B’n’M Pro Series: Live Image Fishing Tips
Editor’s Note: This week’s tips and tactics article is the third in a multi-part series from B’n’M Crappie pros on how they use Live Image Technology and forward-facing sonar to catch crappie. This week we talk to Grenada Lake, MS crappie guide and new B’n’M pro-staffer for 2021 TJ Shands.
By Phillip Gentry
This week, Mississippi guide TJ Shands, a big fan of deck flipping crappie, explains how he uses Live Image technology and forward-facing sonar to target big white crappie and get them into the boat, quickly. Shands breaks the mold when it comes to crappie fishing because he rarely, if ever, targets structure when he is fishing for crappie.
“I really don’t care for fishing structure,” he said. “I’m not a structure fisherman at all, so just about every crappie I catch, I find out in open water. These are the same fish that anglers are tight lining for, the same fish that people want to catch longlining, and definitely the same fish on the same pattern as guys pulling crankbaits.”
To target open water fish, Shands will key on pre-spawn crappie from the beginning of the year right through the late pre-spawn. He said when crappie go into heavy cover and get into water depths of less than 6 feet, he backs off and works on the female crappie that are staging and/or the later waves of pre-spawners and the early waves of post-spawning crappie.
“My ideal scenario is searching open water flats that have depths of 10 – 15 feet of water,” said Shands. “I usually find crappie suspended 3 – 5 feet deep somewhere on those flats.”
The Stick is one of the strongest, most agile rods on the market, perfect for boat flipping 2 plus pound crappie into the boat.
Shands further breaks the crappie fishing mold by saying he does not really want to see a lot of baitfish when he is fishing. In fact, he said too much baitfish in the water blocks his view when he is in search mode with his sonar unit set to 50 feet and he is cruising around at 1 – 1.5 mph on the trolling motor looking for crappie to target.
“Some bait is OK, the smaller the pods the better,” he said. “Those big waves of baitfish hide the crappie and if the bait is not scattered and broken up, it usually means the crappie are not in a feeding mood anyway.”
Shands has two main B’n’M poles in his arsenal for hunting open water crappie. The first is B’n’M’s newest remake of an old rod from the 1980’s – The Stick. The Stick is a 13ft/2pc rod that provides a super-stiff action that many crappie fishermen desire since the advent of real-time electronics. The rod comes complete with stainless steel guides that are exceptionally smooth and durable and is equipped with a 21” Portuguese cork handle with reinforced reel seat that rests easily under your forearm.
This heavy action jig pole pairs best with 4-12 lb. test line and for all its beef the Stick weighs just 9.6 oz in the regular version and only 8 oz in the high carbon compound version.
Shands said The Stick is his number one choice for vertical fishing when crappie will allow his to get close.
“It’s definitely the boat flipping king of rods,” said Shands. “I use it for vertical jigging when the fish will allow me to get within 10 – 15 feet of them.”
His other favorite rod is the Sharpshooter 6. He uses it to cast 1/16 oz jigs using Vicious Hi Vis fluorocarbon line. Speaking of line, Shands further stands from the crowd by using braided line (20 pound Vicious) for crappie fishing.
“I love the hooksets I get with braid,” he said. “It drives the hook point straight up into the hard top of the mouth. I rarely lose fish because I set the hook as soon as he bites. People have always been concerned about tearing the paper-thin mouths. A quick, hard hook set and then boat flip prevents the hook falling over to the side.
The guide further sets himself apart by his choice of baits. He is a big favorite of the original Crappie Magnet and the Crappie Magnet Slab Curly and the Slab Magnet, but his color choice is always the same – a pink jighead and a chartreuse colored bait called Blake’s Glow. He said he uses this color all the time and would use it on any lake under any condition he fishes.
“When you drop it on him, he’s either going to eat it or not,” said Shands. I don’t think color has that much to do with that choice in a - Boom, there it is - situation using LiveScope.”
Chasing the biggest crappie he can find has been Shands goal as a crappie fishing guide.
One would surmise that Shands is an electronics wizard with his real-time sonar, continually tweaking and adjusting to get just the right view. Again, this is not the case.
“The only thing I adjust is the depth and the distance,” he said. “I might set the gain first thing if the water is muddy or not, but that’s it. The noise rejection, TVD, and other settings I set over a year ago and haven’t touched.”
When asked his secret for using Live Image technology he said knowing what a crappie is and what is not. He said it took him awhile and then one day, it popped on like a light switch, he learned to see what he was looking at.
After that it was looking for the widest and tallest crappie marks, he saw and spending time on the water.
“This is about the only way I’ve fished for more than a year,” he said. “Once you see it, you can’t unsee it, and then it’s about getting close to those fish and pitching or casting your bait to them till they bite.”
Wherever fishing takes you, B’n’M has been there. To view all our fish catching products, Visit our website at bnmpoles.com.
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