’ Duck Commander Double Touch rod for pitching corks. In both situations, he is rigging with 6-pound Gamma High Viz line.
“There are some subtle differences between targeting specks or black crappie versus the white crappie,” he said. “I prefer artificial baits, but I’ll use a slimmer profile, down sized bait for speck fishing, maybe even a har jig, and I’ll use larger, bulkier profile baits for white crappie.”
B’n’M’s Sharpshooter Series, designed as a dock shooting rod, also excel as casting rods.
Driscoll said when tournament fishing, he, like many anglers, would chase open water fish, which are usually white crappie. Especially during the pre-spawn season, crappie may not be relating to structure at all but may be moving from one location to the next, moving shallower, with the weather and seasonal patterns.
“During pre-spawn I set my range to about 60 feet and just bump along with the trolling motor and start sweeping the transducer trying to zero in on fish,” he said. “Once I see something I want to target, I’ll set the range to about 30 feet and cast past the fish and work the bait past him, just above the fish’s head.”
He said one secret he has found is not to let the crappie look at the bait too long. If he sees the fish react on the screen, he starts raising and reeling, stating a lot of strikes come with the bait moving away from the crappie.
“I guess my biggest challenge in learning to use Garmin Livescope was determining the species of fish and the size of the fish, especially one that’s hiding in structure,” he said. “In open water, it’s easier to see the fish and tell both what it is and what size it is.”
A commitment to obtaining and learning the new Live Imaging technology has paid off for many anglers in better numbers and sizes of crappie.
Since not every fish he sees is interested right off the bat, Driscoll suggests that Live Image anglers come prepared with several rods rigged. He keeps three or four rods rigged with different baits and will change baits and presentations on a fish to get him to bite.
“It’s a lot like the bass fishermen you see,” he said. “Keep changing things up and have a reaction bait on one rod and a more subtle bait on another till you find what they want. Most times they’ll hit the first thing you throw if you present it right.”
When asked about his learning curve when Live Image technology first came out, Driscoll said there is a commitment to learn the technology, how to adjust the gain, and the depth and range, but he found it easier to learn than when side scan or down scan first came out.
“It helps if you can go with someone who uses it a lot,” he said. “A lot of our pro-staff guys who guide are turning into awesome Livescopers because they’re out there using it and learning it every day. I would highly recommend going with a guide to get your feet wet, but then you have to get on your own boat, with your own rods on your home water and figure it out for yourself.”
Next time, part 2 of this continuing series on Live Image crappie fishing tips.
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